“I am body beautiful”: The most bodacious body positive movies
Do you remember the #SaggyBoobsMatter movement from 2018? With unrealistic expectations for the female body, especially in regard to their breasts, movements like these are always something we can totally get behind.
The social media trend is the brainchild of 23-year-old Nigerian blogger and south Londoner Chidera Eggerue, who started it to challenge the idea that only “small-boobed women” are allowed to go braless. When she ditched her own bra, she faced eye-roll worthy levels of derision from people demanding she cover up.
Speaking to The Guardian, Eggerue shared, “People would say: ‘You’re jiggling too much. I can see your nipples. This is bad. Cover yourself up.’ I couldn’t understand why. Every time I asked somebody, the answer was: ‘Because you’re a girl. Because you’re a woman.’ I knew that wasn’t really an acceptable answer. I had to challenge it.” Amen to that, honey!
The #SaggyBoobsMatter movement stood out in the long line of empowering challenges to outdated social norms making people feel extreme discomfort about their own natural bodies. Whether it comes down to objections or jokes about your size or shape, the body-positive movement preaches that there shouldn’t be one standard way for bodies to look in order for them to be considered acceptable and that all bodies are beautiful.
There are plenty of body-positive movies that have explored such an idea in a variety of different ways. Here are seven of our absolute favorites.
Girls Trip (2017)
You only need to look at a flaming trash can of a movie like I Feel Pretty to understand that Hollywood still has a long way to go in understanding what body positivity is and how it can be utilized on screen in a gratifying non-cringeworthy manner. It’s something that Girls Trip does exceedingly well and with little to no fanfare, with all four leading ladies (Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish) rocking different body types and owning their respective sizes.
At no point are there any jokes about how tall Latifah is compared to the diminutive Smith or regarding the bodacious curves of Hall or Haddish – these ladies are simply allowed to be and it’s refreshing as hell.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Olive (Abigail Breslin) might only be a kid, but she has her priorities in order and refuses to alter herself just to please others. She’s an ice-cream loving, goofy, dance-rocking dynamo who is far flung from the skinny cookie cutter child queens at the beauty pageant she competes at.
By defining her own sense of beauty, Olive stands out from her competitors – something made all the more apparent when she busts out a raunchy (but perfectly innocent) routine taught to her by her grandpa. She strips down to her undies and continues to proudly shake her belly and her booty despite the jeers of the audience. It’s one of the greatest and most heartwarming f^%k you victories in cinema history.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Who would ever have expected a 90s drag queen comedy starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo to provide an anthemic film regarding body positivity – but it absolutely does.
From the opening montage set to Salt-N-Pepa’s “I Am Body Beautiful” in which Swayze and Snipes’s characters transform into their drag personas, this movie uses the gender performativity of cis males to explore the dimensions of “traditional” feminine beauty. The movie suggests gender and self-confidence can’t be solely ascribed to shape or size and that we can all define our own body beautiful.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
John Waters’s queen of filth muse Divine is an icon on various trashtastic levels and in Pink Flamingos she unapologetically pushed taste boundaries and challenged social norms of what is and isn’t appropriate. There’s a sensational triumph to be had in seeing Divine proudly strutting her statuesque curves down a busy Baltimore street to the (genuine) horrified gaping jaws of every person she passes. Divine does not give a single f!#k and instead revels in her power.
Ricki Lake has long been a body positive icon in various projects, including her 1990s talk show which celebrated men & women of all different shapes, sizes, identities, and looks. In Hairspray, Lake plays “plump” teen Tracy Turnblad, who fights the shocking segregation enforced by her favorite TV show after she wins a chance to dance on it.
John Waters never turns Tracy’s size into a punchline and instead provides a gratifying plot for the character in which she’s a leader and is helluva dancer, regardless of how society views her.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
The ever wonderful America Ferrara plays Ana, a character working in her sister’s overheated dress factory where one of the greatest cinematic showdowns regarding body image is laid out on the floor. Desperately hot from the job, Ana strips off her top only to be chastised by her mom who insists she “looks awful”, and laments, “You would look beautiful without all that fat!”
Not only does Ana provide the most wonderful speech in her comeback where she responds, “there’s so much more to me than just my weight! I want to be taken seriously. Respected for what I think, not for how I look,” but also throughout the film she’s shown to love her body. She even inspires the rest of her relatives to be proud of their bodies too, so everyone winds up working in their underwear.
Patti Cake$ (2017)
Like Girls Trip, Patti Cake$ doesn’t make too much of a colossal deal of being body positive AF and definitely doesn’t diminish the size of a central character by reducing it to a punchline.
Instead, Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald) is a confident aspiring hip-hop star looking to escape her grim homelife between beats & rhymes. The character just so happens to be plus-size and it’s an aspect of the character that’s neither highlighted repeatedly nor ignored – it’s simply represented within a powerful story about a young woman chasing her dreams.