In a first for the entertainment titan, Disney has cast a plus-sized character as the heroine of a short film about an overweight ballet dancer.
The Daily Mail reports that the film “Reflect” follows the story of a larger dancer, named Bianca, “who battles her own reflection, overcoming doubt and fear by channeling her inner strength, grace and power.”
The animated short marks the first time in the company’s 85-year history that an overweight character is treated as the hero of the story instead of the villain or comic relief.
The film reportedly left many viewers in tears, with one saying she wished it had been made when she was growing up.
“16-year-old me needed this Disney short before I quit ballet because I didn’t want to be the fat girl in class anymore,” she said.
The House of Mouse has received criticism in recent years for not doing more to promote “body positivity,” with activists asking the company to consider adding more diverse body types to its content.
In 2016, a popular content creator on YouTube faulted Disney for its lack of plus-sized princesses and for making Ursula — the villain in “The Little Mermaid” — overweight.
“I remember one time going to Disney for a kind of a youth trip and they were telling us we could all write, like, Disney princess names on our name tags and I wanted to be Ariel so badly because I loved ‘The Little Mermaid’ and it was my absolute favorite,” Loey Lane said in a video at the time.
Someone else saw the name she had chosen, however, and rejected it before she could put the tag on her shirt.
“They crossed out Ariel and penciled in Ursula,” she said.
“The fact that the closest thing to my body that I could get was Ursula just hurt me so badly as a kid,” she continued, adding that no little girl wants to be the villain.
Disney also caught flak last year for pushing “unrealistic beauty standards” with a female character in the animated short “Inner Workings.” The character was incredibly skinny, except for her rear end, which was extremely exaggerated.
The debate over portraying plus-sized characters in a positive light is ongoing. While some call for an end to “fat shaming,” others warn that normalizing overweight or obese bodies endangers people’s health.
HBO show host Bill Maher has denounced the “fat is beautiful” movement and said in 2019 that the government should shame obese people because they place an undue burden on the healthcare system.
In August Maher tweeted, “There’s a disturbing trend going on in America these days with rewriting science to fit ideology. We’ve gone from fat acceptance to fat celebration.”
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