Text: Gillian Kung, November 24, 2022—
New Disney short film Reflect reveals the media giant’s first ever large-sized heroine in a film about body dysmorphia. The story centers around Bianca, who feels out of place in her ballet class and worries that she is shorter than her classmates. Struggling with her reflection, she channels her inner strength to help overcome her self-doubt by immersing herself in the dance.
The film is coming at a time when many people are struggling with body image issues. In the midst of COVID-19, there has been an increase in body image issues in both women and men, with many fitness gurus urging people to shed their “COVID-19” and the number indicates the number of pounds to shed. lose. The pandemic has shown that without a routine to help control and maintain habits, people become stressed, leaving their mental health more vulnerable to coping mechanisms like food. While many body dysmorphic issues are battling, fashion trends like low-rise jeans make it clear that clothing trends that target thinner bodies are more popular than ever.
The film begins with an interview with Hillary Bradfield, director Reflect.
“When people watch the short, I hope they feel more positive about themselves,” says Bradfield, claiming that this is what she wants the audience to do.
While I don’t think my body image has improved since watching the movie, I found it comforting. Having the plus size heroine immerse viewers in a six-minute short film was a welcome change of pace from the stereotyped dancers who are often very skinny.
As a child, I was engaged in dancing and figure skating. Even at the age of seven, I felt the pressure to keep myself thin in both of these areas, and at that time there was no big-bodied image in the media, especially as dancers or skaters. I think my younger self would really appreciate seeing characters like Bianca, especially considering how many dancers are at risk for Body Dysmorphophobia (BDD) and Eating Disorders (ED).
“The lifetime prevalence of BDD and ED among elite professional ballet dancers was higher than in the general population,” a 2012 study explains. “High standards of beauty, exposure of public bodies, and repeated exposure to mirrors in rehearsal rooms may contribute to the development of body image disorders in this sample.”
The artistry in the dance community has been constantly ingrained in its culture.
“This standard of a lean body as the ideal of dance has been passed down from generation to generation,” adds Josh Spell, former dancer and mental health consultant for Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Given the prevalence of BDD and ED among elite professional ballet dancers, this illustrates the need for body inclusiveness not only in media representations but in all aspects of our daily lives. Slimness as an ideology of beauty is deeply integrated into our culture, which is illustrated by the way we navigate language. In English, we avoid using the word “fat” at all costs, instead preferring other euphemisms such as bigger, bigger, hefty, bulky, plump, etc. We are taught to avoid the word “fat” as if it were an insult and Avoiding the allusion to the word “fat” has a negative connotation and should not be used. Our culture has turned a simple description into a cruel insult because of our hatred of fatness and our obsession with thinness. Weight control is how we keep people from wanting to lose weight, ultimately maintaining a beauty standard that rewards thin bodies and banishes fat ones.
There haven’t been Disney princesses with oversized frames yet – why does Disney hesitate? The success of big bodies on screen is evident as Louise Madrigal is a fan favorite in Disney movies. Encanto. Louise Madrigal is just a minor character, and Bianca, the plus-size protagonist, is only given enough screen time for a six-minute short film. Not only is Bianca only given six minutes of screen time, but Disney doesn’t recognize intersectionality when exploring new concepts in their films. Of course, Disney can’t show every marginal experience, but big bodies aren’t just white and female. Disney does not miss the opportunity to show children positive images of big bodies on the screen.
There is a wide range of body types, and the fact that the mainstream media refuses to provide an accurate representation does not mean that they cease to exist in our daily lives. Bianca from Reflect acts as a positive representation of body diversity for kids because it’s one step closer to normalizing big bodies on screen and helps break down high expectations of thinness.
This article is part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of Glove editorial team.