Last night Oxygen aired the Mo’Nique-led film “Phat Girlz.” The independent comedy – written and produced by a black woman film director – chronicles character Jasmine Biltmore’s (Mo’Nique) struggles with losing weight, gaining confidence, and navigating the dating scene as a full-figured woman. “Phat Girlz” is a classic depiction of a woman with extra curves realizing that weight has no correlation to her value. Like most films starring full-figured women, the main character has a few hilarious missteps along the road to self-acceptance, but in the end, she ascertains all of her wildest dreams and finds her Prince Charming.
I admit I own “Phat Girlz” on DVD; it is impossible to resist the $5 movie bin at WalMart. I was also glued to the television last night as I recited the film word for word. I laughed at Biltmore’s antics, celebrated her successes, and cried when she finally realized that the thin mannequin with her face glued on it would never be her. Her life is an emotional rollercoaster that leaves the audience feeling exhilarated, rather than drained, in the end.
But as Mo’Nique claims her African prince and the ending credits roll, as usual, I felt a pang of disgust for indulging in this caricature of full-figured life. I have a love-hate relationship with “Phat Girlz.” It is excessively exaggerated; the life of a curvy babe is not nearly as dramatic as Jasmine Biltmore’s is. Here are three valid reasons why I am tempted to turn the channel and burn the DVD:
Exaggerated Esteem Issues
In the movie, all of the larger characters struggle with their weight and self-esteem. Esteem issues are common for women of size. We live in a thin-obsessed culture that demonizes overweight and obese women.
However, it is not depicted well in the film. I have never stared into store windows while eating French fries and compared my size-18 hips to the plastic mannequins dressed in bikinis. I can’t ever recall arguing with a man that is interested in me because he was eating dinner with a female colleague. Those obvious insecurities in Mo’Nique’s character are applicable to some full-figured women, but it is offensive to put it on the silver screen as if it’s a relatable experience for all women of size.
Like “Norbit’s” Rasputia, “House of Payne’s” Ella Payne, and Precious, the curvaceous characters in this film stick to the usual script that stereotypes fat girls into what society has already deemed us to be: Insecure, obsessed with losing weight, and incapable of finding love. Though this is common for full-figured women and has been since the mammy was introduced ages ago, it’s time to create women characters that are genuine representations of us. “Phat Girlz” missed this target.
A Horrible Plot
“Phat Girlz” is hilarious and I adore its focus on the power of sisterhood, but the plot is as predictable as Jennifer Hudson’s Weight Watchers commercials. Girl meets African doctor, loses him, uses his advice to rebuild her self-esteem, brings her dream to fruition, and then ends up with the African doctor. Yawn.
A plot is as great as its creator; this one didn’t tap into the full potential of the writer or director, which leaves me wondering if there will ever be a part two. Let’s hope not.
My dislike for “Phat Girlz” outweighs the love I have for Mo’Nique’s fabulous outfits and her co-star Kendra C. Johnson’s sexual and feminine liberation with Dr. Akebo. Though I appreciate Mo’Nique’s efforts to bring curvy babes to the silver screen, I am not one of those “phat girlz.”