A Love-Hate Relationship with “Phat Girlz”

by Evette Dionne

Phat GirlzLast 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.

Stereotypical Characters

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.”

  • Lisss

    Yup! And not to mention the stereotype that all african men love plus size women. In my experience, they (especially the younger ones) are just as westernized as the black men here…all looking for their Beyonce, blond weave included.

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    I don’t care for the movie either because I think it’s a cheesy comedy and over the top sometimes.
    Comedies are always a hit or miss with me. I understand what this article is saying about big people sterotypes being used over and over again in movies and books when it center around the big person. I’m reading the “Full Figured Divas” series and it more of the same ole same ole, nothing different.

  • Marketing Gimmicks

    What’s important to me is where Monique is at NOW.

    Phat Girlz was a EONS ago and Monique has evolved and matured in her life and career.

    Monique has always been confident in her entertainment talent but because of her dark secret of being sexually molested by her brother Monique has confessed to this being a primary factor of why she used her weight as protection.

    She has since lost 70+ lbs through changing her diet and exercise.

    There are many famous “phat girlz” who have represented for plus size black women who have now taken themselves off the fat girl pedestal and have gotten honest with themselves. Monique included.

    No. Being fat does not mean you hate yourself, or that your worthless or untalented…or even worse not beautiful… but being obese does mean that “you” are carrying around and unhealthy amount of weight that ultimately isn’t good for your health no matter how many ways you slice it, style it, wear big hair, earrings, it or pretend it doesn’t exist.

    In our communities there is a very thin line between delusion, denial and self-honesty and acceptance.

    Jennifer Hudson, Monique, Oprah, Raven Simone, Sherri Shepard to name a few have all taken themselves off of that “fat girl proud” mantle cause their are no trophies in being obese.

    I don’t believe in shaming others for being who they are but i will always support encouraging others to look in their own mirrors and to own being honest with themselves. If they are truly happy. Them I’m happy for them. Lord knows I have my own mirror to look in daily so i can be my best me.

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    I understand you mean well but the whole coming into every big people post and saying well this people lost weight and you should too. Or you are certain amount of weight so I’m for sure you are unhealthy even thought I don’t know you or I’m not a doctor is not going to rush anyone to jump on a diet or treadmill. Guilt only goes so far before it leads the person to right back where they started. I am pretty sure most people are not in some delusional state. These people know they are unhealthy or if they are healthy. Big people know when they have to lose weight for health reasons. If they decided to take that step or not take that step is their business. It’s not in one place to come in like a nagging mother to say you need to lose weight because you are obese. Your heart may be in the right place but it depends on how people take the message or if they even take the message at all. I find this funny how this always happen in big girl posts. This is like having a post about gays and someone saying you are all going to hell.

  • http://twitter.com/rastaqueen92 Shug Avery (@rastaqueen92)

    boo

  • camille

    One major problem with Phat Girlz and The Parkers and Why Did I Get Married and Waiting to Exhale is that excess weight, although clearly unhealthy, is not a liability for Black women as far as dating and mating go. There are many Black men, African and otherwise, who are genuinely attracted to and even prefer large women

  • dropdempoundsforhealth

    Yes, I am currently changing into a healthier lifestyle, nothing wrong with being pleasingly plump, but when it affects your health and you cant function with normal daily activities like you should, you need to take of it so you wont become a statistic. I am doing this for ME and my health. If looking like Beyonce comes with the package I’ll take it.

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