Surviving pageant season: Dumplin’ gloriously challenges the idea of who is beautiful and why

(image via IMP Awards)


Directed by Anne Fletcher, DUMPLIN’ follows an outspoken plus-sized teenage girl named Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), who’s known as Will to her friends and Dumplin’ to her mother (Jennifer Aniston), a former beauty queen who now runs the local Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. In her small Texas town, Will confidently ignores comments about her weight and listens to Dolly Parton songs obsessively. But when she decides to enter her mother’s pageant in protest, her bold move encourages other contestants to follow in her footsteps, redefining the town’s traditions in the process. (synopsis via YouTube)

More power to anyone who challenges society’s very narrow, suffocatingly so, of what is and is not okay.

As someone who suffered mightily for being gay and for not matching the masculine ideals by which many men still live and die, acceptance-wise at least, I can attest to how much damage they do, and so any film that celebrates difference and diversity and does it with panache, good humour and real heart deserves to be applauded.

The message here is not that the ideals are necessarily bad (though the extremist orthodoxy that has entrenched them is toxic as hell); these are reality for many people and that’s fine; rather it’s that we need to cast our net way wider and celebrate everyone, no matter they fall on the gloriously expansive spectrum of multi-faceted humanity.

Dumplin’ looks like pure, emotionally-resonant joy, featuring Australian Danielle Macdonald, who did so much to make Patti Cake$, another “ugly duckling” tale, soar in so many affectingly wonderful ways.

Dumplin’ releases on Netflix and in selected theatres on 7 December.


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