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Disney Short Stars First-Ever Plus-Sized Female Lead

Disney has released the latest of its Short Circuit Experimental Films, Reflect, which follows the story of a young ballet dancer struggling with self-image. Director Hillary Bradfield said in a pre-roll interview that it was inspired by her own experiences with body image and her body positivity journey.

This marks the first time a plus-sized female character has played the lead in a Disney animated film. The film starts with the dancer reluctantly walking over to a mirror to stand between several thinner dancers. As they work through ballet positions, the teacher instructs her to focus on “tight tummy, long neck”.

While these are merely positions the dancer needs to strive for, she looks sadly into the mirror and is clearly unhappy with the body she sees. Suddenly, the mirror begins to crack and shatter, in a visual symbol of the poor body image she has.

Although she’s at first scared as glass shatters all around her, the dancer finds courage by closing her eyes and dancing anyway. Breaking out of the shattered glass, she returns to her position among the other dancers and looks at her body with happiness and love, with the final shot showing her face in a proud smile.

While it’s certainly a positive look at how children and young people should embrace the body they have, it strikes me as a shame that plus-size leads’ stories still need to centre around their weight and their body image. For me, as a plus-size woman, it would have been fantastic and so much more empowering to simply see a fat dancer smashing it at what she does, without a plot about her needing to overcome her insecurities.

I understand that this film is directed towards children, but shouldn’t we be setting examples of how we want our kids to feel, rather than reinforcing that plus-size people need to go through this period of uncertainty and insecurities? Reflect is certainly a step in the right direction, but until plus-size leads get plots unrelated to their size, we’ve still got a way to go.

(featured image: Disney)

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