Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Last week, Rebel Wilson attracted a swathe of criticism for falsely claiming she was the first plus-sized woman to star in a romantic comedy. After going on a blocking spree of the women who challenged her claim, she issued an apology.
“I neglected to show the proper respect to those who climbed this mountain before me like Mo’Nique, Queen Latifah, Melissa McCarthy, Ricki Lake and likely many others,” she said on Twitter. “I blocked people on Twitter because I was hurting from the criticism, but those are the people I actually need to hear from more, not less.”
So, in the spirit of paying homage to the great plus-sized leads that have gone before, here’s some cult favourite romantic comedies for you to watch.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera (who plays Ana) stars in this coming of age comedy-drama where she experiences a sexual awakening through her experiences with a boy named Jimmy. While the title is problematic – real women come in all shapes and sizes and some don’t have curves – this film doesn’t make Ana’s fuller figure a plot in itself, but rather her emotional journey, self affirmation and determination to rage against patriarchy take centre stage.
A strong contender for the best scene of the film is the part where Ana’s mother tries to shame her and her sisters into losing weight. Ana tells her she likes the way she is and says, “A part of me does want to lose weight, but a part of me doesn’t, because my weight says to everyone, fuck you. How dare anyone tell me what I should look like, or what I should be.” – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Phat Girlz (2006)
The original body confidence rom-com, Jazmin, played by Mo’Nique, takes us on a journey of self discovery and self acceptance as she ditches the diets and trying to fit the status quo for a different perspective, all while launching a clothing line for plus size women. This all takes place with the help of Tunde, who only has eyes for her from the start, despite the over zealous flirting of her conventionally attractive cousin Mia.
In true Mo’Nique style, there’s witty, outrageous, sex-positive commentary throughout, and Jazmin squaring up to anyone that tries to belittle her over her weight is the inspiration we didn’t know we needed. We stan.
Baby Cakes (1989)
Ricki Lake stars as full-figured mortuary artist, Grace Hart, who sets her sights on bagging the man she wants, girlfriend or no girlfriend. While the synopsis is enough to keep you hooked and humoured throughout, Baby Cakes also explores issues of depression, and at times, takes a darker, less comedic look at the body image struggles women face.
The explosive restaurant scene where the furious girlfriend launches herself at Grace, throwing malicious fat insults at her makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s a relatable look at the way women can often tear each other down in order to uphold patriarchal standards of beauty.
Last Holiday (2006)
Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) finds out she has a terminal illness, throws caution to the wind and starts living like a hedonistic millionaire. Cue Georgia swanning into a grand, sophisticated restaurant in a red ensemble looking like money, turning the heads of everyone there. She sits alone and happily gets stuck in with her fancy food – something that so many women are uncomfortable doing, but shouldn’t be.
The scene where she’s had just about enough of dealing with cramped economy seats is something we can all relate to, that’s until she casually upgrades to first class and has an entire roast chicken delivered to her on a platter. As if watching the Queen glowing and living her best life wasn’t enough, they threw LL Cool J into the mix to play her long term crush. Yes please.
Just Wright (2010)
Starring as the fiery physical therapist, Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah, again) cosies up with Common, who plays the superstar basketball player Scott McKnight in this love story. Leslie stands in all her self assuredness, and often points out how ridiculous pretending to be someone you’re not in order to attract a man is, refusing to play that game. You will wish you were her, mainly because she gets to to be up close and personal with Scott while getting him back to optimum fitness. Though it’s Leslie that initially connects with Scott, it’s her model-like friend Morgan that pounces and dates him. Scott will inevitably disappoint us, and of course Leslie is too good for him, but the glorious moment he realises this makes for great viewing.
Life of the Party (2018)
After her partner admits to having an affair and asks for a divorce, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) is plunged into a mid life crisis. That’s all before she decides to enroll at her daughter’s university and rediscover her wild side, which includes a much younger love interest that’s completely taken with her. He shows her just how taken with her he is, all over the library, more than once. There’s even a good burning-all-your-ex’s-stuff scene.
Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)
A Netflix favourite, this rom-com starring Shannon Purser as Sierra presents us with an unpopular teenager who goes after the football player. But there’s a twist, she enlists the help of the it-girl Veronica who has taunted her all of her school life to entice him. Veronica is the girl he meets up with in person, even though Sierra is behind all the witty texts they exchange – because this isn’t wildly manipulative or sinister at all. Don’t try this one at home, you’d just be catfishing, and you absolutely won’t get the same happy ending the film does. Sierra eventually realises that looks don’t define her, and of course the boy likes her in spite of everything (yes, even the crazy stalker behaviour).