Disney hasn’t always been at the forefront of inclusivity when it comes to the representation of non-white, non-cisgender, non-heterosexual characters—we all know that. However, in a new short film, they’re introducing their first plus-size heroine, a ballerina named Bianca.
The short film, which is currently streaming on Disney+, shows Bianca attending her ballet class, which is full of thin ballerinas and is led by a thin instructor. Bianca looks in the mirror, analyzing herself and her body as everything else fades away. It seems like Bianca, who is in a “larger” body, is trying to learn how to be confident in a world that celebrates diet culture and thinness (if you think your young children aren’t already susceptible to this messaging, think again). Some fans feel she’s experiencing body dysmorphia.
According to Hopkins Medicine, Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health problem. Those who have BDD. may be so upset about the appearance of their body that it gets in the way of their ability to live normally. While feeling less-than-stellar about our appearance and focusing on our flaws is part of the human experience (unfortunately), those who have BDD may be unable to function due to those overwhelming thoughts. “Body checking” is also a major symptom of BDD, meaning you frequently check your body in the mirror—to an obsessive degree.
“Setting the story from a dancer’s perspective seemed just natural,” director Hillary Bradfield said in an interview immediately preceding the film on Disney+. “It’s a part of the craft to be looking at your posture and checking things in the mirror, so it just seemed like a really good way to put her in that environment where she has to look at herself and she doesn’t want to.”
In the end, Bianca’s love for ballet (and, hopefully, herself) wins over her intrusive, negative thoughts and she appears to embrace body positivity.
“When people watch the short, I hope that they can feel more positively about themselves and how they look and feel okay about the tough parts of their journey,” Bradfield explained. “Sometimes you go to the dark place to get to the good place. And that just makes the good place that much more beautiful.”
Here’s the thing—children of all shapes and sizes can benefit from learning this lesson, and so can adults. Representation matters, as we know, and kids who aren’t conventionally thin deserve to feel seen in media too.
And while it would be simply amazing to have the first plus-size Disney main character enjoy a full-length, multifaceted story that isn’t entirely centered around her weight and body size, many people are still applauding Disney’s representation efforts here.
Unfortunately, the internet is also full of anti-fat rhetoric and people are using this short film about a child to perpetuate fatphobia.
It’s funny (as in, not actually funny at all) that fatphobic people love to tell fat people to exercise, but then when they do—like Bianca in this film, who is trying her best to perform the movement that brings her the most joy—it’s still not “right.”
Straight-sized people can’t gatekeep exercise from plus-size people. Now stop, take a moment, and read that again. JOYFUL MOVEMENT IS FOR EVERY BODY.
In summation, this short film is a valid effort on Disney’s part. Would it be better if it was a full-length film where Bianca gets her own adventure, and her body size isn’t the main focus of her life? Yes, without question.
But is this film, that will, arguably, mean a lot to children and adults alike who have spent their entire lives battling their own body issues, “glorifying obesity?” No.
This movie is essentially showing how Bianca is surviving a cruel society’s stigmatization while also finding the confidence to continue doing something she loves despite that cruelty. What, pray tell, is being “glorified” here? Kindness? Acceptance? Sheesh.
This movie is featuring fatness in a way that isn’t discriminatory—so for those who don’t like that, well, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself why you want a heroine, who is a child, to hate herself?