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Fat tropes I am tired of reading.


I have now read over 100 books with fat main characters. Some have felt like a big hug and provided a sense of healing, while others rip the scabs off of old wounds and poke around for a bit. I can definitely say there are some tropes in these books that I am ready to see go. I mean it goes without saying that the old tropes found in the books I grew up with are bad. Many authors use being fat as synonymous with being greedy, lazy or immoral like the Dursleys from Harry Potter or pathetic figures to be pitied like Martha Dump Truck from the movie Heathers. We have come a long way from the awful representation of my childhood, but now we find ourselves caught in tropes that are only slightly less damaging.


The first trope I want to address is self-hatred. Why do we make fat characters punish themselves like this? The world punishes us enough as it is. We need and deserve representation that is loving. We need to have role models of fat people loving themselves and accepting the body they are in. Yes, many people in bigger bodies suffer from self hatred and low self worth, but that is all the more reason why we need to read about people who look like us and live their lives without being a walking apology for existing. We need to see them get more than happy endings; there should be happiness along the way too.


The second trope I am over is hateful parents. I know that family relationships are complicated. I acknowledge that for many people, the mother/daughter relationship is especially fraught with generational trauma. For many fat kids, being taken to a Weight Watchers meeting by their mother becomes a scar their adult hearts are still trying to heal. So while I think this is an important story and one worthy of being told, sometimes I want to read about supportive parents. Parents that just want their children to be happy in the bodies they are in. We need these stories to show us how to be parents that aren’t hung up on the bodies of our children. Unhealed, unresolved and especially unrecognized childhood trauma from the way you were parented is very likely to be passed on to the next generation. It is important to see examples of parents who are healthy and have healed their hearts and now support their children.


The representations of the sexuality of fat people exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, and both are fraught with tropes I am tired of. A fat woman is either a sexless doormat mother, best friend or sister, or she is the polar opposite, and she’s this vulgar, sex-crazed maniac who is the butt of the joke, and I am not even going to entertain any talk on the fetishization of fat bodies. Neither of these roles allow people in fat bodies to be seen as sexual beings with their own needs and desires like anyone else. It also shames the people who are attracted to those people, whether they find larger bodies desirable or simply are attracted to the whole person who happens to be in a larger body. We must stop  assigning bizzare sexual undertones to bodies and erecting unnecessary barriers for the people who love them. We need to see all bodies as worthy of love and having healthy sexual desires.


We need to write about fat bodies like we do other bodies. Yes, they do need to be approached differently sometimes because moving around the world in a fat body provides a unique perspective to many things, but it does not make up a whole person. Good writers will look at the whole person and the whole story and include all of it. Fat people are more than tropes or stereotypes. We fall in love. We have adventures. We save lives. We lead interesting existences, and we deserve to see our experiences told in rich and resonant narratives, not distilled into a fun-house-mirror version of our lives where our weight factors into every aspect of who we are and what we do. We need and deserve stories that show the whole person and the whole story: the joy and intrigue that are a part of the human experience and live in the hearts of all people, regardless of their size.


Written by: Mary Warren

The words "fat tropes" crossed out in red against a granite background with the fat girls in fivtion goddess on a book logo.

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