(Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris Forum, September 29, 2004.)
Some of you may remember a forum topic from a few months ago, in which several contributors cited young actress Raven-Symone (who stars in her own television series, titled That's So Raven
) as a rare example of a celebrity who does not conform to the underfed Hollywood standard.
One of Raven's fans advised us to catch this week's episode of That's So Raven, and we are glad we did, because the episode was a rare example of a genuinely size-positive message on TV.
Plot exposition makes for dull reading, but in this case, the storyline is well worth retelling.
In the episode, Raven enters a "Young Designers" contest sponsored by a teen fashion magazine named Teen Look. She designs a beautiful dress, one which exemplifies the "New Femininity" and embraces her curvaceous figure:
However, problems arise when Teen Look's fashion editor, a former straight-size model named "Victoria Kayne" (as in "cane"), feels threatened by Raven's body confidence:
When Teen Look selects Raven as one of the contest finalists, she is overjoyed--until she sees a copy of the magazine, and discovers that Teen Look has digitally constricted her figure into an inhumanly narrow shape:
Raven is shocked and horrified. "How can they do this to me?" she asks. "It is me, I mean, that's my face, and that's my dress, but that is not my body!"
She immediately returns to the scene of the fashion show to discover what has happened, and the following dialogue ensues between Raven and the magazine's editor:
RAVEN: Miss Kayne--
MISS KAYNE: Oh, Raven. Congratulations on making the finals.
RAVEN: Yeah, um, my dress did, but my body didn't.
MISS KAYNE: Oh, don't thank me. We've got the best photo retoucher in the business.
RAVEN: [Stunned] Why did you make me look super-skinny anyway? I thought you liked my design.
MISS KAYNE: My dear, we love your design. We just . . . don't love you wearing it.
RAVEN: Why not?
MISS KAYNE: [Sneering] Well, let's put it this way. You just don't have . . . the look.
[Miss Kane points to an giant-sized reproduction of Teen Look magazine, showing an image of a malnourished cover model.]
RAVEN: Well, this is the only look I have. What am I supposed to do?
MISS KAYNE: [Patronizingly] Well, here's how it works. You're a designer. Emayshia, our cover girl, is a model. Now, forget that dress of yours, and go and make a new one in Emayshia's size. She'll model it in the show next week.
RAVEN: Emayshia? No, I made my dress for me.
MISS KAYNE: Sweetheart, the only way that is ever going to happen is if you were a size two.
("Emayshia," of course, is pronounced "emacia," as in, "emaciated.")
Raven initially tries to diminish herself into the prescribed size, but to the show's credit, she rejects the idea of going on a crash diet ("Those things are dangerous," she tells a friend). And her attempts at using a torture machine (a.k.a. "exercise machine") result in nothing but physical injury. Thus, the episode carefully avoids the common pitfall of enticing viewers into mimicking the very behaviour it is ostensibly denouncing.
The rest of the episode has a surprisingly serious undertone for a half-hour comedy show. Raven makes a new version of her dress for the minus-sized Emayshia (on whom it hangs limply, like a used dishrag). However, at the fashion-show rehearsal, a full-figured women condemns Raven for "selling out," saying that just once, she had hoped to see a lovely dress modelled on a womanly body.
This rouses Raven's chutzpah. At the fashion show, she steps out onto the runway in her original dress, stealing the spotlight from the androgynous Emayshia, and winning the accolades of the audience:
And for a grand finale, one good nudge from Raven sends Victoria Kayne sailing into her cover billboard, destroying "the look," once and for all.
Despite some obligatory farce, the episode makes a memorable statement about body love, and demonstrates just how useful the topics of plus-size modelling and plus-size fashion are for delivering size-positive messages. This episode will undoubtedly inspire many young full-figured girls to feel better about themselves, and will serve as a "corrective" to the media's daily barrage of size prejudice. But we also hope that it will inspire more budding young designers to create styles that are tailor-made for fuller female figures, and then, to insist that those designs be showcased on plus-size models.
Let's have a round of applause for this enlightened young actress for making a worthwhile contribution to size celebration.
- Click here for a DVD of this episode