The Fat Suits Trope
Using a fat suit and other prosthetic makeup to add weight to an otherwise slim actor, usually to perpetuate a joke.
Fat suits are not generally used to portray nuanced stories of full lives lived in larger bodies. Their typical use for sight gags is retrogressive and perpetuate harmful and stereotypical portrayals. Example: Rachel McAdams as Regina in Mean Girls
Fat suits may additionally be used when portraying a sad, diminished “before” of a character’s story. The “after” only occurs with weight loss at which point the character is now worthy of love and success. Examples: Courteney Cox as Monica on Friends and Debby Ryan as Patty on Insatiable.
Creators may claim they’re using the suits to expose fat-shaming — yet they’re mainly used for comedic rather than education purposes. Example: Gwyneth Paltrow as Rosemary in Shallow Hall.
Others don a fat suit to sample the experience of being heavier. These experiments generally fail as the person inside the suit is not living in an actual larger body and can remove the suit at any time. Example: Tyra Banks on the Tyra Banks Show.
Next time you see a fat suit in media, ask yourself why it’s being used:
To help you feel empathy or gain a greater understanding of the character’s experience?
Or in a negative way that indicates a larger body is unworthy or laughable?