diet culture in the 2000s

From Bridget Jones to Ugly Betty: Why did Hollywood convince us these women were ‘fat’?

*Laughs in 200lbs*

Looking at where we were this time 20 years ago, the change in attitudes towards different body sizes has been dramatic to say the least. We now live in a world where the mid-size movement is making women feel like it’s okay to not be a size six – and body positivity activists are working overtime to make fat people feel seen, heard and included. 

We didn’t have any of this back in the 2000s. For (at least) 10 years, we were constantly consuming media which told us there was a “right” and “wrong” way to look. Essentially, if you weren’t seven stone and under, you weren’t allowed to feel worthy. 

This is, in no small part, due to the way women were portrayed in films and TV. The characters we grew up with – the ones we were taught to see as “fat,” “plain” or “undesirable,” were usually a size 12 at most. They warped our self-esteem and taught us that *fat* is a bad word; an awful thing to be, and a physical representation of a questionable personality. 

So, let’s have a look at all the 2000s film and TV characters Hollywood tried to convince us were plus-sized:

Bridget Jones

bridget jones

Photo via Universal

One of the first things we hear Bridget talk about in the film series is that her New Year’s Resolution is to “obviously lose 20 pounds.” This is after we see that, in fact, she only weighs 136 altogether. The fat jokes don’t stop there. When we discover Daniel Cleaver is cheating (but also… were they ever really together?) on Bridget with a woman from his New York office, she “jokingly” comments: “I thought you said she was thin?”

After said breakup from the emotional fuckwit himself, she decides to vehemently use her exercise bike because (and I know I’m guilty of this), her knee-jerk reaction after being rejected is to try and make herself thinner. Truly, truly healthy stuff.

By the third film, we see a slender Bridget triumphantly talking about how she’s finally reached her “goal weight”. Never mind her amazing career move, literal pregnancy or one-night stand with Patrick Dempsey – Bridget’s thin! And we must make that her entire personality!

Betty Suarez/Carmen Lowell

diet culture in the 2000s

Photo via ABC

The absolutely-not-and-has-never-been-fat America Ferrera has had a shitty run playing “fat” characters. Before Ugly Betty, she played Carmen in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants; who couldn’t just be a three-dimensional character without pointedly referring to her weight at various parts of the film.

Also… she was even slimmer when she starred in Ugly Betty, so why all the fat jokes? Why did the writers feel the need to talk about how much she “devours” in the literal first scene? It’s so strange.


natalie love actually

Photo via Universal

I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced Natalie from Love Actually was just written in as one big fat joke. The objectively straight-sized Martine McCutcheon was essentially called: “The chubby girl… with a sizeable arse and huge thighs” and “plumpy”. I don’t know what kind of personal vendetta Richard Curtis had against Martine at the time but, this just seemed cruel.

Dylan Sanders

diet culture in films

Photo via Sony Pictures

Drew Barrymore was always referred to as “the fat Charlie’s Angel” in the press – which INFURIATES me, given how much she went through as a kid. When she later went on to say how “hard I has to work to not be the size of a bus… but that’s just my karma,” people railed against her for it. Obviously, it was a shitty thing to say – but if you’d been publicly picked on for your weight, and made to feel like your body wasn’t your own, you’d probably have some twisted ideals about body-image as well.

Andy Sachs

anne hathaway

Photo via 20th Century Fox

Okay, so the Devil Wears Prada was basically satire about the fashion industry – but, still. The incredibly-skinny Andy was pressured in the film to lose weight until she just… did. And it was like this major glow-up for her. It’s horrendous, and absolutely not the message we should be sending to young people whatsoever.

I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but you don’t need to lose weight in order for people to respect you more. Who you are at the moment is just fine.

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