I recently saw the Netflix movie, "Dumplin'" with Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald. Naturally being involved with pageants I was curious, so Pearl and I snuggled up to watch. It follows the daughter of a small-town, famous former beauty queen named Rosie. The daughter, Willow Dean, is plus size teenager who was essentially raised by her Aunt Lucy. The two shared a loved for Dolly Parton. Unfortunately, quickly you find out that the family has lost Aunt Lucy. Willow and her best friend, Ellen, show the best parts of strong friendship, having withstood the test of time and obstacles in a montage of childhood flashbacks in the opening scenes of the movie.
The movie really begins in current day as the summer wraps up before school begins. The mom, Rosie Dickerson, is now the director of the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant, "the oldest teen pageant in Texas." After being faced with high-school teenage bullying about her size, Willow (her friends call her Will) stands up for herself by kneeing a boy in .... um, a sensitive area - but gets suspended on the first day of school. Instead of her mother showing empathy, she directs frustration and embarrassment towards Will, whom she nicknamed 'Dumplin'. After a series more of feelings and events, Will finds herself going through her aunt's things and runs across a semi-filled out pageant application. Inspired by this, Will decides to enter the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant, and her mother will just have to deal with it.
TIME OUT: Now we all know that in the world of pageantry this could never happen - that the daughter of the pageant director would not be allowed to enter. In most respecting pageant systems, the daughter of a director is never allowed to enter even regionals to advance to the next level. Having daughters of directors in the same pageant at any level puts the system in a bad light, so be aware of that when looking at pageant systems.
(Back to the movie) - Will and Ellen decide to enter the pageant as a part of "the revolution" but it ends up that two extra characters decide to join their cause. Will calls them "the weirdos." Now the story goes on from there and I won't ruin the rest of it for you. But here is what I essentially took from the movie:
Now how many times do we hear pageant girls saying one of the reasons they do pageants is to make friends. When you're young, everyone wants to be friend at pageants, but as you get older (and especially if you're tough competition) hardly anyone wants to be your friend. *sigh* But in this movie friendships blossom most unexpectedly and friendships are tested. It was good to see that THIS movie did not show any of the negative side of poor sportsmanship. It was refreshing that 'Dumplin' kept all things positive and real.
The movie didn't focus so much on the pageant side but more along the POV of a plus size teenager and how she dealt with confidence. Pageants, and more important the people of pageantry, were the driving force that helped her overcome these issues. The movie didn't focus on mean girls picking on her. They tried to include her and tried to befriend her. It was just all the other people outside of pageants who often made fun of Will. But, even that was minimal.
Now granted anyone can find confidence in a hobby or sport with enough patience and dedication. But in that moment, Will had to find her confidence somewhere and because of her friends and newly made pageant friends, she most certainly found her "will" to command the stage. She had a supportive team who believed in her and that gave her all she needed to step into her own light.
Everyone has an obstacle to overcome in life. Sometimes those are daily obstacles. But the greatest obstacle for Will wasn't gaining the confidence but trying to gain the love and support of her own mother, Rosie. Rosie, in current day of the movie, is a small figured woman who also seems to cast adoration to the other pageant girls instead of her own daughter. When Will decided to enter the pageant Rosie tried everything to talk her out of it because of the embarrassment Will could bring to Rosie's legacy. It almost seemed that Rosie was now looking for excuses to have Will disqualified from the pageant. I won't spoil the details, but I will say that Willow Dean made her name unforgettable when she hit the stage. Rosie was overcome with such pride and surprise when she saw what her daughter was capable of. In the end, Will earned her mother's love and support, and most importantly to Willow - she earned her mother's respect.
5. Hoping the nice girl wins.
We all hope in pageants that the RIGHT GIRL wins and/or the NICE GIRL wins. We all know in pageants this is not the case. It's either political or the mean girl wins (along with the mean mom) - yea I just said that! - or that the fake girl wins or the whole pageant was already rigged before we get there! (Personal experience and yes, I said it.) But in this movie, the girls did all come across as genuinely kind and supportive of each other. After seeing some of the contestants the audience can probably guess who would win the movie pageant but there was always a hope that "this" girl or "that" girl would win. I wish judges in real life would see this in the real contestants that walk across the pageant stages all over the world. Maybe then our negative stereo type could change and we really could empower young girls and women to embrace who they really are.
All in all, you need to see this movie. It's a great feel good movie with a great message. I know that if I were a pageant judge, I might even ask teens and miss contestants questions based off the topics seen in this movie. It opens a channel for communication for mothers and daughters to talk about issues concerning bullying, sensitivity, acceptance and understanding, and of course pageants. So this weekend, grab some hot chocolate and a blanket, and snuggle up to the Netflix movie - "Dumplin'."