Droppin’ some realness with Dumplin’
Let me start off by saying, this post is NOT associated with Netflix in any manner (however I would not be opposed to any movie offers tbh) but I watched the movie, “Dumplin” on a recent average night and, my friends, I was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN
The movie is set in the fictional town of Clover City, Texas and the protagonist is a high school girl named Willowdean Dickson, daughter of a former beauty pageant queen (played by Jennifer Anniston) who also runs the pageant every year. As the self proclaimed “resident-fat-girl” of the town, Willowdean decides to run in the pageant after finding out her recently deceased Aunt Lucy, with whom she identified closer than her mother growing up, had aspirations of competing in the pageant the same year that her mother won. Willowdean claims her participation acts solely as a protest, but creates close friendships, and finds out strengths about herself and more fun things about her Aunt Lucy.
As excited as I am about the film, I’m going to do my absolute best not to ruin the entire plot and spoil the movie for those yet to see it. (Unless, you know, you want me to because I really do have a serious talent in ruining surprises and endings of movies…) What made me so aggressively into this movie was how many parallels I saw and felt of myself as well as most people I know.
I mean, I guess minus small-town problems, beauty pageants and drag queens but let me try to tidy this thought process up…
At it’s introduction I found the setting alone to be serendipitous after almost rounding my first year living in the Lone Star State myself. Texas has been, quite literally, nothing but incredibly welcoming and warm to me as a small business owner, a member of the athlete community, a speaker and generally as a human. My experience has indeed been “uniquely Austin,” as I’m told, but I do think that there is something to be said for that “southern hospitality” I’ve experienced more recently than most of my previous cross country/continent moves.
Enough about me and back to Dumplin…
Dolly Parton is a constant presence not just by providing the soundtrack to movie, but also as a beacon of inspiration for the protagonist. I mean, who can blame her? Dolly is an absolute, timeless legend and also a pillar of strength for women of all ages for generations. She’s got a lifetime of wisdom bombs to share, herself:
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose”
So, pretty much immediately I felt inspired to write on some themes in this movie solely based on Willowdean’s chosen idol, and BOY am I glad I did.
The first question “Dumplin” made me ask is “what does it look like to own ‘our thing,’ whatever that thing is?”
Dolly Parton and Aunt Lucy are characters that act as sources of strength and inspiration for Willowdean. She never shies away from who she is or what she looks like when being blatantly and constantly reminded. In a few fleeting moments of vulnerability, moments that have NOTHING to do with people criticizing her body but rather offer a new type of closeness she wants to bolt ASAP.
It seems that we look outside of ourselves, to other people, Dolly Parton or otherwise, to admire and to aspire to be. When the light is reflected back on to us and we have to come face to face with who we are- we want to run.
As some body who objectively has a “thing” with body confidence and image- I can say that in my experience I identified myself as separate from my bodily-status for a REALLY REALLY LONG TIME. I think Willowdean, and a lot of people also experience(d) this phenomenon.
People who have known me for a long time can assure anyone that, rarely, if ever, they have seen me be anything other than confident. I agree, I’ve always felt an insane amount of confidence with who I am (sometimes bordering delusion) and what my body can do. Only recently the idea of combining WHO I am on the inside and WHO I am on the outside has been a theme.
So, I’ve always LOVED watching beauty pageants (very un-woke of me but I’ve had a long time affinity for any event/production/presentation that celebrated women and beauty and also maybe I should write about figure skating competitions next…) I feel like my career in cheerleading, and subsequently judging cheerleading competitions has a few parallels. My coaches over the years had always given us advice, but my college coach would constantly tell us to “fake it ’til you make it.” (Side note/humble brag: I gave that advice to some of my campers when I first started working AmpCamp and that particular group of girls have grown into influential women, doctors, multiple Paralympic gold medalists and overall impressive humans. Sorry- let’s continue)
Dumplin’ has a LOT of layers that I could gush about for infinity, however I think the concept of confidence as the main vein is what struck home for me and one that I believe everyone has encountered and had struggles. Honestly, fakin’ had been pretty sound advice for most of my young life…
That is, of course, until I needed to start showing up for myself in new and different ways. It’s easy to be confident on arbitrary levels, but when you haven’t taken a good, deep look at yourself, and I mean ALL of yourself.
It’s hard to be confident when you realize you maybe don’t even know who “you” really is.
Where do “you” begin? When you start looking, do “you” even have an end?
I’ve always thought the word “courageous” had obnoxious marketing. The word “courage” always seemed like it needed to be followed with grandiose gestures, and unabashed confidence and security in who one was in order to demonstrate their great, often public, acts of courage.
Courage, like confidence, always seemed like it was on the outside and seldom coming from within. The two also seem to have similar responses by their respective audiences. Whether it is an authentic and true confidence, or a false one; it can be received in unfavorable ways. When someone seems confident, and have a “thing” that should objectively tear their courage down- more often than not it is not received well.
“How is it possible that hot guy can like that fat girl?”
“How dare that girl with the disability feel good about her body?”
These are some pretty hateful questions we find ourselves asking when we compare our issues, our pain, our “thing” to someone else and can’t conceptualize how they could have the audacity to still find happiness and peace with themselves DESPITE the struggle.
It’s easy to continue to be judgmental when we have spent the majority of our lives judging ourselves. I think that’s what makes it so easy to concede to other people’s criticisms of us but what makes their compliments so hard to swallow.
Is it in fact, more courageous to believe the *good* things people tell us? To believe in the *goodness* of ourselves, to tell the critic to be quiet and do something that honors ourselves in a *good* and loving way?
We need to stop agreeing that we don’t deserve good things or to be treated well.
Real confidence starts with the courage to believe that the good parts of ourselves will always be stronger than the bad or weak parts. That we do indeed deserve goodness rather than believe otherwise. When we decide to show up for ourselves, be kind and compassionate to ourselves it is a simple and strong kind of peace we create. It’s a place where happiness and contentment can exist, not by comparing and tearing anyone down, but building ourselves up. This kind of foundation allows us to authentically make space and create environments that are compassionate and loving to everyone. We love ourselves enough to know that we are no different than anyone. That is what true inclusion really is, and that’s really my whole schtick.
I’ll tell you what, Texans may talk funny but they got some mad wisdom to share!
I hope everyone had the happiest of holidays with their loved ones. This movie has been out since early December on Netflix so if you need to escape your family for something uplifting I think it was cute as all get out. Now, apparently it’s time for me to get fully creeped out by BirdBox while I continue to hide for the next few days until I fly back to the Lone Star State.
Happy New Year, y’all!