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Thanks to television and Hollywood (and other sources), there is a lot of pressure for women to remain thin. Every day, women are bombarded with images of glamorous supermodels, actresses, fitness gurus and pop stars with "perfectly" thin waists, narrow hips and tight rears. Likewise, comic book superheroines are known for almost always possessing the Most Common Superpower. To date, this is becoming something of a Discredited Trope, and Real Life women are becoming fatigued by the idea.
But you want your audience to identify with your heroine. So, what do you do to fix this? Simple. You make her plumper (but not TOO plump). You make her plain, (but not TOO plain). You give your heroine curvature, but within certain parameters. Then, you tirelessly promote the idea that she's more "real" because of these attributes.
This has begun to see so much use lately that it's becoming a trope in its own right and every bit as damaging to female body image as the aforementioned overly thin models and actresses. The truth is that "real" women possess a variety of body types, from tall and thin to stout and curvy to large and voluptuous. Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with being remarkably toned and fit, so long as it's not being touted as "perfect". Declaring that one woman's body is less "real" than another body creates several Unfortunate Implications.
Note that before the early 20th century, this was the standard body image among Western women. Specifically, women were expected to be plump and curvy; this was held up as the nec plus ultra of feminine beauty and sexual allure. Lillian Russell is a perfect case in point; at the height of her fame in the 1890s, she hit 200 pounds at one point -- and was considered the archetype of American beauty. Body image began to change to a more slender ideal circa 1910, but the real switch to "pencil thin" didn't happen until after World War I, or during the Roaring Twenties.
As such, this is somewhat of a Cyclic Trope alongside its thin and lithe inverse. For example, the Fifties and Sixties were marked by a very thin, waif-ish ballerina-like ideal. The Seventies and Eighties brought curvier sex symbols. The Nineties brought in Heroin Chic. Finally, at the turn of the Millenium, curves were brought back into mainstream appeal.
- Dove moisturizing soap famously bungled this trope in a 7-year-long ad campaign called "Dove 'Real' Women". First, Dove was very selective about the women it considered "real" (not too curvy, not too thin, no tattoos or blemishes, no messy hair, etc.) and second, they Photoshopped their models' images in order to make them more appealing.
- Every so often the factoid is trotted out that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 -- a size considered plus-size in 2001, but an average size in the 1970s and 1980s. But it's a lie; Marilyn Monroe by today's sizes (they have changed) would have been about a size 8.
- Jennifer Hudson gained weight for her Oscar-winning role in Dreamgirls. In the film, Effie's full figure and relatable humble origins are central to the plot.
- Real Women Have Curves. The lower-class, "curvy" main characters are contrasted with a wealthy and successful Latina woman who is rail thin.
- In many of his books, the ethologist Desmond Morris argues that a certain preference for curvy and plump women is hardwired, for evolutionary reasons, into the human male psyche. Morris' basic idea is that lush, abundant feminine curves subconsciously suggest (1) good health, (2) an ability to bear children safely (it's known that women with wide hips have an easier time with childbirth) and (3) a superior ability to feed/nurse children.
Live Action TV
- Jewel Staite gained some weight to play Kaylee on Firefly. She and the pilot Wash arguably played the role of Audience Surrogates.
- Drop Dead Diva seems to be based on this trope. Probably notable that it is on Lifetime. It occasionally averts this and shows counter-examples.
- Lizzie McGuire is often contrasted with Kate, the thinner cheerleader and Alpha Bitch, with Lizzie cast as a more relatable Girl Next Door.
- In That's So Raven, Raven gets a Very Special Episode where she models, and objects to the men's attempts to Photoshop her to look thinner.
- Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) in Doctor Who. It's even lampshaded in "New Earth" during a Grand Theft Me moment.
Cassandra in Rose's body: Ooo! Curves! Oh baby! It's like living inside a bouncy castle!
- Noah's Arc: Alex (a noticeably feminine man) believes this all the way regarding himself, and professes himself as the most "real" one of the group. He even says a variation on the line in one episode.
- This is one of the major themes of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back", in which he draws comparisons between very thin women and fakeness -- particularly in this exchange:
I ain't talkin' bout Playboy
'Cause silicone parts are made for toys
- Queen's "Fat-Bottomed Girls," written by guitarist Brian May.
- When she first appeared in the WWE, Molly Holly wasn't explicitly sexualized or objectified like the other WWE Divas. Instead, she was created as having a Closer to Earth/Girl Next Door demeanor, like someone the female audience could relate to and the male audience could feel protective of (even though she was more than capable of holding her own in the ring). This is because she was curvier, with significantly wider hips and more body fat, than the other Divas. Many storylines even had the other Divas bullying her because of her size and shape.
- The Trope Namer is the Latin American-themed play Real Women Have Curves, which deals with body images. Its heroine fits this trope exactly.
- In Dream Girl, the protagonist's boyfriend tells her that she's too skinny and needs to eat more often. "Personally, I find the natural curves of the female body quite appealing."