You know what I hate? OK, so the list is long, but something that really riles me up is the plastic-cheese discussion about Plus Size. And why do I hate it? Labelling something as Plus Size implies that it’s no longer normal, and that presents a whole host of problems. Because, for instance, when you create a special issue of your mag focussed on celebrating Plus Size, Amy Schumer starts complaining that she is, in fact, only a 6 or an 8. Look, I get it. No-one wants to be pigeonholed, but when it comes to criticism, models and actresses categorized as Plus Size get a raw deal, and it really detracts from their work. (Just don’t get me started on Amy Schumer fat-shaming Khloe Kardashian).
And you know what else I hate? Fat jokes. Especially when said jokes are in a female-led script. I’m all for taking the piss out of yourself, which can be done in an empowering way: Lena Dunham in Girls is a case in point. But it’s altogether less successful when often-hilarious and ambidextrous actors like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson are subjected to constant jibes about their weight, including the insinuation that no man is sexually attracted to them, without a serious makeover, and even then guys, there’s no guarantee (see Pitch Perfect, The Boss, Bridesmaids, Tammy, and Spy). This incessant need to draw attention to someone’s size if they don’t fit the so-called Hollywood ideal, is not only infuriating, but undercuts any potential wins for feminism that are gained from actors like McCarthy and Wilson leading big budget films.
Which is why I wanted to watch Love On The Run as soon as I heard about it. Taking the lead is Jen Ponton, who’s appeared in episodes of killer shows like Orange Is The New Black and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but this movie introduces her as a comedic talent that can carry a film (and most definitely her own Netflix series, just sayin’.) What’s special about Love On The Run is the fact that it’s a rom-com with a difference. Ponton may be a body-positivity advocate IRL, but Love On The Run decides early on not to be a film about a Plus Size protagonist. Because why the fuck should it matter what someone’s dress size is anyway? FFS.
Ponton plays Franny, a dog groomer with a major crush on one of her clients. As the sole breadwinner for her mom and sister, Franny doesn’t have much time to focus on her love life, which is perhaps why the really fucked up road trip that happens in Love On The Run becomes strangely romantic. Taken hostage by Rick, played by Steve Howey, Franny falls in love pretty quickly, despite the fact that he’s a gun-toting sociopath. I completely understand the attraction though, as there’s something innately charming about Howey, even when he’s playing a total dick, like in Something Borrowed.
Love On The Run is important because it makes a bold claim: romantic comedies can feature actors of any size. I realize this is a shocking sentiment, but an important one. Why are women in rom-coms so often stick thin, dressed in couture, and craving diamonds? Shouldn’t rom-coms reflect real life in just about every way, from the number of hamburgers we’re capable of eating in one session, to our penchant for completely inappropriate and murder-y men, to the desire to get well and truly laid?
The movie may not be perfect, but it has a lot going for it. By working in the face of rom-com tradition, Love On The Run asserts itself as an alternative narrative, one in which it’s OK to be both hopelessly in love and completely ill-equipped to deal with real life. By casting Ponton as the romantic lead, Love On The Run bucks trends and proves to the audience that size is a non-issue. While weight can be played for laughs, and still is sometimes in the script, it doesn’t have to be the focal point. Life is way more complicated than the number on the label of your dress.
Jen Ponton proves that it’s possible to play the lead in a romantic film without feeling the need to apologize for your size.
Images: Ironclad Pictures; Cranium Entertainment; Yale Productions; fuckyeahginnifergoodwin/Tumblr
Amy Mackelden is an Entertainment Writer at Bustle, and has written for heat magazine, New Statesman, Kinkly, The Independent online, xoJane, and Hello Giggles. Her book, Adele: The Other Side, is out now from Eyewear.
Amy co-founded poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog, and is co-editor of Clarissa Explains Fuck All. Her new theatre show, MS Is My Boyfriend, is funded by Arts Council England, and she’s a recipient of the Artists’ International Development Fund Round 13. Ian Harding is a bird watcher?