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Netflix's 'Matilda' Called Out For Reinforcing Fatphobia By Putting Emma Thompson In Fat Suit

Netflix's 'Matilda' Called Out For Reinforcing Fatphobia By Putting Emma Thompson In Fat Suit
Mark Sagliocco/WireImage/Getty Images

With so many people who grew up with the beloved original 1996 Matilda film now having kids of their own, Netflix's upcoming musical adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl tale is sure to be a barnstormer.

But as Netflix begins promoting the film in advance of its launch later this year, an angry backlash is building because of what many see as the film's reinforcement of fatphobia.

After the film's trailer dropped, star Emma Thompson's costume seemed to grab more attention than the film itself--Thompson appeared in prosthetics and a fat suit, sparking anger on social media.

Like many characters in Dahl's stories, Thompson's villainous character of Miss Trunchbull has an exaggerated, muscular appearance that makes her loom over many other characters in the story.

In the stage musical version in fact, Miss Trunchbull is typically played by a man, a nod to the long British tradition of "pantomime dames" drag performances, in order to set her up as a foil for the story's feminine, conventionally beautiful character Miss Honey.

To do this, the new Netflix version puts Thompson in a fat suit and facial prosthetics meant to make her loom large and seem unattractive and villainous--and many are angry about it.

Fat suits have long been controversial for the ways they reinforce fatphobia by making mockeries, punchlines and caricatures--and in Trunchbull's case, villains--of fat people.

That's problematic enough, but activists and others critical of the practice also frequently point out that using fat suits and prosthetics takes jobs away from plus-size actors who could just as easily have played Trunchbull's character in Matilda.

The images of Thompson's Matilda get-up were particularly galling for many fat people and activists because she has been outspoken in her opposition to body standards and body shaming.

Thompson spoke out about this just recently in fact, during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in which she urged people to not "waste your life's purpose worrying about your body."

On Twitter, the images of Thompson left many deeply angry.

Netflix's new take on Matilda premieres in December.