The trailer for Brittany Runs A Marathon took less than 24 hours from release to hit my news feed—performing a targeted tactical strike on my attention because it combines two huge passions of mine: running and the movies.
Here’s the trailer for context.
I love that Jillian Bell—who is beautiful by conventional standards, but often gets cast as the chubby comedic friend—is the lead, Brittany. I love that Utkarsh Ambudkar is the romantic leading man. I love that Brittany starts with one block—just one block—and builds from there, as so many runners do.
I like the ending wide shot of our heroine Brittany and her running buddy being passed by a tethered train of pre-schoolers in Central Park (it really does feel like that sometimes).
HOWEVER (Ain’t There Always A However)?
The first thing I noticed? At the beginning of this trailer, Jillian Bell is wearing a Fat Suit Lite(tm) and what looks like some facial prosthesis—red flag. It was the first indicator that this might not be a movie about a young woman who learns to love herself as-is.
The fat suit says: “this is going to be a story about a woman who becomes empowered because she loses weight.”
Okay, I thought, kinda problematic. But maybe this will be okay! Maybe it’s going to be a critique of the way people in larger bodies are treated by society? Brittany says jobs don’t find her to be a good “fit.” She says people thought she was lazy because of how she looked.
The first thing out of the doctor’s mouth when he says he wants to get her “healthy”? “I want you to lose 55 pounds.” It’s a classic weight loss prescription plus-sized people are served day in and day out while actual health issues go ignored. Maybe this movie is taking aim at that… right? RIGHT?
Except… she drops the weight (suit), and it’s painted as the key to her turning her whole life around—while they also try to tell us that that’s totally not what the story is trying to say.
”You changing your life was never about your weight,” Brittany’s friend Demetrius, played by Get Out’s scene-stealing Lil Rel Howry, tells her.
Except, at least from the trailer, that’s the story the film is telling—she loses weight and everything changes, and it might never take a critical shot at the bigger reasons “why” shrinking yourself helps you fit in better with society or why that might improve your life.
Yes she presumably makes positive changes that genuinely lead to a healthier life. Less drinking—good! More movement—also good! Still, it’s on the doctor’s orders to get healthy by dropping pounds. One has to wonder if they’ll ever take a breath to examine that equivalency.
Especially because the weight does come off which, to be fair, does happen sometimes—but sometimes in real life it doesn’t. It shouldn’t have to in order to tell a great narrative about self love and growth. Would Brittany be allowed to gain self worth if her body DIDN’T change?
But It’s Based On A True Story!
Yes, this is based on a true story, in fact—it could be based on many true stories. In some ways, this story mirrors the start of my own relationship with running.
Maybe you’re saying, “well if that’s where you started, couldn’t this movie be a good starting point for other people?”
Yes and no. It could be, but it shouldn’t have to be. First: I’m not magically cured of the desire to be thinner or prettier just because I’m not actively trying to lose weight with running—diet culture is more implanted an insidious than that. It’s everywhere, every day—on social media, and in the movies. Stories like this keep that narrative churning—> weight loss = worth.
This is an old narrative—yes, it’s new to the screen, but if you’ve read almost any women’s magazine, we know the transformation arc—we know before and after pictures. We know stories about new quality of life. We need new heroes—ones who just love themselves and move without expectation of change to fit in to “acceptable” body types.
And that’s why this trailer has me on edge. It cuts very close to home and seems to ignore the very lesson it seems it’s trying to teach by adding an asterisk: “you have always been enough, *which you only realized after you got out of the fat suit and people started to treat you better".
I’m not saying this story shouldn’t be told. I’m going to watch this movie when it comes out and probably cry, no matter what.
BUT, if you want to tell a story about a woman who begins running and loses weight and therefore finds new purpose in life, maybe leave it there. Don’t say one thing (worthy) and then show me another by illustrating that shrinking is actually the way to become more.
I’m wary that this may be a commercial for The Biggest Loser wrapped in the oh-so co-opted “body positivity” that smuggles diet culture and weight loss mentality into our everyday lives.
Still, I’m hopeful. I’m holding off judgment until I can actually see the movie for myself and have my questions answered:
Will this movie ACTUALLY align weight loss as a key indicator for health and wellness?
Will it use Brittany’s weight for any punchlines? (Looking at you, I Feel Pretty.)
Will this movie acknowledge the fact that there are people in more diverse bodies in the running world and they also do some truly amazing stuff without changing themselves?
I also have a few other narrative questions I’d like to pose as the devil’s loud n’ proud advocate:
What would this movie look like if Brittany was in an even larger, more marginalized body? (And not wearing a fat suit.)
What would this movie look like if she gained the weight back but still has strong health indicators, improved quality of life and RUNS THE MARATHON ANYWAY?
What would this movie look like if she doesn’t actually drop the weight at all but still finds love, happiness, respect, purpose and reaches her goals?
I can’t answer any of these—because I don’t know how this movie ends. I’m hoping to be surprised, but I’ll have to wait until August to find out. Until then, I’ll be keeping busy with my running schedule—one block at a time.