Last year, Ferreira confirmed that she wouldn't be reprising the role for season four, saying, “After four years of getting to embody the most special and enigmatic character Kat, I’m having to say a very teary-eyed goodbye.” Naturally, the rumour mill went into overdrive, with many fans wondering about an alleged feud between Ferreira and Sam Levinson, the show's creator.
In an interview with Elle, Ferreira cautioned fans to “not believe everything [they] read,” noting that she'd been sucked into a drama that she never asked to be a part of. She then set the record straight about her departure, saying, “I don’t know if it was going to do her justice, and I think both parties knew that. I really wanted to be able to not be the fat best friend. I don’t want to play that, and I think they didn’t want that either.”
Her comments have reignited the conversation – sparked last year by the controversial casting of Brendan Fraser in The Whale – about the limited roles available to fat actors, as well as the harmful tropes that often dictate the creation of fat characters.
Euphoria fans appear to be divided over Ferreira's insight, with one tweeting, “She was way more to the show than just a fat best friend,” while another added, “Her character had so much potential to be so much more than the fat best friend,” and another pointed out that the show's writers “could’ve done so many things to steer away from the “fat best friend” trope.”
Videos comparing the actor's body in 2014 to now are going viral. Here's why they're so problematic.
The fat best friend trope sees fat characters introduced to a story, whether in film or TV, to facilitate a slimmer character's development – or at least provide some comic relief. “Fat Amy” – played by Rebel Wilson – is by far the most memorable character from Pitch Perfect, and yet, her role effectively exists to punctuate the story with self-effacing humour. Hence, she refers to herself as “Fat Amy” so “twig b*tches” don't do it behind her back. Wilson's weight was deemed so integral to her supporting role that she was reportedly banned from losing or gaining any weight while filming.
The representation of fat people in popular culture has long relied on such offensive tropes. In “You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People, Aubrey Gordon notes how the depiction of “Fat Monica” in Friends reinforced the stigmatising notion that fat people are undesirable.
“Monica wears a high-necked, long-sleeved dress, waving to the camera with one hand while she holds a wrapped deli sandwich in the other, eliciting peals of laughter from the studio audience. When she hugs her thin friend, Rachel, she accidentally smears mayonnaise on her shoulder […] When teenage Monica’s date arrives, he is fat, and we are told he’s seen Star Wars over three hundred times. These are all signals to his undesirability.”
When we see tropes like the “fat best friend” being continually perpetuated on-screen, we start to apply them in our own lives. This fuels a toxic environment, which encourages constant self-comparison, and drains our self-esteem. Have you ever felt self-conscious about being ‘the biggest person in the room’? I know I have. And I immediately felt guilty for caring. But who can blame us when we're pressured to exude “main character energy” in a “fat best friend” body?
It also legitimises the hostile rhetoric constantly levelled at people with larger bodies, which has very real consequences, from fatphobic scaremongering – is that you, "obesity epidemic?”– to the continuation of deadly diet culture.
Barbie Ferreira has spoken up; it's about time we (and the entertainment industry) listened.
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