How Emma Thompson As Miss Trunchbull Is Problematic

Although we’re all eagerly anticipating the Matilda the Musical Movie adaptation, Emma Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull is giving me some issues.

I have always loved the 1996 Matilda but had the same complaint as lots of British kids who adore the story: it’s American. But now the musical is coming to the big screen and it’s going to be British! Amazing! Knowing that Emma Thompson would be Miss Trunchbull? Absolutely ecstatic!

I’m not too sure what I expected if I’m honest. But seeing the promotional pictures of Emma Thompson as the horrifying headteacher has taken the excitement out of me.

Another villain in a fat suit, *sigh*

It seems to be a bit of a stereotype, for a gag or a villain, to dress a slimmer actor in a fat suit.

Not only does this take away roles for talented plus-size actors, who struggle in the industry as it is, it also leans into fat-phobia. Using a fat suit for comedic effect can be incredibly damaging for those who are actually fat. Examples such as Monica in Friends, and John Travolta’s Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, encourage fat jokes and encourage it from a young age.

Matilda the Musical is for the whole family. That means young children will rightly be watching and enjoying the movie. But will Emma Thompson in a fat suit be showing them it’s okay to laugh at fat people?

Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage

Fat Suits A Thing Of The Past?

It’s something that’s been controversial for years. For her role in Love Actually, Emma Thompson wore a fat suit – and for what benefit? She wasn’t the laughing stock of the movie, but she is the one who gets cheated on, and the other woman is noticeably slimmer. So what is that saying?

People argue that they’re used less nowadays. That they’re mainly used in biopics where the actor needs to resemble someone real. Tom Hanks, for instance, had to wear one for Elvis. However, this doesn’t seem to be entirely accurate. The idea that fat actors have less resemblance to a fat person than a slim person doesn’t quite add up. Even Renee Zellweger has donned a fat suit for her new film The Thing About Pam and given her reason as ‘accuracy’.

How can they be a thing of the past when there are so many contemporary examples?

It’s disappointing to see its continued use in children’s films as a gag once again. It’s particularly disappointing for Emma Thompson, whose sex-positive Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is doing wonders for representation and body positivity.

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Hello! My name is Jasmyne and I’m a soon-to-be graduate of English and Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. Originally from North Devon, I now love living in Cardiff. I’m really into my movement; an advocate for joyful movement. I spend my free time either reading, at the Wales Millennium Centre, or running around the city.