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Queen-Sized: Body Image & Self-Perception

By Nancy Heller Moskowitz, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, 
AMHCA’s Public Awareness, Advocacy & Marketing Committee

Adolescent girls often have a distorted view of their body size and image. As we know, many develop episodes of anorexia and bulimia, which can haunt them for many years. Although this isn’t a hot topic in today’s literature, as clinicians, we still see both groups coming through our doors. Now boys are showing up with these disorders as some coaches make impossible demands on their “play weight.”

Our movie this month is “Queen Sized.” Only 87 minutes long, the subject and length encourage a group showing in one’s office, followed by discussion. It stars Nikki Blonsky (“Hair Spray”) as Maggie Baker. Annie Potts portrays Maggie’s concerned, emotionally unsure, widowed mother. 

The film is based on a true story, which may increase transference for our clients. Maggie Baker is short, bubbly, cute, has a skinny best friend—and is obese. She is the scapegoat of her classmates. Though the portrayal of Maggie seems a bit exaggerated, it makes the case convincingly that she does not fit in.

To embarrass her, two girls in the “in crowd” at Maggie’s high school, Liz and Camille, nominate Maggie for Homecoming queen. They expect Maggie to be so mortified that she will resign the anonymous nomination and slither back into the woodwork. Maggie instead decides not to bow out of the contest. With the help of her best friend, Casey, she runs a great campaign, and with the aide of a boy who really cares about Maggie, she wins. 

Now you know how the movie ends, but what I really want you know about are some scenes that might be useful to discuss with clients.

Scenes of Interest
Maggie is rushing to get ready for school. As she grabs something quick and fattening to eat, she is shown “hearing” her mother’s voice in her head say something critical about her choice of food. Before she leaves the kitchen, her mother stands in the kitchen doorway, holding a box of empty wrappers from under her bed. It doesn’t take long before Maggie screams at her, “How long for you to call me fat?” Her mother never does call Maggie fat, but Mag-gie has many of these imagined conversations throughout the movie. She gives voice to her negative thoughts about herself by thinking that she knows what someone else is thinking and then “hearing” them criticize her.

In another scene, Maggie and Casey are walking. A boy approaches Casey and invites her to a party that night. He looks right past Maggie. Casey, feeling uncomfortable, says she won’t come unless Maggie can, too. Maggie says; “I don’t want to feel like your charity case.” Finally, desperate to be included and knowing Casey wants to go to the party, Maggie leaves home without permission and turns over care of her sibling to a babysitter. Ultimately, Mom comes home and Maggie gets grounded. Maggie comments on the punishment, lamenting that no one will care whether or not she is grounded. 

Mom feels lost and unsure. Her husband, who had been overweight, died of diabetes complications two years before. She is struggling to keep her two children and herself in their home. Feelings about his death are rarely discussed, although there is a scene that can trigger a conversation after the film.

Once Maggie decides to run for Homecoming queen, many scenes show her struggles— within herself and with others. She becomes popular with the “outcast group” found in every high school. A great scene is where an administrator of the school suggests she drop out. Maggie informs her that will not happen. “I know that would make your life easier, but it won’t make mine easier,” Maggie retorts. She correctly observes; “Plenty of skinny girls hate their bodies.” 

Another important discussion for any adolescent group can emerge from this statement and another one: “Losers and geeks are invisible. I’m just the fat girl. I don’t feel incapable.”

The campaign goes on and Liz begins to feel threatened because Tara, the favorite candidate, doesn’t really want to be Homecoming queen. Liz wasn’t picked so she is pushing Tara. Tara ultimately dumps Liz, and throughout the film has brief friendly moments with Maggie. As the pressure mounts, at one point, Maggie blames her mother for her weight problems, screaming, “It’s your fault. How could you let me get so fat?”

The film contains many meaty scenes to discuss with clients, and there is a positive ending. Mother and daughter regain a growing relationship. Maggie’s friends and the boy she likes are back in her life. Though Maggie doesn’t appear ready to lose weight, she is more sure of who she is. She begins to deal with her father’s death and her mother’s need for her to act as a surrogate. Maggie has the ability to make decisions about her own life. Isn’t this a major concern of any adolescent?

Until next time,