Fighting The Mirror

Disney’s Just Introduced Its First Plus-Size Heroine

The new animated short, Reflect, has drawn both praise and criticism.

A still from 'Reflect' a short animated film featuring a plus-size ballerina named Bianca.

There always seems to be amazing new content dropping on Disney+, and one of the streaming service’s latest additions ,titled Reflect, is garnering mixed reviews for its portrayal of its plus-size female protagonist.

Reflect — part of the Short Circuit Experimental Films series —is a short film about “a ballet dancer [called Bianca] who battles her own reflection, overcoming doubt and fear by channeling her inner strength, grace and power.”

At the beginning of the film, Bianca is totally in her element as she practices point. Her confidence visibly deflates when her classmates with more conventionally accepted “dancer bodies” (see: tall and thin) come into the rehearsal space and she joins them at the barre.

Then as her instructor says to her “Tight tummy, long neck,” her confidence completely cracks. The mirror quickly becomes a fractal monster, engulfing Bianca in her own reflection. She then begins to dance, letting go of her insecurities about her body and moving forward with confidence and grace like the skilled dancer she is.

Many people were appreciative of the not only the introduction of a plus-size girl protagonist, but of the narrative itself. Many were moved to tears and reminded of their own childhood. Many adults commented that they wished that this was around when they were a kid and struggling with their own body dysmorphia, along with teasing from classmates or friends.

“And just like that! I’m 10 years old again in dance class with the other girls laughing that I was making the floor shake,” wrote one tearful viewer on TikTok.

Others were less impressed that the first plus-size protagonist’s storyline was about just that. “It would be nice to have a plus size protagonist who[se] major problem [is] not being plus size,” read one comment. And a lot of people agreed.

Yes, it is amazing that Disney and other children’s media companies are being proactive when it comes to inclusion and diversity. And the struggle Bianca goes through during her ballet class clearly resonates with a lot of audience members. But couldn’t a film showing a plus-size kid being you know, just a kid with the same problems or obstacles as any other child protagonist, be powerful as well?

Again, Reflect is absolutely a Pas de Bourrée in the right direction, but so much more needs to continue to be done to include stories of protagonists all shapes and sizes that are not strictly tethered to a storyline about negative body image.

You can watch Reflect streaming now on Disney+.