How does it feel to be a woman who is very tall above average? It turns out that, in a patriarchal culture, it is not easy to be a woman who is too tall—especially when it comes to finding a romantic partner. There is a kind of visible ‘rule’, that women should have a shorter height than men . That is what is considered ‘good’ and ‘worth it’. However, if we are critical to question again, why do men have to be taller than women? So what if the woman is taller than the male partner? The film Tall Girl (2019) invites us to criticize this view by reflecting on the story of a young girl named Jodi, who is very tall.
Tall Girl (2019) Movie at a Glance
The film Tall Girl (2019) opens with a critical prologue from the start—a conversation between Jodi and a boy in the school library about an alien-themed book. The conversation got the boy interested in Jodi and wanting to ask her out, until he realized how tall Jodi was when they stood together. He backs off, feeling inferior because as a man, he is small and much shorter than a woman (whom he wants to date). After that, he even talked about Jodi behind his back with his other male friends. Jodi seems to experience the same as the alien-themed book.
Yes, the film Tall Girl (2019) tells the story of the ups and downs that the main character, Jodi Kreyman, has to face, a very tall teenage girl. Just because she is a woman who is too tall, Jodi has to face body shaming every day from her school friends. Of course Jodi was tired, but she chose to just keep it quiet. Jodi also thought that she should find a taller man to be her lover—unfortunately, there was no man taller than Jodi at the school. In fact, one of his childhood friends had openly stated that he liked him—but Jack Duckleman, his friend, was a small man and much shorter than Jodi.
Jack Duckleman who has had a crush on her for so long keeps asking Jodi: so what if you date a shorter man? There are no sacred rules, right? But patriarchy does not provide space for men to ‘be below women’—including about height. Men must be in front, above women: lead, not be led . It’s not like women who don’t benefit and actually experience body shamingif you are very tall, men actually benefit and are ‘admired’ by many women when you are very tall (we can see through the character of Stig Mohlin, a male student from a Swedish student exchange program in the film). Even this value has already been internalized in Jodi, who continues to be the ‘monthly’ body-shaming of his friends.
We can empathize with Jodi as a woman under the beauty construction of a patriarchal society, who likes to regulate women’s bodies: from head to toe, from weight to height, inside and out. Jodi felt strange, foreign, with herself looking different from everyone else at her school. Since childhood, due to hormonal problems, he has grown rapidly and is much taller than all the other children—a biological thing that he is born with. Why are Jodi and the very tall women not given ample space to accept and celebrate the peculiarities of their posture?
As a film that raises the story of teenagers, Tall Girl (2019) is packaged lightly wrapped in comedy. However, the film Tall Girl (2019) is not a bad representation to share stories about tall girls/tall women . This issue may seem simple and rarely brought up in the media—but it’s definitely not that simple for the women who experience it. In fact, body-shaming is a problem that many women still face, in various ways attacking all kinds of parts of their bodies. This film also voices the narrative of resistance to female body-shaming , through the process of self-acceptance. Completely.
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Get Closer to Jodi in Tall Girl (2019)
Jodi Kreyman understands what it’s like to be a very tall woman, even though she’s still a teenager. He is 16 years old, in grade 1 of high school, he is about 73 inches (185 cm) tall, and wears Nike size 13 (US) shoes for men (the same as EU size 47.5 which is more commonly used in Indonesia). There are at least three things that become difficult for her: she is reluctant to wear high heels, she is constantly experiencing body shaming, and she has difficulty finding a male partner who is taller. However, for a young girl, these three things become so important for a time full of exploration and struggle to start looking for self-identity.
“When you’re a tall girl, it’s the only thing people see.”
—Jodi Kreyman in Tall Girl (2019)
Jodi had hated his very tall body. He felt ‘abnormal’. He even sought out a height reduction surgery —which of course was expensive, painful, took a long time to recover and wasn’t necessarily safe for him. Jodi also feels that she is already ‘too flashy’ because of her height—she doesn’t want to make herself ‘more visible’ in any way: playing the piano in front of many people (even though Jodi is very talented), wearing high heels, or dating Jack Dunkleman. Including, not wanting to serve those who insult & abuse him—he secludes himself in the bathroom reading a book. It’s not easy for Jodi to accept and embrace herself .
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Her family also didn’t help much—even though they tried to be very supportive of Jodi’s ‘special condition’ (high genes), it turned out that their way of support didn’t answer Jodi’s needs. Luckily, Jodi has another support system at school. There is her best friend, Fareeda, who is very comfortable with herself and very vocal in supporting Jodi as well to dare to do the same. There’s Jack Dunkleman—his boy friend who can see Jodi as more than just a ‘very tall woman’ and has had feelings for her for seven years.
“One day, Jodi, one day when you get picked on and made fun of, you’re not gonna hide in a bathroom stall. You’re gonna stand up and say, ‘This is me. I love all 73 inches of myself, and there’s nothing you can do that will change that.’ That is my wish for you. I just hope I’m there to see it.”
—Fareeda in the movie Tall Girl (2019)
However, wait a minute. Although Jack Dunkleman ‘impressed’ as too-good-to-be-true (in his shortcomings, including the matter of his small and short as a man) and had a lot of influence on Jodi’s self-acceptance process , Jodi remained in control of his own life. Jack, like Fareeda, was just a support system for Jodi — Jodi finally decided that she had to go to the reunion in high heels (a gift from Jack) and speak up for herself.Jodi who chooses consciously and freely to process begins to accept and embrace herself, including her very tall body. So, it’s not just about ‘princes who save princesses’ anymore like the fairy tales of the past.
“I’m… I’m tall, really, really tall, and it’s the thing that’s haunted me my entire life. It’s, um, it’s defined me. But I think it’s time that I come up with a new definition. I’m so much more than just a tall girl.”
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—Jodi Kreyman in Tall Girl (2019)
Jodi managed to put her arm around him, accepting his enormous height—though with difficulty. He is redefining who he is, in his view—that’s most important, more important than trying to change ‘other people’s definitions’ of who he is. She also manages to be sure of what she likes and wears it proudly— not the ‘very feminine style’ her sister, Harper, or her mother wears—but her own style as a woman (which they can celebrate together). Finally, Jodi could say, “Being tall, actually, is what makes me, me, and I…I like me. And you should like you. We’re all good enough. And once we realize this, no one can take it away.”
Very tall women are more than just “tall women”. Their identity & self are much richer and complex, we certainly must not ignore all of them holistically. Until when will we only see women from physical and body-shaming ?