A tall girl’s criticism of Netflix’s ‘Tall Girl’

Photo provided by Getty Images and Gregg DeGuire/WireImage.

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Photo provided by Getty Images and Gregg DeGuire/WireImage.

Rayanne Painter

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Let’s set the scene for Netflix’s new original film, “Tall Girl”:

Jodi (Ava Michelle) is a white, cisgender, straight, thin, able-bodied, middle-class, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman – Oh, and she happens to be 6’1” and her life is hard.

“You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes,” Jodi says in the film.

Boys at her high school don’t like her because they’re mostly shorter than her. Although, her shorter – and incredibly sweet – male friend competes for her affection the entire movie and she blows him off because of his height. Her classmates constantly bully her and joke about her as she’s walking down the halls, yet she still has a group of supportive and loving friends.

She struggles with body-image and loneliness until a tall Swedish exchange student walks into her class. Suddenly, the movie takes a turn as Jodi spends the next hour and 30 minutes battling her shorter, hot-girl nemesis for the exchange student’s love and attention, eventually learning a lesson or two about loving her uniqueness.

This film was criticized as soon as the trailer was released by Netflix, prior to them posting it online. The Internet furiously claimed that other social groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and people with disabilities, are more worthy to be featured in a film about high school bullying than a tall white woman who has no other “marginalized” trait aside from her height.

I’m also a white woman who reached 5’11” by the 7th grade. I see what Netflix was trying to accomplish; I was also alienated romantically, wore an abnormally large shoe size and was teased by my peers. But, my perspective vastly differs.

When my classmates would give me the nicknames Jodi and I both had the pleasure of experiencing (mine, variables of “sasquatch,” “giant” and “Big Bird”), they were mostly aimed at the fact that I was fat and tall. There were girls at my high school who were taller and thinner than me – one of them a highly valued volleyball player who won homecoming queen – and of course I can’t know their exact experiences, but I know for a fact they weren’t tormented to the extent I was.

I don’t disagree that tall people feel ostracized from society or have body image issues. My problem is Netflix’s way of portraying these issues without alluding to the fact that Jodi’s character is not marginalized and that people who look like and experience the world like her are not defined by their height. People might make jokes or not want to date you because of height, but you are not going to lose a job, be refused housing, or be assaulted or killed on the street because you are too tall.

Jodi’s entire dilemma revolves around her height altering her life so extensively that her classmates, teachers and family members treat her like an outcast. This isn’t true for somebody who is solely “too” tall. It’s over-exaggerated and, frankly, is a disgrace to people of color, queer people, trans people, fat people and people with disabilities who experience actual discrimination based on something that is out of their control.

Where’s the movie about those people, Netflix? I don’t feel that I’m nit-picking over a mediocre young adult movie. This plot is a waste of money and millions of viewers are now exposed to “problems” of demographics that don’t need the attention.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @rayphenomenon

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