Posted in movie review, theology

Movie Review: Netflix’s Dumplin’

By Elizabeth Prata

Dumplin’ is a Netflix Original (PG-13) based on the 2015 young-adult novel by Julie Murphy, starring Danielle MacDonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Kathy Najimy, and produced by Jennifer Aniston.

dumplin

The official blurb goes:

Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.

The reviews are uniformly good. The movie is called sweet, heartwarming, engaging, feel-good, a treasure, and wonderful.

I was initially hesitant to watch but the reviews being good and I wanted to watch something uplifting, so I decided to take a chance. The movie was more three-dimensional that I thought it would be, and the relationships among the characters to each other and to their own selves was more nuanced than I’d expected.

Jennifer Aniston as the skinny, driven pageant queen director was not mean through and through and had more love and compassion for her daughter than one would suspect, given the trailers. Millie the giggling overweight girl was not clueless but had a streak of steel magnolia in her, and the main character, Willowdean, was shown as more complex in exploring her motives for competing in the pageant than many similarly-themed movies (I’m talking to you, Hallmark).

The Dolly Parton soundtrack provided the backdrop and unifying theme, and reportedly Parton was so smitten with the YA book and movie that she wrote some new songs specifically for the film. I like Dolly Parton so this was a good thing to me.

It’s a true chick flick, in that very few men are featured in the movie with the exception of Bo, in a few scenes as Willowdean’s love interest. A few fat-shaming male bullies drift in and out.

If I was a secular person I’d give two thumbs up. But as a Christian I’ll offer a warning.

Willowdean’s journey through this movie was essentially a search for authenticity and self-acceptance. Given her mother’s past success as a pageant winner and now in her career as an adult directing pageants, Will wonders- Is authenticity to be sought on the basis of external beauty and appearances only? Is there a place for a heavy girl in the skinny world of her mother? Will a person be appreciated for their character qualities? Given her size, is there anyone who will take the time to find out before dismissing Will on the basis of her weight? Can one be accepted for who they are, just as they are?

These are all good questions. However, the answers come from a place of total inauthenticity: drag queens.

As Willowdean sorts through her recently deceased aunt and life-mentor’s things, she stumbles across a poster for Dolly Parton Night at a local establishment. What Willowdean does not know is that it’s a road house/biker bar and the Dollys are drag queens.

drag

Will is given admittance when it’s learned that she is the niece of the deceased aunt, who was beloved and well-known for her accepting and encouraging ways among the ‘ladies’. Apparently Aunt Lucy hung out there a lot.

There, Will and her two friends who had also signed up to compete in the pageant, learned to accept themselves, learned stage moves including flounce and strut, and learned to be accepting of others, including men who dress as garish parodies of women. We in the audience are meant to learn and accept this, too.

With the transsexual movement, the homosexual agenda, and the insistence from the secular world that we accept “gender fluidity,” we are seeing increasing emphasis in mainstream movies on issues like this. There will be more and more drag queens in movies, I am sure. Move over RuPaul and Lady Gaga.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the mother who helped her daughter gain confidence and understanding about societal expectations and her own true self, it was a bunch of men who play-act at being women who performed this service. They were the ones in the movie being worldy warm and wise, taking these three girls under their wing and helping them along in life, not the mother, not the school teacher, not another family member, not any other authority figure in the girls’ lives. It was the drag queens offering haven, acceptance, and help.

It was men dressing as women, proving a woman’s authenticity. They, not Willowdean, ended up as the main vehicle pushing the boundaries of what society expects and will tolerate.

Of course, this is twisted.

What does the Bible have to say about drag queens? It does speak to the issue.

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 22:5).

“This command was not as much about clothing as it was about guarding the sanctity of what it means to be a man or a woman.” (GotQuestions)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Is it wrong for men to be effeminate or for women to be masculine?

When God designed male and female (Genesis 5:2), He created more than mere physical differences. Men and women were created to fulfill differing roles in creation and in our relationship with the Lord. Rejecting those God-assigned roles is a symptom of rebellion against our Creator. …┬áPerversion escalates when women and men abandon their God-ordained identities and try to adopt the characteristics of the opposite gender. Men become like women, and women become like men. The sin lies in our choices, not our natural differences.

The acting was superb and the message an important one. I was just sad that it had to be learned through a twisted version of womanliness.

The PG-13 was earned due to one f-word and two sh-words. There were two scenes of teenagers kissing.

On Netflix.