As a girl in her early 20s with an above-average height, I would like to think that I understand what it’s like to be a tall girl. So when Netflix dropped the trailer for its most recent original movie, “Tall Girl,” this past August, I was excited.
“Tall Girl” centers around Jodi, a six-foot tall teenage girl. Jodi serves as the primary narrator of the movie, and it is through her that we come to understand her world. With two insensitive parents, a pageant queen sister and a host of high school drama, Jodi has her hands full. Throughout the film, she struggles to accept her height in the scope of her typical, teen life, particularly when it comes to boys and her bullies. That is, until a tall enough, handsome, Swedish exchange student walks through the door of her chemistry class.
While I can’t say I was ever outright bullied for my height, I can definitely relate to feeling like an outsider. Going through the tumultuous chapter of high school always being one of the taller — if not the tallest — girl in my class could sometimes lead to unwanted attention.
Being a tall girl, particularly as a teenager, is a unique experience and I was excited to see how the film creators would approach this form of body positivity. However, despite the premise’s potential, “Tall Girl” misses the mark. I think that with a handful of minor tweaks, the film could be majorly improved and better cater to audiences.
First, Jodi needs to be more relatable and likable. Jodi and her friends all live in upper-middle class suburbs in New Orleans. Their homes are decorated in contemporary art and feature crown molding for days. Also, most of Jodi’s problems stem from her classmates, particularly it-girl Kimmy Stitcher, bullying her. Within the first five minutes, there are already three instances of a classmate brazenly calling out to Jodi, “How’s the weather up there?”
I would argue that this level of harassment feels a bit extreme considering that the only thing that sets Jodi apart from her classmates is her height. She isn’t more or less intelligent than anyone else; she doesn’t have an affinity for comic books or align with any other nerd trope. She is just tall, and maybe also shy due to years of being shunned by her peers. Other than that, she is a tall, attractive, blonde girl who, as soon as she puts on lipstick and wears her hair down, manages to accidentally woo one of her former bullies.
Second, there are way too many logical fallacies in this movie for it to make any sense. Based on the setting, we can gather that Jodi goes to a public high school. That means that we can safely assume that there are at least 500 students that attend her school. Are the writers expecting the audience to believe that there are no guys over six-foot in the entire high school? Where is the boys basketball team?
Also, when Jodi introduces us to her older sister, Harper, she mentions how she was spared the tall gene but instead received extreme allergies from their Grandpa Larry. This is somehow supposed to be an equivalent exchange. There is even a flashback scene in a pediatrician’s office where Jodi’s parents consider stunting her growth with hormones, even at the risk of later infertility.
Tall Girl is a great movie ??? pic.twitter.com/WP7nFUFvRH
— Farahani Onara (@farahanionaraa) November 12, 2019
Third, the most glaring evidence of the movie’s failed messaging is that every single character — apart from Jodi’s dad and her best friend Fareeda — is incredibly self-centered. Even Jodi’s childhood friend Jack is blinded by his massive crush on Jodi and doesn’t take “no” for an answer, requiring Jodi to reject him day after day. When Jodi and Stig develop feelings for each other, Jack tries to convince both of them to move on for the sake of his own self-interest. You might have also noticed that I did not exempt Jodi from this list.
Jodi basically goes on a date with Stig even though he’s dating Kimmy and then kisses him unceremoniously on a trolley afterwards. Even if your dream guy is dating your archnemesis, you don’t encourage him to cheat. Of course, Stig is also to blame for the chain of events that follow, which lead to Jodi and Stig dancing around their feelings for the rest of the movie. Only Jodi’s dad and Fareeda get a pass because their actions always have the underlying motivation of either defending or supporting Jodi. Even when her dad assembles a club of tall folks, the Tip Toppers Club, he is just trying to make Jodi feel like she belongs. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the people in Jodi’s life.
Lastly, “Tall Girl” would have been so much more intriguing if they had tackled the underlying issues that cause tall girls like myself and Jodi to feel insecure. Societal and heteronormative expectations tell us that tall men are attractive, therefore, you should find a boyfriend or husband who is taller than you. Instead of victimizing Jodi and attempting to cover her in a shroud of false oppression, the writers missed a giant opportunity to be part of a larger social conversation on gender roles and body positivity.
Also, for a movie that should be so intrinsically sprinkled with girl power, almost all the female characters are pitted against each other. Cut to a scene in which Harper is throwing daggers at a cut-out photo of a pageant opponent. Although Jodi eventually accepts her height and announces it to the very classmates that have harassed her all these years, it only comes after she assists Stig in cheating on his girlfriend and after she receives validation from Jack for the thousandth time.
Can I just say that “Tall Girl” on Netflix is one of the worst movies I’ve ever watched
— callie ♡ (@callienm11) November 11, 2019
With classic, John Hughes high school tropes, “Tall Girl” had so much potential to add to existing commentary on body positivity and otherness through the new avenue of the tall girl. Ultimately, this film fell flat with me because it wasn’t believable. But I’m not the only one who has had qualms with this film. Since its release this past September, “Tall Girl” has received much criticism for treating Jodi, an attractive blonde girl, as a victim of oppression, and as someone who has experienced similar struggles, I have to agree with the critics.
Similarly, just last year another hyped-up teen comedy released by the company, “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” also irked audiences because of its insensitivity to catfishing. This time, I genuinely hope that Netflix producers have learned their lesson and will not be pushing projects without seriously considering their messaging.