Through the eyes of Stormer, Misfits #2 offers a candid, heartbreaking look at what it’s like to be a fat person in a skinny person’s world.
The are plenty of reasons to love Jem and the Holograms. One of those is how wonderfully body positive it is. The reimagined Holograms and Misfits include lots of different body types – including fat bodies – that are presented not just as normal, but as beautiful and sexy. One of the main threads throughout the series, across a few different story arcs, is the relationship between Stormer (of the Misfits) and Kimber (of the Holograms).
Stormer is gorgeous and she is fat. Whenever she appears in the comic, she’s drawn as a vision of beauty (as are all the women in the book). In all their interactions, it’s made clear how attractive Kimber finds Stormer. That’s not in spite of Storm’s fatness, not because of it, but because Kimber is attracted to Storm as a whole person.
It’s a refreshing break from the hostility towards fatness that’s so prevalent in pop culture, be that through erasure or overt fatphobia. It’s so nice to be able to read a comic and not have to be on guard for “fat jokes”, and to see fat people presented as human. It’s delightful.
But it’s also a utopian fantasy that doesn’t reflect the real world. Such fantasies are vital, both as an insight into what society could look like and as an escape from the bullshit that fast people have to put up with every single day. But it’s also important to that we have art that engages with fatness and challenges fatphobia. That’s the stuff that opens minds and hearts.
Enter Misfits #2. This series is a Jem spin-off focused on the Misfits, who, having been dropped by their record label, decide to launch a reality show to get back on top. It’s a fittingly silly premise, but true to Jem’s approach, it uses that silliness to frame grounded, human stories. Each issue focuses on a different member of the Misfits, and #2 is all about Stormer.
Stormer doesn’t want to go ahead with the show. With a bit of effort, Pizzazz gets Storm to open up, and we find out why: the studio execs wanted her part of the show to be an “inspirational” story about a weight loss journey. They defined Storm by her fatness when she’s so much more than that, framed it as something inherently bad, took it as a given that she wanted to lose weight, and assumed that would be empowering for Storm and inspiring for the people watching the show.
Naturally, that also dredges up a lot of painful memories for her. She was bullied as a kid at school, and she continues to be bullied in adulthood through social media and by paparazzi. But that sort of overt, mean-spirited fat-hate is just the tip of the iceberg, and it leads to an insightful, candid discussion about Stormer’s experience of being fat.
She talks about the constant, dehumanizing barrage from a world that hates fatness: “It’s a strange thing to walk around the world and know that it’s not meant for you. To be othered every waking moment of every day just by the vehicle that you’ve been given to travel in… And [my body]is beautiful. But it also happens to be a package that the world is frequently disgusted by… just by its very existence.”
It’s something that Pizzazz can’t understand, despite her best intentions, because she’s skinny and always has been. She tells Storm that she’ll get through this, just like she got through coming out as gay. Storm’s response to this is powerful: “I’d like my life to be more than ‘getting through things.’”
Being fat is part of who Stormer is, but it’s not all that she is, and it’s certainly not something she should be defined by. Her account of being a fat person in a skinny person’s world is heartbreaking. Hopefully it’s eye-opening, too, because fiction is never just fiction. Writer Kelly Thompson said Misfits #2 is one of the most personal things she’s ever written, and that really shows through in the authenticity of Storm’s words. Storm’s experience is shared by Kelly, and by millions of real people.
This is the kind of bullshit that fat people have to put up with all the time. We’re told that their very existence is wrong by entertainment, by the “health” industry, by doctors, by politicians, by parents, by friends, by strangers. When fat people are absent from the stories we tell, read, watch, and play, that says it’s easier to imagine a world where we don’t exist than one where we do. When fat people are bombarded with advertising from the diet industry, we’re told that to be fat is to be ugly and worthless. When doctors, friends, family, and strangers raise “concern” about fat people’s health, it says that our bodies are faulty and need to be corrected. When politicians whip up a social panic about an “obesity epidemic” to justify paternalistic policies, it patronizingly frames us as victims who need to be “protected”.
All of that makes simply existing a daily struggle for fat people, and it shouldn’t be. That it stems from a widespread misunderstanding about fatness, health, and the relationship between the two is frustrating. But the worst part is the way people use that to legitimize treating fat people as subhuman – consciously or subconsciously, overtly or covertly, that’s what all this messaging says: “your fat body shouldn’t exist.”
It’s an important thing that needs to be discussed, and I’m glad to see comics – with all their pop cultural power to incite change – are touching on. It’s also worth noting that Misfits #2 isn’t all gloom. There are sweet moments (baby Stormer writing Making Mischief!) and funny moments. Ultimately, it’s about Storm learning to love who she is, embrace it, and not be shamed into hiding her existence. That right there is a pointed, empowering message.