“We’ve all got something about ourselves we wish we could change. The only thing that we can control is how we deal with it.”
This is the central message of Netflix’s new trailer for teen dramedy Tall Girl, a movie that serves as an anthem for tall people everywhere.
Tall Girl follows 16-year-old Jodi (Ava Michelle) who is 6’1” (and a half). She walks through life the way so many taller girls do: shoulders hunched, eyes to the floor, willing herself shorter. Jodi drapes herself in baggy clothing and slinks to the background, just trying to blend in. Unfortunately, her height makes that impossible. Within the first 30 seconds of the trailer, Jodi is inundated with the well-worn phrases that are familiar to tall girls everywhere. “How’s the weather up there?” one classmate sneers at her. Another calls her a “sasquatch.”
To boot, Jodi feels overshadowed by her smaller, “perfect” sister (Sabrina Carpenter) and undesirable to the boys at school. “When you’re a tall girl,” she says, “it’s the only thing that people see.”
The trailer promises all the standard teen movie tropes: love triangles, mean girls, and a makeover scene. There are cheesy jokes and out-of-touch parents. Most importantly, though, there is a universal message of self-acceptance that anyone, tall or not, can relate to.
As a 5’9″ insecure teenager, I constantly wanted to fold myself smaller. When boys paid attention exclusively to the little, petite girls, or when I was jammed in a backseat with friends and felt like I had too many limbs, there was nothing I wanted more than to shrink, maybe until I disappeared.
My teeny, cute Polly Pocket friends would get piggyback rides from their boyfriends and would adorably borrow their sweatshirts, which they could wear like dresses. Meanwhile, I once asked a male friend if I could borrow his jersey for a skit and, with a grimace, he said, “I don’t think it’ll fit you.” When I made the mistake of wearing heels to a school dance, a photo of my much-shorter date and I was passed around online with jokes about how I was the Shrek to his Fiona. I was embarrassed of any crush I had because how can your crush like you back when you stand a good head taller?
Tall girls often face the implication that they’re somehow less feminine and less desirable than their smaller counterparts, especially if they’re not model-thin. As a result, their height becomes a burden and they often subscribe to a different set of rules: no high heels, stand in the back, stay out of the way, take up less space, make less noise, always be less.
Perhaps that’s why Jodi’s journey toward self-love resonates so deeply with me. We get to see someone learning to embrace the amount of space they occupy, something that I still struggle with even today.
In one scene from the trailer, Jodi’s best friend Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) offers her some words of encouragement, saying, “one day, Jodi, you’re gonna stand up and say, ‘I love all 73 inches of myself.’”
I hope girls everywhere who dare to take up space can say the same.
Tall Girl premieres on Netflix Sept. 13.