Jodi sits down to get on the same wavelength as her peersNetflix

To everyone who knows me, I am tall, but to anyone who knows me well I am both tall AND a terribly inconsistent replier. This is, in part, because I have an annoying habit of keeping my phone on airplane mode when my (big) feet are very much on dry land. But in spite of my best efforts, one of the slightly smug Netflix notifications made it through, telling me that a film I ‘might like’ had arrived⁠—Tall Girl, the newest Netflix original teen rom-com. And, I can wholeheartedly say, I'm kind of glad that the notification did arrive (that’s the strongest I can feel about this film).

I was surprised that Tall Girl, a Netflix original centred around 6ft1 teen, Jodi (Ava Michelle), trying to navigate the trials and tribulations of high school, got this slightly ‘meh’ response from me⁠, a 6ft1 student trying to navigate the occasional shit show that is university. If I’m not the target audience, who is?

Inevitably, certain moments of the film rang true. The protagonist gets called ‘skyscraper’, ‘green giant’ and ‘giraffe’ — all terms of endearment with which I am sadly familiar. I’ve also been gifted the titles ‘lanky fuck’, ‘Bambi’, and ‘Eiffel Tower’ (aka romantic, international icon⁠ — I’ll take it).

“I’m exactly Jodi’s height, and my response to this movie was ‘meh’. If I’m not the target audience, who is?”

I too have experienced being consistently back row centre in all group photos; however, this does mean never having to manoeuvre yourself into an awkward squat pose or sit with your hands on your knees like those on the front row, #everycloud. And I’ve had to back-pedal harder than some politicians on my initial reluctance to date anyone shorter.

Of course, the protagonist’s misfortunes are, well, heightened for the purposes of the film in a way which means it doesn’t always feel realistic. Particular low points: the brief cameo of a ‘tall club’ (yet to get my invitation) and the persistent asking of Jodi, ’how’s the weather up there?’. People rarely go for this line in reality. It’s much more likely that they will just inform you that you are indeed very tall⁠ — it’s best to just act shocked by this revelation. Even Jodi’s love interest, tall exchange student Stig wasn’t proportionately super tall. Camera angles and casting makes Jodi appear ridiculously huge in comparison to her peers. 6ft1 is tall for a girl, but we all know that it isn’t that tall. In making her look this alien, are we somehow meant to be laughing at her?

This lack of realism explains some of the backlash that the film has received, with a lot of people commenting that it isn’t a hardship being a 6ft1 white woman. This is obviously true: being as tall as I am is more of an inconvenience than a genuine burden. A few silly comments, constantly tripping over my own feet, and all trousers inevitably qualifying as ‘cropped’ on my legs is hardly a lived experience of oppression.

It is right to ask why the telling of this story has been prioritised given the lack of (Netflix) films centred around protagonists that aren’t white or straight. Some would say we already know the answer. But as the film’s director Nzingha Stewart has herself observed, a film about standing tall – literally and figuratively – in the face of bullying and accepting who you are is in itself pretty innocuous, even if a bit cringeworthy.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Sun, sea and sex fall flat in Sanditon’s bonnet-girl summer

That the film’s heart is in the right place is reaffirmed by the movie’s emphasis on the importance of emotional support. From her big little sister, Harper, (a surprisingly sympathetic pageant queen played by Sabrina Carpenter) to best friend Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) who gives Jodi a pep talk through the toilet door about loving “all 73 inches of herself”, this network of women is lovingly depicted.

Despite this, Tall Girl ultimately fails to hit home due to a largely lacklustre script. Some wannabe zingers continue to haunt me: “You’re the tall girl, you’ll never be the pretty girl” (rude!). This is only compounded by a reliance on movie clichés; a pottery class in the spirit of Ghost, a duet at a piano between Jodi and Stig in the style of High School Musical, and a homecoming dance featuring an empowering speech à la Mean Girls.

For all of its, er, shortcomings, Tall Girl doesn’t stand out as being an especially bad teen rom-com. High praise, I know. If nothing else, the film served as an important reminder that with a bit of confidence (and a new hairstyle...) you can make big strides – last one, I promise – in your personal life.

Sponsored links