Falling Short: The Issues With Tall Girl

Shelby Hansen

Upon watching the new Netflix film, “Tall Girl,” I was already faced with an array of questions and opinions from other people before I even pressed play. It opened with a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.5/10 on IMDb. After watching the trailer, I could already get the gist without watching the entire movie: girl embraces her tallness by using a guy who is into her. Still, for the sake of it, I decided to watch the movie anyways.

The first thing that caught my eye was the cliche of it all. The beginning, of course, introduces all the characters. These include the insecure main character Jodi, her defensive, eccentric, upbeat best friend Fareeda, her other best friend Jack Dunkleman, who just happens to have been in love with her since elementary school, her beautiful, infinitely better older sister Harper, and her mother, who was a popular girl in high school. All these encompass a typical high school rom-com movie. I was expecting it to be so, but the use of stereotypes was very prominent throughout the whole movie, and it all started with the creation of these characters in the beginning. It makes little room for character development or surprise because we already know how these stereotyped characters act and what they do. All in all, it made the movie extremely predictable. 

A huge issue I had with Tall Girl from the beginning of the film was the way it showcased relationships. Height should not affect the way people get in relationships as much as it does in the film. The only reason Jodi has no interest in Dunkleman is because he is shorter than her, even though he very obviously likes her for who she is as a person. Yet, when a taller, handsome foreign exchange student named Stig shows up, Jodi “falls in love” with him because he meets her height requirements. Although Jodi ends up with Dunkleman at the end, it took her the entire movie to like the guy that knows her like the back of his hand and like him for him rather than just Stig’s looks and “perfection.”

Liking Stig already creates another problem. Jodi decides to change her entire look for him. Of course, girls tend to dress up nicer to get the attention of boys they like, but Jodi’s makeover was done by the efforts of her mother and older sister. She completely transformed herself with a new wardrobe, freshly cut and dyed hair, the purchase of new makeup, and many other things that changes who she is. After the makeover, the “mean” kids at school tend to like her, just because she is now pretty. This teaches young girls who watch this movie 1) that they have to change their entire look in order to get a guy and 2) people will only like them once they fit the societal standards of beauty. In one scene Jodi says, “I want to be the pretty girl, not the tall girl.” Why can’t she be both? This is 2019. We have been working to get young girls to accept themselves for who they are for years, yet the film completely erases that.  

Despite the two previous problems, one thing stood out to me the most: out of all the oppressed groups Netflix could have made a film about, they decided to make a movie about a tall white girl. There are plenty of real oppressed groups that need representation in today’s movie industry, yet Netflix decided to ignore that. What makes the whole situation even worse is that Jodi is very obviously privileged. She lives in a very nice, big house in the Garden District of New Orleans, goes to a obviously nice school with a good education, and owns an iPhone XR Plus. She says, “You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nike’s. Men’s size 13 Nike’s. Beat that.” Many people can’t even afford to own Nike’s in the first place! The only thing “wrong with her life” is that she is tall. Being tall does not have that much impact on a person’s life to the point where they hate themselves and can’t function normally. Though I am average-sized, many tall people have expressed on social media platforms that being tall does not have this much affect on a person. The whole point of the movie feels wrong, as a white girl’s only flaw is her tallness. It’s just not realistic. 

Despite the negatives, I was able to find at least one positive in Tall Girl. I really enjoyed that Jodi wore a pantsuit instead of a dress to the homecoming dance. In most high school rom-com movies, the girl shows up in some big ballgown dress and dances the night away with her love interest. This doesn’t happen for once. Instead, Jodi shows up in a pantsuit, and, even though it is hideous in my opinion, it is showstopping. That’s where it stops, though. She then proceeds to make a huge speech about self-acceptance, like any other rom-com, and leaves the dance to go to Dunkleman’s house. The only good thing about that scene was the way the suit defied gender norms. That’s it. 

Overall, Tall Girl was certainly entertaining. It wasn’t a good movie, per say, but I would watch it again for the pure atrocity of it all. It had me on the edge of my seat, even though it was extremely predictable, and I just enjoy bad movies. On my personal scale, I rate this movie a 4/10, but a 7/10 for the entertainment factor. We all want movies that give more representation, yet we still watch those that give none to see what they’re about. The only way to stop these awful movies from being made is to just stop watching them.