Jul 6, 2013

Plus-Sized Boys in 1980s Movies

In the 1960s and 1970s, gay preteens who liked their boys plus-sized found slim pickings in movies and on tv, where skinny waifs ruled.  The most they could hope for was an occasional bully or obnoxious glutton, like Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

By the 1980s, the husky or fat kid became a standard movie sidekick.  Paradoxically, he was apparently inserted into the plot to decrease the erotic potential of the buddy-bond, using the rubric that fat is by definition unattractive.  In The Goonies (1985), Jeff Cohen as "Chunk" participated in the adventure along with the others, and even managed to save the day.  But not before he took off his shirt to do the "truffle shuffle" belly dance.


Jerry O'Connell (center) even got a nude shot with his buddies in Stand by Me (1986), but again, his size apparently precluded any homoromantic imaginings between him and River Phoenix (left), Corey Feldman (right), or Wil Wheaton (not shown).




Paranormal investigator Brent Chalem was Andre Gower's buddy in Monster Squad (1987), but they didn't express much romantic interest.  Instead, gay kids shipped Andre and Robby Kiger.




We see the same exclusion in Adam Sadowsky as Jason Bateman's scheming best friend on It's Your Move (1985-86): friendship, but not much of a gay subtext. Peter Costa played a silent, timid, beset-upon white kid who hung out with Rudy on The Cosby Show (1985-89), but he was more of a sight gag than a friend. Besides, Rudy was a girl.




None of these actors spent much time in front of the camera as teenagers or adults, except for Jerry O'Connell, who muscled up.  Maybe being a former child star is especially traumatic when you are plus-sized.