“A delight…a contemporary Cinderella tale told with intelligence, wit, and style.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
While haphazardly flipping through my used copy of Jennifer Weiner’s 2001 novel Good in Bed, I stumbled across this from a conversation with the author. “[The main female characters] are all wonderfully developed, totally believable characters.” Chuckling to myself, I wondered if this reader and I had read the same book. Cannie Shapiro, the fat female protagonist, completes a mental-hero’s journey, but the individual plot points of the novel, including Cannie’s best friend the movie star and her new high-profile writing jobs to the handsome doctor who pursues her even during her dark anti-social period, are too unbelievable, both in their convenience to the plot and momentum to a happy ending, to experience life as a millennial female, particularly a fat one.
Cannie Shapiro, a 28-year-old pop-culture writer for the local Philadelphia paper, is slightly over-weight and confused about why she recently went ‘on a break’ from her ostensibly idea boyfriend, Bruce. Complicating her emotional state, Bruce has gotten a gig writing a syndicated column in Philadelphia’s version of Maxim entitled Good in Bed. Bruce writes about his experience with his larger ex-girlfriend ‘C.’ Composing philosophical and concise thoughts such as ‘Loving a larger woman is an act of courage,’ to describing ‘C’ with the 90s-era adjective of ‘Lewisnky-esque.’ From here, Cannie experiences over nine months of life including a final fling with Bruce, an unexpected pregnancy, and a new movie star BFF. Throughout her pre-maternity millennial odyssey. Cannie discovers the strength to love herself and her new baby, let herself love a new man, and move up in her writing career.
I learned about Good in Bed due to a Google search involving the optimized search engine words “fat,” “female,” and “book.” Specifically, I was looking for what I call a FFN, or Fat Feminist Novel. A popular book website provided the list, and I was on the lookout for those novels during my weekly or monthly used-book store trip. When I finally discovered a used copy, I was expecting an addition to my body positive or pro-female and body-positive-movement section of my personal library, but what I found instead was an easy-to-consume paperback where the main character has minimal hardships and overcomes adversity while conveniently experiencing circumstances to transport the character toward a positive resolution. Throughout both these hardships and convenient circumstances, Cannie’s personal relationship with her overweight body is a mostly forgotten ingredient of her character, mentioned only in relationship to outside consciousness and not Cannie’s identity.
Although Cannie is a fat female, her journey throughout the novel rarely features her body or weight as the cause of her problems; Cannie’s journey is about self-acceptance, but the road block is not her weight. Cannie’s inner monologue rarely mentions her size and almost never describes her experience physically taking up more space, including during her 8 months of pregnancy. Additionally, Cannie’s self and perceived judgments revolve around male abandonment, represented by Bruce and her father, where her weight was an additional reason these men were no longer in her life, not the primary one.
My definition of a Fat Feminist Novel, or FFN, features protagonists who internalize life’s problems on themselves and the weight they carry around. Good in Bed is a standard character story where the author focuses on Cannie’s transformation from easily damaged to a strong single-mother. The focus of the novel is on Cannie reclaiming her identity.
Although the plot points and action of the novel conveniently occur to push Cannie toward this transformation, Cannie’s transformation is strictly a mental one, with minimal to no descriptions on what she physically felt like as an overweight women or even what she felt like during her pregnancy, a physical transformation into motherhood.
Despite Good in Bed’s failure to capture the essence of a FFN, it works as a standard ‘chick-lit’ novel; the feminist epiphanies and plot points presents the story of a strong woman who overcomes her inner demons to become a strong and loving mother. Aside from the far fetched Hollywood plot points of becoming BFFs with a movie star and selling her screenplay, Good in Bed deserves to be read by millennial feminists because of the overarching strength and resolve of the main character, but for millennials looking for help with body positivity and highly esteemed identities, this book is best left on the bedroom floor.
Added 21st August 2016