Traditionally, fat and plus-sized characters are the butt of the joke. They’re portrayed as lazy, bumbling, and foolish, fitting in with the negative stereotypes of fat people that are so prevalent in our society. They’re rarely seen as adept fighters, and, if they’re even allowed on the battlefield and not pinned to moral support, they’re made to be tanks, mowing down rows and rows of enemies with their sheer size. They aren’t allowed to be skilled or agile fighters. Their fatness demotes them to being nothing but a “strongman” and serving comic relief.
What We Do in the Shadows (2019-present) flips the script on this trope with the character Guillermo De La Cruz. What We Do in the Shadows is a comedy-horror television show based in the universe of the 2014 film that shares its name. It is a mockumentary following the lives of four vampires, Nandor the Relentless (Kavyan Novak), Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry), Nadja of Antipaxos (Natasha Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and their human familiar, Guillermo De La Cruz (Harvey Guillen). The series revolves around the vampires interacting with each other, other supernatural beings, and the modern world. In the show, Guillermo De La Cruz, the vampire’s familiar, is related to Van Helsing, the infamous vampire slayer from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula. This means that De La Cruz is naturally inclined to kill vampires, something he often does to protect the vampires he lives with.
De La Cruz’s genetic affinity for being a vampire hunter leads to him getting into many fights with the aforementioned creatures. If What We Do In the Shadows followed the trend established by previous media, Guillermo, a fat character, might mow down vampires with his weight, toppling them with his sheer size. He would be clumsy and awkward, unsure of how to fight and being half-decent at it by pure chance. However, Shadows goes against the grain. Guillermo isn’t just a decent fighter, he’s a great fighter. He’s agile, running up walls and performing parkour to attack enemies. He wields wooden stakes effortlessly, dodging hits from supernatural beings all the while. Guillermo’s fight scenes are a marvel to behold and are currently some of the most enticing fight scenes on television.
In addition to being fantastic to watch, Guillermo being such a good fighter pushes the envelope of plus-sized representation. As a fat person, I never saw myself reflected in anything I watched. The only time I saw a fat character, they would be the punchline to a joke or essentially a walking teddy bear. Guillermo De La Cruz is revolutionary, because, while he is a fat character, he isn’t resigned to the tropes that have reigned over fat characters for years. He isn’t a clumsy goofball or an idiot; he is a born vampire killer and is damn good at what he does.
More shows and films should take a page from What We Do in the Shadows’ book. Positive fat representation is easy to write and is relatable to a broad audience of people. Plus, it’s beneficial to both the creator and audience: the audience sees themselves reflected in a work and the creator gets attention from an audience that feels supported by the work. Yet, despite the benefits, this kind of representation is rare. I want to see that Shadows inspires creators and studios to hire fat actors and create the representation that is sorely missing from Hollywood.
One day, hopefully, characters like Guillermo De La Cruz won’t be as rare.