Self-conscious, unapologetic, and straight: fat protagonists in romantic fiction

Publication year
Fat Studies

Here's the abstract:

The representation of fat characters in romantic fiction increased after mainstream publishers adopted the marketing strategies of independently published romance novels. These strategies include normalizing pairings of fat heroines and thin heroes, embedding a fat protagonist within a larger series of thin characters, a shift from self- reproaching to self-empowered heroines, and, later, images of explicitly fat bodies on book covers. The visibility of fat bodies on covers coincided with the rise in popularity of illustrated romance book covers, and has allowed publishers to depict larger bodies as non-threatening cartoons. Unlike mainstream romance, legacy publishers of queer romantic fiction have resisted the inclusion of fat characters, particularly fat characters of color. While size diversity in romance has the potential to subvert classic narrative tropes for fat characters, the most commonly used narratives continue to reinforce gendered expectations. The resilience of these binaried expectations can be seen in the rarity of fat pairings in queer romances marketed toward women readers, as well as in the oeuvre of popular authors of romances featuring lesbian and queer women. The latter rarely include fat protagonists in book marketing, and exhibit a preoccupation with controlling body size in their storytelling.