Disney+ short features plus-size character struggling with body dysmorphia

‘Reflect’ teaches self-acceptance through dance

Anna Malesiewski, Editor-in-Chief

Fans are praising Disney+’s new short film “Reflect.” The film shows the struggles young people face with body image and self-esteem.  

The short film features the main character Bianca, a young ballet dancer who feels less-than and out of place in her dance class. In the film, Bianca’s dance teacher often reminds her to keep a “tight tummy” and a “long neck” while she practices at the barre, worsening her struggle with body dysmorphia.  

Bianca channels this struggle into her dance and eventually overcomes it. She comes full circle by the end of the film and gains a newfound appreciation for the body that was previously a source of turmoil. 

“Reflect” comes as part of Disney’s effort to increase representation in their films and shows – other films were recently made about topics like racism and sexism and feature a more diverse range of characters. 

In 2020, Disney introduced the Stories Matter initiative in which they pledged to be more inclusive and acknowledged their responsibility to support different voices and perspectives.  

While culture has come a long way in increasing the representation of different groups of adults, it is rare to see the representation of these same groups of children.  

It is imperative children see themselves represented in the media during some of their most formative years. Because they often do not, low self-esteem runs rampant in some of the youngest age groups. Children are particularly sensitive to media messages, and research shows that lack of representation in media can lead to negative psychological outcomes for underrepresented groups.  

ANAD, the leading nonprofit in the U.S. for eating disorder support, reports that 42% of first through third grade girls want to be thinner, 81% of 10-year-old children are afraid of being fat and 46% of 9-11-year-old are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets. 

“Reflect” is a step in the right direction and should be part of a larger initiative to include children of all sizes, races, genders and socioeconomic status in films and other media. A shift toward more diverse and representative content will allow people to feel more comfortable in themselves and their bodies from a young age and will set the stage for a more positive and inclusive media landscape and world.