PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.



Disfigured's focus on the friendship between Lydia (Deidra Edwards) and Darcy (Staci Lawrence) reveals they are not your average movie opposites who attract.


Director: Glenn Gers
Cast: Deidra Edwards, Staci Lawrence, Ryan C. Benson
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Cinema Libre Studio
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-07-18 (Limited release)

"I want to talk about the word 'fat.' Why are we ashamed of that word?" As discussion begins in a Los Angeles Fat Acceptance Group, all kinds of ideas about bodies and communities, identities and words spill into sight. The camera pans the room, revealing faces filled with resentment, frustration, and anger -- as well as hope. This is the reason they're here, the women confirm, to discover, in their shared experiences, more constructive ways to feel about themselves and the people who judge them.

The first scene in Disfigured sets a focus and an agenda. While its story concerns the friendship between fat Lydia (Deidra Edwards) and anorexic Darcy (Staci Lawrence), they are not your average movie opposites who attract. Or rather, they are, but Disfigured provides both context and detail in order to complicate, and not trivialize, their relationship. From the moment when Darcy first walks into the group, seeking support for her own sense of inadequacy and pain ("When I look at myself, I think I look fat"), the women exchange glances and assumptions. Lydia suggests the group should not set a weight limit, but the group's leader, Carol (Elizabeth Sampson), puts her foot down. "This is an activist group for fat people," she says. "We're not here to just let anybody who wants to use us to work out their personal issues."

If it seems obvious that nothing could be more "personal" than body image, the investment here in maintaining boundaries, in claiming what used to be called a "safe space" for group members who can readily see in one another shared desires and experiences: they have been called the same names, they understand what it means to be stared at or looked through, to be perceived as deviant and weak. "A critical function of this group," they agree, "is fighting the self-hatred that keeps us in the situation that we're in." Put that way, the group's function seems suited to Darcy's needs as well.

But Darcy is deemed untrustworthy, in part because she has the illness the fat women might imagine wanting, and in part because she can't possibly understand what they feel. As Darcy and Lydia begin spending time with each other, they discover that, in fact, they have been accused of the same sorts of aberrations: one needs to eat less, one needs to eat more, but both their bodies are apparently fair game for any stranger (or concerned family member) to observe and evaluate. As both confess they've been told, "You have such a pretty face," they realize how wholly they have absorbed others' assessments ("What does that even mean?" they wonder, doubled over in laughter, at last).

Still, they learn they have different relations to their different bodies. When Lydia is solicited by Bob (Ryan C. Benson), a member of her newly initiated Fat Acceptance Walking Group, for sex ("He wants to be fuck buddies," she explains, "No strings, no complications, just two people getting what they need, for medicinal purposes"), Darcy is taken aback, unable to imagine that sex might be pleasurable, in and of itself. "It all seems kind of smelly," she sighs, intimating the distaste she feels for fleshy encounters of all sorts. Lydia embarks on the relationship, and the film offers a sex scene focused on their sensual, emotional delights, a scene that looks new because the bodies are not treated as objects of ugly comedy but instead as serious and charming subjects (this even if the climax is rendered in the most prosaic terms: entwined hands clutching at sheets).

What's most intriguing in this subplot is what it tells you about identities and again, communities. When Bob informs Lydia that he means to have gastric bypass surgery, she's startled and then skeptical, a reaction he takes as the same disapproval he's heard from others. "Everybody is always saying how unhealthy it is to be fat," he asserts, "but the minute I want to do something about it, people look at me like I'm a freak or something. It’s like I'm cheating." Or worse, he continues, "Like I'm betraying the tribe." Lydia's stumped, being of mixed minds about her own body and the concept of "acceptance." While she starts the walking group in order to get fit and yes, lose weight, she is, in spite of her self-awareness, immersed in the condemnatory culture that Bob references here.

Her own uncertainty and discontent lead Lydia to ask Darcy for "anorexia lessons." Though Darcy is initially affronted by the request, when she begins to break down her addiction to food and the calories that become the abstract measure of same ("You have to count everything, you have to be accurate"), Lydia is stunned ("And I thought I was obsessed with food!"). Their fixations are opposite, of course, but they are equally damaging and equally molded by cultural pressures, where appearance is a measure of character, capacity, and morality.

Respectful of its subjects and their intelligent self-analyses, Disfigured doesn't resolve all the questions it asks. But in Lydia and Darcy's challenges to themselves and one another, it offers inspiring alternatives to a daunting status quo.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.