Why The Gorgeous Fat Superheroes In 'Thunder Force' Are The Icons We Deserve

My childhood dreams have come true.

Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer in Thunder Force Netflix

My life was hell as a kid.

I was fat and angry and had an unstable home. Making matters worse, other kids could sense this about me — my vulnerability was obvious.

My undeniably big personality — complete with bright red hair and insatiable curiosity — made me a target. I was bullied so badly and so often that I developed a persona that could handle it. That person didn't scare easily, that was hard and unaffected.


I learned to shrug off the critiques my bullies lodged at me by identifying their weaknesses.

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For instance, little David called me a fat b***h, but I knew that David came from a very religious familiy and was afraid of Hell. I knew that if I told him to go there, he would cry.

Connor might moo when I walked by, but Connor’s grades were terrible and insulting his intelligence made him turn red. Jessica might whisper about me on the school bus, but I knew she was kissing boys and didn’t want her parents to know. She learned to avoid my gaze.


I scared some people at school as we got older because I found it was better to be someone people avoided than to be someone they stepped on.

My fatness might make me a target, but my size also made me intimidating, especially as I became an athlete. It was kind of my superpower.

So, when I pushed play on Thunder Force I was moved to tears by the portrayal of two fat girls who become friends and then eventually gain literal superpowers.

For the first time in my life, I saw two sides of my fat childhood self on screen: the uber-intellectual and the terrifying badass. Not only was I watching a superhero film about fat women, but I was watching two fat children navigate a world of hatred together.


Thunder Force, which just landed at Netflix, portrays heroes who understand what it's like to be fat, mistreated, and angry as hell. Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy delight as childhood friends Emily and Lydia, who become estranged, reconnect as adults, and end up as super-powered teammates.

I was in awe, watching this large-budget film about two fat women. These were the superheroes I needed as a kid.

Hell, these are the superheroes I need right now.


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The plot of Thunder Force is fun and empowering

In the universe of the film, interstellar cosmic rays hit Earth, impacting only a small percentage of the population. These people become supervillains, known as Miscreants. Miscreants are very active and completely unbridled in Emily and Lydia’s world — and Emily’s parents, geneticists looking for a way to create superheroes, are killed by Miscreants gone wild when she is young.

When she’s enrolled in a public school in Chicago, brilliant future-geneticist Emily meets hard-hitting, mad-as-hell Lydia, her soon-to-be BFF. Emily is teased and bullied by the other children for being a “nerd” and Lydia uses her bullish nature and large size to intimidate them into leaving Emily alone.

The two fall out as young adults, a common enough experience, but reconnect when Lydia invites Emily to their school reunion.


Unbeknownst to Lydia, Emily has no time for reunions because she’s finally finished her parents’ work: She has figured out how to give ordinary people superpowers. From there our superpowered heroes — Lydia has super strength and Emily has the power of invisibility — take on the Miscreants, unwilling to cower in fear any longer.

As I watched the film, I felt myself almost vibrate with excitement. I’d never seen fat women as superheroes onscreen played by actual actors of size. More importantly, their bodies are never commented on in the film — Thunder Force is, in fact, noticeably absent of fat jokes. It is, however, powerful and hilarious.

Watching Lydia use her size to beat the ever-loving snot out of baddies while Emily uses her invisibility to outsmart them, with no apologies for the space they take up, makes me feel a little braver to be my fat self.

The kid that was relentlessly bullied for being fat could never have dreamed of such good representation.


In some ways, the Miscreants as a whole are a metaphor for the onslaught of disgust, hatred, and discrimination fat people live with.

And, when Emily and Lydia step up to face them, they are two fat people who refuse to give into it.

Now that's a superpower. 

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S.E. Fleenor writes novels and articles centering on queer identities, feminism, pop culture, and literature. Their work appears in The Independent, Buzzfeed Reader, Vice, them.us, and SYFY WIRE, among others. They co-host Bitches on Comics, a pop culture and comics podcast, and are an editor for DecodedPride.com and QueerSpec.com.