Memo, Dumplin, and Performance

A huge man and his uncle share an “off the grid” existence on an isolated Chilean island, taking care of sheep, with nothing for entertainment but old opera music. Occasionally, the morbidly obese Memo dresses up in costumes of his own creation and sings, supplying the lights and theatrical setting with his imagination.

Flashback: In a coin-op vocal booth, young Memo records a song called “Nobody Knows I’m Here” (also the film’s title) and is overheard by a show-biz hustler who knows all too well that the fat kid can’t be foisted off on the public as any kind of star. But the entrepreneur convinces Memo’s father that only his son’s voice matters — “I’ll take care of finding it a body.” As reviewer John Serba relates, “another youngster is hired to lip-sync and look good for the cameras.”

Incidentally, a different reviewer, Odie Henderson, finds the movie less compelling than it should have been, because…

[…] Memo’s quirks play as mere eccentricities. By the time we realize that Memo’s actions and reactions come from a deep well of trauma and guilt, the viewer’s patience may have run too thin to supply the necessary empathy.

At any rate, the viewer is now aware of the past that brought the adult Memo to a remote island. When the uncle is seriously injured, a woman named Marta breaks through Memo’s almost autistic non-communicativeness by complimenting his glittery nail polish. She becomes his liaison with the mainland world and, as Serba put it, “tries to pry him open a little.”

She succeeds. He sings. And everything changes. But is it for the better?

A different temperature

Willowdean is a young woman whose mom runs beauty pageants, and is insensitive enough to call her daughter “Dumplin” within the hearing of her classmates, giving them fresh material to tease her about. New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis writes,

But the nickname suggests that her mother sees her daughter as a blob of dough — barely formed, malleable, disposable. The character’s preferred name — Will — telegraphs that she is already self-actualized, thank you… Will is already comfortable in her own skin and generously proportioned body when the story kicks in, and has no problem taking on haters.

Will is very likable and socially adept. A classy guy named Beau is understandably attracted to her. But Will is not just a bit chubby, she is legit fat. She has trouble accepting that Beau is sincere, fearing that he only wants to befriend her to get information about other girls he actually wants to date.

Learning that her aunt, who mainly raised her but died tragically young, had once thought about entering the local beauty pageant, Will decides to follow suit. She joins up with two other plus-size girls and a skinny, punky, Goth-style chick to practice for the talent contest. They discover the Hideaway, the club Will’s aunt used to hang out at, where all the performers specialize in impersonating Dolly Parton. Here, they learn about makeup, flashy clothes, and stage presentation.

Critics found Dumplin to be a sweet, warm-hearted story about self-acceptance. Without being overly generous, the whole film might be seen as a wonderful celebration of big women.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Nobody Knows I’m Here’,”, 06/25/20
Source: “Nobody Knows I’m Here,”, 06/24/20
Source: “Review: ‘Dumplin’’ Shares an Ordinary Girl’s Truth,”, 12/05/18
Image by Eli Christman/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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