(And my experience as a human)

By Caleigh Wallace


The majority of my anatomical and sexual education has come from TV and film. Dating right back to Hannah Montana in 2007, and 'The Bone Dance' (if you know, you know), I learnt more about the skeletal system from Miley Stewart than real-life schooling.

Albeit, a lot of media has often perpetuated narrow beauty standards and societal norms - usually with sexist and hetero undertones (overtones). These tv series and films have helped me celebrate the diverse and complex nature of the human experience and prove that the entertainment industry is slowly but surely embracing narratives that challenge the conventions of how we experience our bodies, our identities, and our sexualities.


1. Survival of the Thickest

Tv show

Genre: Comedy

Where to watch: Netflix

Content/trigger Warning: Sex scenes, course language


The main character Mavis feels so real to me. Maybe because she's one of the few curvy women in powerful protagonist roles as opposed to the stereotypical comic relief support role that makes fat jokes their whole personality. 

"Survival of the Thickest" follows Mavis dealing with the unique challenges tied to her racial identity and body image, all while tackling the common struggles that women face when adulting beyond society's expectations. Refreshingly we see characters as flawed and multi-dimensional individuals. This is a nice perspective for someone like me, who sometimes feels adrift in the complexities of adulthood.

"Survival of the Thickest" feels like a modern-day 'coming-of-age' story, forget adolescent fumbles; Your 30s are the true coming-of-age age.

We need to see more characters like Mavis, where size isn't an active obstacle in their storyline. Because that shit's getting old.

I’m so tired and my tits are so heavy - Mavis Beaumont


2. Sex Education

Tv show

Genre: Dramedy

Where to watch: Netflix

Content/trigger Warning: Sexual violence, nudity, sex scenes, coarse language 


The high school experience I wish I had. "Sex Education" distinguishes itself by embracing diversity, particularly in sexual and gender expression, something that felt taboo in my schooling experience, but makes me feel overtly optimistic for coming generations - if this is any reflection of the real world. The show moves beyond outdated demonstrations with bananas (except that one scene in S1E2), instead showing authentic portrayals of experiences that various sexual orientations and gender identities have. 

A highlight for me though is that the show moves past pubescent challenges into adulthood, where platonic, romantic, and sexual relationships are put to the test by everyday obstacles.

I think the way "Sex education" makes insecurities universal, no matter what your age is, is admirable, and highlights how important it is to continue conversations about sexuality, relationships, and identity past adolescence. After all, I just feel like a 25-year-old teen, who's still growing and changing every day.

 Everyone has bodies, right? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. - Otis 


3. Embrace


Genre: Documentary

Where to watch: Netflix

Content/trigger Warning: Eating disorders, fatphobia, mental illness

Image source: Netflix

The documentary "Embrace" is probably the most confronting and solemn of the list. It puts a strong focus on embracing diverse body weights. It's important to note a trigger warning as the film includes an interview with an individual dealing with a severe eating disorder.

Beyond weight-related discussions, 'Embrace' explores topics like plastic surgery, deformities, and health-related challenges. It goes beyond the surface to address the complexities surrounding our bodies and encourages us to make peace with ourselves, shedding light on the multifaceted aspects of self-acceptance.

Our bodies are both complex and fascinating and any conversation that detaches our weight from our worth is one I want to be a part of.

 This body of mine is not an ornament, it's a vehicle.


4. Principles of Pleasure

Tv Series

Genre: Documentary

Where to watch: Netflix

Content/trigger Warning: Conversations about sexual violence 

"The Principles of Pleasure" isn't your typical documentary series—it's actual sex ed, tackling the elusive "orgasm gap" and how it messes with overall quality of life, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Like, WHO knew happiness was tied to pleasure equality?

But it's not just about the big 'O'; they dive into the psychological influences on sex, the importance of consent (super important!), and open up a safe space for often embarrassing sexual experiences.

The cast is made up of voices from all walks of life – different races, gender identities, sexualities, ages, and body shapes – creating a symphony of perspectives on pleasure - contributing to a more comprehensive exploration of human sexuality and welcoming a more inclusive and informed understanding of all kinds of sexual encounters.

All of that stuff, your Trauma history, your mood, stress levels, your relationship, and your relationship with your body are significant predictors of sexual satisfaction, (desire, arousal, pleasure, and orgasm) in a way that no hormone has ever been associated with any of those dimensions of sexual functioning. - Emily Nagowski


5. Orange is the New Black

Tv show

Genre: Dramedy

Where to watch: Netflix

Content/trigger Warning (non-exhaustive list): Sexual violence, gore, violence, drug use, racial violence, suicide, transphobia. 



When I watched "  Orange is the New Black" as a 15-year-old, I saw women's naked bodies on screen, that were not being sexualised for the first time in my life. It felt strange, that in a time where a lot of the media I consumed was through a lens akin to the male gaze, that this was just different, and I really noticed it.

What I love about this show, despite the abrasive dialogue and characters that make sense in the context of a women's prison, the key themes champion diversity and portray the interlocking stories of marginalised women facing systemic obstacles. Within the confines of prison, characters express their identities. In an environment as volatile as a prison, women can be assertive, supportive, and resilient. Teen me was empowered AF.

This year I’m lovin’ someone who deserves me. Me. – Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’


6. Little Miss Sunshine


Genre: Dramedy

Where to watch: Disney+

Content/trigger Warning: Conversations about, and references to self-harm/suicide, Family conflict, coarse language 


The most lighthearted in the list, "Little Miss Sunshine" is the film that it encourages you to embrace yourself as you are – imperfections and all. The dysfunctional Hoover family embarks on a cross-country journey to support their youngest, Olive, in a beauty pageant. Through its humour and sincerity, "Little Miss Sunshine" conveys a powerful message about embracing one's imperfections and finding beauty in authenticity.

 Yup, still fabulous - Olive Hoover


7. Queer Eye

Tv series

Genre: Reality

Where to watch: Netflix

Trigger Warning: conversations about racism, classism, and transphobia



If a show could feel like a hug, it would be Queer Eye. Take 5 of the best humans, band them together and you get the Fab 5, the closest we'll ever get to superheroes in the real world.

"Queer Eye" is a makeover for the soul, empowering those who need it most. The Fab 5 are kind, infectious personalities whose only intentions are to better the people around them. Everything from wardrobe to life crises, they are fairy godmothers in positive life transformations. the ultimate feel-good boost through a combination of expert advice, emotional support, and a celebration of diversity.

After every new season of "Queer Eye" that I binge, I feel inspired to make positive changes in my life, however small. A haircut is as good as a holiday.

When people say, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ it’s not true, because you can reinvent yourself and learn new things whenever you want. – Jonathan Van Ness 


No character or plot line is perfect, but if anything, neither is real life. I look forward to the future of content that is even more progressive, inspiring, and relatable for all different human experiences.


Follow Caleigh @malibu_cowgirl

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