Netflix film Tall Girl presents important messages for growing teens, but it’s let down by an average seen-it-before story once the subject matter wears off.
The trigger-happy social media reaction to Netflix film Tall Girl aims at the lack of inclusivity and zero awareness surrounding systematic racism. The trailer sells a tall white girl at high school having to pluck up the courage to take on the world. The trailer adds salt to the wound when the lead character Jodi (Ava Michelle) is encouraged by her black best friend Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) not to care what people think; to punch through the boundaries against her and leading with the question, “Who cares how tall you are?”.
And Jodi is tall, in fact very tall, and the “tall discrimination” against her is rife throughout the film. The lead character has to take every single joke on the chin, swallow it up and keep on walking — even her friends “banter” with her about the overwhelming height for her age.
My major problem with Tall Girl — despite the fact it is a mediocre Netflix movie most of the time — is that I was waiting to feel offended by the subject matter. I wasn’t because now that I’m an adult in my late 20s, I fondly remember what high school was like as a young mixed-race kid. I was not bullied for being black — I was bullied because I had a gap in my front two teeth and then in the later years, it was for the size of my head.
And as I continued to watch Tall Girl, I remembered the various forms of appearances kids were bullied for; overweight, underweight, too small, too tall, braces, nits, nails, spots, clothes, voice — high school is a cruel place.
That’s where the context is lost in the initial reaction to Netflix film Tall Girl — the complainants have forgotten how any perceived “extreme” in high school can get you ousted; it’s not just racism that can lead to you crying in the cubicles during lunch break. Jodi did not need to be white, but nor did she have to be black. The point of the story is that she was remarkably taller than anyone else, and hormonal teenagers are dumb and cruel.
The underlying message in Tall Girl is getting over your insecurities. Jodie spends most of the movie doubting herself but is determined to secure a romance with her new crush, a Swedish exchange student, who has just joined the school. In a world where we bring up our children in false environments that leads them to doubt themselves even more and care about the judgments of others, Tall Girl is a message that teenagers need desperately. Stop F—ing caring about what people think, and rule your own life.
The only issue despite the important messages is that Tall Girl gets incredibly stale. It’s a seen-it-all-before high school romance that depends on the most-used methods for a boy-meets-girl scenario. And once the subject matter of Jodi being tall loses pace, and becomes less important, all you really have is an insecure character trying to source love.
Tall Girl would have hugely benefited from honing in on the devastation of her insecurity while building an emotionally impactful story around that, rather than depending on generic high school methods that stain most teen-focused films. The Netflix film somehow fails to engage with the audience, opting to play with camera trickery to highlight how tall she is, rather than focus on what is important — her feelings, her friendships, and her story arc.
All in all, Netflix film Tall Girl was not worth the controversies surrounding it. And even if you believe that I’m fundamentally wrong, I doubt this will be the film that will make groundbreaking changes in the industry.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.