Why Netflix's Tall Girl didn't need to be made

The platform's newest teen rom-com is fun, but lacks depth 

Netflix should focus on delivering stories that resonate with diverse audiences.
Credit: 
Screenshot from Netflix

Netflix’s latest teen rom-com Tall Girl attempts to chronicle the process of overcoming an insecurity—but doesn’t quite make it work.

Its protagonist, Jodi, is a female high school student over six feet tall, who’s treated like an outcast because of her height. While the film might be relatable for anyone who’s had trouble loving their physical appearance, it lacks depth and diversity, and serves up cliché after cliché.

As a result, Tall Girl is just another forgettable teen romcom, much like the rest Netflix has been churning out lately.

The film follows Jodi, who deals with daily harassment because of her height, as she becomes enamoured with Stig, a handsome—and tall—exchange student from Sweden. Since Stig is the only boy in the school taller than her, he’s also the only boy she’s ever wanted to date. 

The film makes use of several overdone tropes that call back to every other teen film out there. For example, Jodi’s love interest starts dating the most popular (and mean) girl in school, Jodi feels she can’t compare to her beauty queen sister, and the harassment Jodi faces from her peers mostly consists of people asking her, “How’s the weather up there?” as she walks down the school hallway. 

The movie even ends with Jodi making a classic impromptu speech in front of the school at prom, in which she lists the qualities she’s learned to love about herself. While the film is light and enjoyable to watch at times, it’s predictable and lacks originality.

But where the film really missed the mark was its lack of representation of different cultures, income levels, or social issues.

Since the release of the trailer, Tall Girl has faced online backlash because its protagonist is slim, white, straight, and cisgender. As a result, the supposed adversity she faces (being bullied for her height) doesn’t seem all that important.

Her struggle with being tall seems trivial in comparison to problems that real students her age often deal with, such as financial issues, disabilities, or harassment due to race or gender.

Despite being seriously insecure about her height, Jodi is conventionally attractive and appears to lead a privileged middle- to upper-class lifestyle surrounded by supportive family members and friends.

Many movies exist with the same plot line as Tall Girl—a protagonist learning to overcome a physical insecurity—which calls into question whether another film needed to be made on this topic. A Netflix rom-com tackling bullying seems like a missed opportunity to shine a light on deeper issues of race, gender, or sexuality. 

Despite this, Tall Girl still manages to be relatable: everyone has experienced insecurity about some facet of themselves, making the film’s overall message universal. Even though she’s conventionally attractive, Jodi still dislikes her appearance, which drives home the point that we tend to only focus on our flaws. 

There is a point where Tall Girl differentiates itself from its counterparts. In the end, Jodi doesn’t end up with Stig, who mistreats her, and realizes she deserves someone better. It’s an empowering reminder for young people about never settling for those who don’t respect you for who you are.

While there wasn’t necessarily any need for another teen movie with a plot as overdone as this one, Tall Girl is still a fun watch.

We can only hope that in future, Netflix chooses to produce teen films that resonate with a more diverse audience and that focus on deeper issues.

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