The new film “Brittany Runs A Marathon” tells a story audiences are far too familiar with.
The drama-comedy directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo follows a young woman who aspires to turn her life around, which, for her, begins with her body. As Brittany (Jillian Bell) trains for the New York City marathon, her character evolves into the consummate version of herself; losing weight and landing dates with Manhattan men make up the few milestones in her archetypal journey.
Bloomington pop culture writer Kate Browne critiqued this before-and-after success story in an opinion piece published in Runner’s World, headlined "What 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Gets Wrong About Running While Fat." The piece has attracted hundreds of comments on social media.
A runner herself, the film resonated with Browne.
“People like that I’m a runner because of the way I look. They're not used to seeing people who look like me. And they don't realize that there are lots of different body types in running,” said Browne.
Browne’s body image work extends into various leadership positions and projects of her own. As vice president of Body Positive Fitness Alliance, an organization for fitness professionals looking for new business approaches, Browne helps reframe the way they think about their role in health and wellness.
“Our whole goal is to change the way fitness is perceived and what people expect when they go into a fitness space,” said Browne. “A lot of the work we do is reversing that storytelling, saying this is something that should be available to everyone, (and helping) fitness professionals make that possible for as many people as they can.”
Browne is also the creator of Taking up Space, a blog designed to encourage people of all body types to engage in sports and exercise they desire.
“I thought, ‘How can I make a group for people who are exercising in unconventional bodies and bring them together?’ So it's the idea of taking up space, which sounds very simple, but it's difficult for a lot of people to do,” said Browne.
Browne advises audiences to look closely at the film’s storytelling. One of her favorite parts is the way the film uses sweat to represent the change in Brittany’s life. By the end of the film, as running becomes a quotidian activity for Brittany, she doesn’t appear to be sweating.
“Just think about what that’s saying about effort and change,” said Browne. “This is something that not only comes up in the stories we tell in the movies, but also the stories we tell in our personal life.”
Like Brittany, Browne is training for an upcoming run. In 2021, she plans to run a total of 48.6 miles in the Dopey. Only she won’t let traditional narratives of fitness stop her.
“As best you can, remember that you're allowed to change the story. And then say, I do belong here. I am capable of this. And I'm going to find the support I need to make it work,” said Browne.
The Amazon film “Brittany Runs A Marathon” was released Aug. 23.
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