by Michelle Rapp

The most recent returns to Dominaria and Ravnica has allowed us to revisit some of our old friends from Magic’s history. Seeing characters like Teferi, Jhoira, Ral, and Jodah has brought back wonderful memories for so many players. After spending around sixty (in-Multiverse) years away, it’s inevitable to see changes in those familiar faces. Characters like Jaya and Radha have gotten older and their experience shows, both aging gracefully into stronger, wiser women. Radha’s appearance has caused some controversy however, with many folks asking “Why is she fat?” and “Why can’t she have stayed thin and hot?”

To which I ask: why can’t we have more protagonists of different sizes in Magic?

Magic is a game that focuses on both magical and physical combat, and its many characters depicted on card art do their best to emphasize this. The Origins Five all (now) have athletic bodies: Gideon and Jace both have physiques worthy of dancers, while Nissa, Chandra, and Liliana look more at home on a runway or an editorial than on a battlefield. In more recent sets, we see even non-human characters like Vraska, Angrath, and Kiora all portrayed with model-like or bodybuilder physiques. While it makes sense for some characters to be depicted as physically fit, the overwhelming number of human and humanoid protagonists in Magic seem to have come down with a serious case of the “ridiculously pretty, slim, and young.”

Unfortunately, the depiction of overweight and obese characters in Magic has overwhelmingly been relegated to villains. Characters like Karlov of the Obzedat, Maw of the Obzedat, Rohgahh of Kher Keep, Shelkin Brownie, Dong Zhou, the Tyrant, and the Land Tax guy are portrayed as grotesque, greedy, and insidious. While we have seen some efforts towards representing curvaceous characters as charismatic and attractive—for example, Isareth the Awakener—these exceptions are few and far between, doing little to balance the image of fat people in the Multiverse.

Most of the time, fat characters don’t even make an appearance in Magic. On Ravnica, the city-plane that boasts the most diversity of the Multiverse, not a single person of size is depicted in Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, or War of the Spark. On Amonkhet, all of the initiates are in peak physical condition—making us wonder, what happens to those who can’t maintain the physique of an Olympic athlete? Even on Innistrad, there should be someone whose profession doesn’t require peak fitness, such as a tailor or a town druid. But no, almost all of the humanoid characters and planeswalkers on these worlds are shown as slim and in shape.

Showing only one kind of beauty can lead to body shame and unrealistic expectations for players, who more than ever want to see themselves in the cards they play. Most media endorses a physical ideal of thinness, portraying weight loss as a lauded goal—no matter what the cost or means. The same publications, movies, and TV shows often stigmatizes obese and overweight individuals as dull, unattractive, and pitiable. Faced with the constant pressure to fit these near impossible standards, millions of people have developed both physical and mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts.

While it makes sense to some extent to show strong characters in a game that focuses on combat, it’s also important to showcase different kinds of strength. Magical strength doesn’t always need to be wielded by someone who looks like an athleisure model, and physical strength can be held by someone who resembles Lizzo rather than Scarlett Johansson. In other fantasy settings we’re given heroes who aren’t model perfect, like Brienne of Tarth, Sam Gamgee, and Agnes Nitt from Discworld. People of size in the real world are capable of goodness, glamour, love, sacrifice, and compassion. They possess a beauty that does not conform to conventional expectations, but is still as valid as any Hollywood A-lister. Overweight and obese people deserve to be given the same heroic treatment that other underprivileged groups have received from Magic art, and the same opportunities to be lauded and revered, even as planeswalkers.

One of the best qualities of Magic as a game is its ability to attract a wide variety of people, making for a diverse and colorful community. Wizards of the Coast has done tremendous work in the past few years to embrace diversity and inclusion, creating heroic characters such as Alesha, Tiro and Kynaios, Yahenni, Tomik, Vivien, and Aminatou. Adding fat characters to this illustrious list will help lift the stigma of laziness, ugliness, and slovenliness so many people in the world have to endure. If Magic is a game for everyone, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, or gender, it should also show that it accepts and celebrates people of size. Hopefully soon, we can visit a plane where true diversity can be shown in all of its ways.

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