Book review: Big Beautiful Female Theory, Eloise Grills

Grills critiques the fetishisation of aesthetic counterpoints by highlighting the ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ of her own personal journey.

Big Beautiful Female Theory is a graphic confessional memoir about bodies engaged in art, and art obsessed with bodies. Standout essays/poems/chapters include ‘The Fat Bitch in Art’, ‘My Snapchat Dysmorphia ran over your Dogma’, and ‘Post Op Antics (The horror, the horror, the sexy sexy horror)’ alongside other intertextual treats tasting vaguely of Lana Del Rey. Grills’ poetic essays expound upon formative memories, big-titty nursery rhymes, self-described incels, and the perfect ratio of irony to insight.

From the ‘table of discontents’ to the ‘Huge sweeping meaninglessness of life with human body, for scale’, her work vibrates with a hyper-awareness of the physical as it pertains to the emotional. Her artwork is honest and raw, with undertones of culturally-contracted body dysmorphia. Real bodies with watercolour breasts, erect penises, and presumably perfect elbows accompany handwritten captions, and carry as much weight as the essays themselves. 

Seriously topical and deliriously funny, Grills contrasts, reverses, and de-contextualises cultural elements, in order to unveil and eviscerate their personal and social harms, via personal experience. With pop culture references ranging from Dickens to Mean Girls, Grills’ wordplay, wit, and cultural analysis provide smart answers to dumb questions (not the other way around) and includes quotes by John Berger, Judith Butler, Frida Kahlo, Michel Foucault, and several Susie Orbachs. Acronyms, irreverence, and non-generic imagery orient the reader in a subjective reality heavy with obscene objectification, dissolving women, sushi-train-turds, and the aesthetics of aesthetics.

Spanning gaslit-childhood-dinner-table-memories to the inescapable gaze of social media, Grills’ curated gut-spillage requires all of the adjectives and a whole lot of adverbs; intellectual, creative, irreverent. Invincibly vulnerable. Fragmentarily cohesive. Contradictory. Funny. Beautiful.

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Big Beautiful Female Theory is a book-shaped memory-museum of art, culture, and internalised misogyny that turns its gaze both outward and inwards. Reading it will leave you with the urge to validate Grills’ self-described bullshit, delete her inherited shame, and blu-tack her artworks to the back of your toilet door. Feminists, queers, Courtney Love and objectified-humans of all varieties will adore Grills’ illustrated autobiographical autopsy. 

Big Beautiful Female Theory by Eloise Grills
Publisher: Affirm Press 
ISBN: 9781922626882 
Format: Paperback 
Pages: 304 pp
Release Date: 28 June 2022 
RRP: $35

Nanci Nott is a nerdy creative with particular passions for philosophy and the arts. She has completed a BA in Philosophy, and postgraduate studies in digital and social media. Nanci is currently undertaking an MA in Creative Writing, and is working on a variety of projects ranging from novels to video games. Nanci loves reviewing books, exhibitions, and performances for ArtsHub, and is creative director at Defy Reality Entertainment.