In Pumpkin (2021), Julie Murphy has created another hero of Clover City, the West Texas town that is the location of Dumplin‘ and Puddin‘. Waylon Brewer is a high school senior, a fat, openly gay boy whose parents “hit the queer lottery” because his twin sister, Clementine, is a lesbian. Waylon is a ginger with freckles, and so his beloved grandmother (who lives with her friends like in The Golden Girls) calls him Pumpkin.
He’s biding his time through senior year, hoping that when he and Clem escape Clover City to attend Austin Community College together, there will be an abundance of queer people and he can become his true self. While Waylon is not in the closet, he avoids drawing attention to himself, because as someone who is also fat, he sometimes feels that he is the “wrong” kind of gay man.
One day he finds out that his twin sister–his best friend–hasn’t told him something critically important for their plans, and his favorite character on his network drag show, Fiercest of Them All, has lost because she is fat. So Waylon digs into his “future clothes,” puts on a wig and makeup, and records an audition for Fiercest of Them All as Pumpkin, or Miss Patch.
Of course, the recording is accidentally shared on social media by a former-fat, gay boy who thinks he’s Waylon’s friend, but is really more of a nemesis. And so Waylon is nominated for Prom Queen, as his sister’s girlfriend Hannah (from Dumplin‘) is nominated for Prom King. They decide to go through with it–because why not?
Through all of this, Waylon is getting mixed messages from Tucker, a boy he’s known for forever, who is working for Waylon’s father and is also nominated for Prom court. Millie and Willowdean from Puddin’ and Dumplin’ make appearances–as they are all seniors together and part of Hannah’s circle of friends. When Waylon spots Tucker at the local drag bar, he wonders if the messages he’s getting from Tucker are truly mixed?
Pumpkin is delightful; it masquerades as a fluffy queer teen romance while dealing with some big issues, such as anti-fat bias in the queer community, and alcoholism. Like Millie in Puddin’, Waylon doesn’t question his worth as a fat person; he knows he is awesome and is just waiting for the right time and place to fully reveal his true self. Waylon confronts his nemesis about being a former fat person and how his comments make Waylon feel–that whenever he talks about his former fat self, he’s reinforcing the way the world thinks fat people should always be trying to lose weight..
And of course, what’s a romance without a Happily Ever After?