Rosie's uttering of that nickname gets Willowdean bullied at school, which leads her to get suspended for kicking a guy in the balls. She ends up back at home, looking through boxes of Lucy's possessions, and discovers that her beloved aunt was planning to enter the Bluebonnet pageant the same year Rosie won. She never did because, Willowdean assumes, of the sizeist prejudices inherent in that type of contest. So as both a memorial to Lucy and a "fuck you" to her mom, Willowdean decides to stage a protest by participating herself. Her move inspires other misfits -- similarly bullied but totally earnest Millie (Maddie Baillio) and goth patriarchy-buster Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) -- to join in as well.
Pageants, with their focus on typical beauty standards and presentability, are fruitful ground for satire -- or attempted satire. See, for instance, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Miss Congeniality, or even Netflix's Insatiable. (That last one didn't go so well.) Dumplin' is certainly critical of the culture, but there's a certain softness for it as well, the abiding idea that with some movement on both sides of the argument pageants could actually be welcoming places. Rosie needs to learn to accept Willowdean as she is, of course, but Willowdean also has to give into the glamour that Miss Teen Bluebonnet promotes.
Sure, the pageant ways of old are fading a little in real life. Miss America, at least, has done away with its swimsuit category in an effort to make its image more inclusive. Still, the image of the wholesome, Barbie-esque winner persists. Dumplin' doesn't refute that. At the end of the day -- spoiler-phobes beware -- Willowdean is disqualified, but Millie ends up in second place to Bekah (Dove Cameron), the petite perky blonde Rosie always thought was going to triumph. It's a small moment that underscores the fact that Willowdean didn't really enact that much change. And yet part of me continues to wish the movie got a little more anarchist.