I wanted to do a supplemental blog about makeover movies and how this relates to the work we’re doing in class. Makeover movies are (as defined by me) as films in which the female or male (but predominantly female lead and usually a well known, well desired one) is characterized in the fifteen minutes of the film as, ugly, annoying, weird, and/or all together undesirable. Then through her own ambition or usually some outside force the young woman goes through much needed ‘transformation’ or what I and many love to call it the makeover montage. You can see and probably moderately to extremely enjoy these transformations in movies such as She’s all that, The Princess Diaries, You Again, or my personal favorite, Miss Congeniality. In all of these films, the female lead is transform from unattractive, masculine, or geeky characters to the beautiful, feminine, sexualized bodies. This idea of transformation can be seen some television shows. (Think: Extreme Makeover, Love it or List it, Property Brothers -- any HGTV show has taped into the public pleaser of a tool.) But what makes makeover movies so intoxicating is it’s transformation of the human body. The human body becomes something malleable; a forever in-progress “project” one must clean up and put some work into.
And I’ll be honest -- I love makeover montages. I look forward to them. I bummed out when they’re not in the movie. Example: Where was the Pretty Woman-esque montage in Now Voyager? Instead of a physical transformation, we got to see most of her emotional one….which is important…..But come on! She could have tried on a few dresses! But to be clear, I am embarrassed by how much I love makeover montages – especially when the female’s self-esteem and sanity are so tied into ‘catching’ the eye of a man. And despite my disappointment that there isn’t an exact makeover montage in Now, Voyager, we still get to revel in the reveal of rather glamorized version of Bette Davis on the yacht sailing away. There is a kind of pleasure taken from the transformation - spectator satisfaction in these makeovers.
These makeover movies follow some basic rules and create certain sensations for the audience. There is a direct link from the undesirable woman to the transformation to finally male attention because of this transformation. I think there is an undercurrent here for female obedience to the male gaze. If you want to be seen as attractive you must behave and confine yourself to societal (and white male-dominated) definitions of beauty. This act of behaving and conforming yourself to these definitions are not easy. No, it means putting in a lot of labor, time, and not to mention the roller coaster consumption of products and clothing. You need to buy this mascara, this skirt, this blouse, shave you legs, loose weight, gain weight and don’t forget to do something with your hair. You must charge forth being beautiful with the lots determination and a big wallet – and I guess try not to eat your feelings too much. But it’s cool because for all your hard work, you get the reward of male attention.
It’s also interesting when you look at other films that offer a different narrative/arc for the movie makeover-ed female lead. Clueless offers a counter argument. The lead, Cher transform Brittney Murphy’s character Tai from stoner, unattractive outsider to ultra feminine, desired popular girl. But the film goes against the grain of these typical makeover movies by showing and digging in the ‘aftermath’ of this transformation. While Tai may get male attention, as a character she isn’t glamorized. If anything her personality goes from attractive to unattractive, slowly changing into a shallow character; And at one pint Tai even goes as far as rejecting Cher’s help and friendship and makes Cher a kind of outsider.
Beyond the movies I've mentioned, I'm interest in how this movie makeover fascination changes the the audiences behavior outside the movie theater. In what ways does this need to transform yourself come out in culture, consumerism, and our day to day concept of identity and expression of sexuality?