We learned a lot from high school movies and classic romantic comedies of the 90s and 2000s: dresses worn over jeans didn’t age as well as we’d hoped; the dances are still as cool as you think; and if you’re not sure what you’re doing with your life, then you’re probably on your way to becoming an international pop star. But, if there’s one thing that raises all sorts of issues, it’s the shapeshifting narrative. You know this one: a young girl gets her hair straightened, her braces removed, her glasses put away and voila – suddenly she’s a prom queen/successful/catch the guy (and yeah, that’s it) is still a guy, but that’s a problem for another day).
Take The Princess Diaries, Miss Congeniality, She’s All That, The Devil Wears Prada, etc. – the leading lady always gets a makeover that leads to popularity (and therefore, acceptance and success). Growing up, I devoured those movies every weekend, and now I want to know: Have we internalized the message that society’s beauty standards are intrinsically linked to happiness?
The idea that it’s impossible to be happy unless the world finds you attractive is something most women would admit to carrying into adulthood, and this story backs up that rhetoric. “There are clear formulas here that […] as part of visual culture, play an important role in the production and distribution of cultural norms,” says Sarita Malik, Professor of Media and Culture at Brunel University London.
Plus, it’s no coincidence that these happiness-inducing makeovers are within the eyes of white men. “These scenes depend on the transformation of women into a Eurocentric convention of [beauty]. The transformation is captured in the look, and this look is based on western beauty aesthetics in terms of hair, clothing, and body. It is a form of aestheticization that depends on a narrow idea of what is visually pleasing,” adds Professor Malik.
The majority of these overhauls are also done by men in the story itself. Of course, the fact that this patriarchally manifested beauty factory line has been turned into a Trojan horse in films for young girls is not worth thinking about. But is there a middle ground? Yes, these scenes are problematic, but I’m not. too glad to never see those nostalgic classics again (let’s be honest, Mandy Moore’s “Stupid Cupid” performance in The Diary of a Princess must be seen at least twice a year).
Maybe half the battle is encouraging our brains to see them as much as fiction the way we do Lizzie McGuire becomes a megastar on a school trip to Rome. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to bring back those makeovers. Rebel Wilson’s recent Netflix movie, Secondary year, is a perfect example of a noughties-esque movie with no problematic moments (if you don’t count someone sabotaging their cheerleading pyramid). Let’s recognize that all of these heroines were attractive in the first place – and, more importantly, that we are so much more than our appearance.
Daniella Scott Daniella Scott is Senior Entertainment and Lifestyle Writer at Cosmopolitan UK.
Source : WORLD NEWS