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Burn the Makeover Movie

Otherwise Known as an Argument for Hot Nerds

There’s a lot of things I don’t miss about the noughties; low rise jeans and Juicy Couture velour rank amongst them. but the trend I most despise is the Makeover Movie. Also, here’s a disclaimer for the guys in the back; yes, being a feminist and an “ugly” teenager who had to wait till she was eighteen until her first kiss influences my opinion on this. It’s not that I “wouldn’t have a problem” if I was hot, it’s a case of I wouldn’t be the target audience. These movies are a goldmine of daydreams for nerdy teenage girls who harbour unobtainable popular crushes (*raises hand in admittance). They feed the mentality that “it’s not me, it’s my face/body/fashion/anything that makes up my identity and if I change it he’ll fall hopelessly in love with me and I can design the interior of our castle.” The makeover movie is a sub genre of teen films that follow a basic formula: Girl is unattractive, she likes boy who is attractive, witty sidekick persuades her to undergo a makeover, she is suddenly attractive because she now has make-up, contact lenses, and clothes that fit, boy likes her back, happily ever after. The thing is this template sells us fantasy dressed up in a high school guise; in the real world, a lovely, yet slightly plain looking girl who gets a "makeover" will look pretty much the same and odds are, the guy she likes will probably not glance her way regardless of what she wears. The problem is the makeover plot relies on and improbable event happening, but frames it in a realistic setting. The movies should be labelled fantasy as their plot lines are akin to Cinderella landing the cover of Sport Illustrated because the Prince found a girl who the glass bikini fits. But we bask in these films of the fantastical without any care for their source. Like the Miller's daughter in Rumplestiltskin, the director appears to turn the straw of everyday life into gold and we choose not to question his methods. This impossible feat is a trick of the eye; deep down we know this, yet we hold the counterfeit gold to our chests and wish we could afford the real deal. 

The whole premise of every makeover movie is a kind of "Clark Kent in reverse;" well all know Superman is behind the specs, but in a makeover movie our heroine’s superpower (or attractiveness) is so well hidden behind frames it takes a plucky sidekick to take them off for her to save the day (or her love life, whatever). My problem with this is: we laugh at the fact Lois Lane’s tunnel-vision is so intense she dismisses Clark Kent in favour of Superman, but when our heroine’s crush can’t see her beauty, which we know is there because that’s the entirety of the plot, his reaction is rational; celebrated as the status quo on what he can tap or not. Take Drew Barrymore's transformation in Never Been Kissed: What I do commend this movie for is showing how traumatised Drew's character was by her high school bullies, even as a graduate with a sick copywriting job. But by the end of the movie her physical transformation is minimal, like sure, she took off her glasses and got a blow dry, but now of course: she's been kissed. 

This brings me to another problem I have with the makeover trope; the strange belief glasses have some kind of power to mask any sort of beauty. The worst example I can think of is She's All That; she's actually as hot with glasses on. I sat watching the movie wanting to yell at the screen "She's a goddamn bombshell stop pretending." It's a kind of accidental comedy, a sense of dramatic irony to the point of mind-boggling frustration and pity for anyone who can't see it (Christ the irony, the burning irony). It reminded me of Isaac Asimov's essay "A Cult of Ignorance", in an extract that went viral on Twitter, he spectacularly calls out the sheer stupidity of this trope: 

"The glasses are not literally glasses. They are merely a symbol, a symbol of intelligence. The audience is taught two things; (a) Evidence of extensive intelligence is a social hindrance and causes unhappiness; (b) Formal education is unnecessary, can be minimised at will and the resulting limited intellectual development leads to happiness."

There's not a lot more I need to say that this quote doesn't perfectly encapsulate. The message to women is simple; to make him fall for you, give up your intelligence. Asimov in 1956 revealed this trope for the sham it is yet 60 years later we're still pretending contact lenses are the reason he doesn't like you back.

I've never been diagnosed with a mental illness, my point is this makeover mentality is damaging even to those who are stable (well, medically speaking anyway). This notion we have, that the reason your crush doesn't want you is your glasses and the reason you're depressed is you're overweight, are cultivated by the makeover plot, and incredibly damaging to its malleable target audience. They purposely equate happiness with physical beauty to sell us shit, and as much as I hate to admit it, it's the reason I still get a buzz out of a new lipstick, the idea all my untapped beauty is only a swipe away.

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Burn the Makeover Movie
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