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Where Movie Makeovers Go Wrong

By Talia Chen

I love a good movie makeover montage. Who doesn’t? Caring about your appearance is common, and being self-confident is important in life. Being vain is not a bad characteristic, so long as you know that there are more important things to value. Makeover scenes have always appealed to audiences because we like the idea of remaking and improving ourselves. But the thing is, some movies don’t show makeovers this way. While a makeover can be a stepping stone for a character, it can also have adverse effects. This shallow use of the makeover montage trope has appeared in a number of movies, and this article will feature four movies with questionable makeovers scenes.

Disclaimer: I like all of these movies, I just liked the makeovers less.

The Breakfast Club

Image via Zimbio

This classic movie features a makeover in which Claire (Molly Ringwald), the popular girl, restyles Allison (Ally Sheedy), the basket case. Allison goes from dark clothes, lots of eyeliner, and unruly hair that shadows her face to a light pink top, no eyeliner, and her hair pushed back in a headband topped with a flower. Allison then talks to Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the jock, and they become a couple. Allison’s makeover was randomly thrown in, and although she and Andrew previously showed some interest in each other, the movie makes it seem like he didn’t realize he could date her until after she was restyled in a more socially acceptable fashion. Ally Sheedy also didn’t like the scene.

However, Sheedy compared Allison’s eyeliner to a “mask” in an interview with ELLE and stated she was glad that the director allowed some aspects of the makeover to be more about taking off things, such as the removing of her eyeliner. I get how her makeover was meant to signify her becoming less enclosed as a person, but the fact that her style beforehand was already pretty cool as well as the boyfriend addition--especially the boyfriend addition--took away from that. Any importance the makeover had was completely undermined by Allison and Andrew getting together because it comes off like her character development was for the sole reason of “getting the guy.” It caters to the stereotype that boys only want to date girls who fit one mold: the pretty and pink mold. I dislike the makeover because it completely changed her style, which seems less like a form of character development and more like invalidating her personal style. The fact that Claire kind of shaped Allison into another version of herself contradicts the movie’s message about being true to yourself and ignoring society’s labels because Allison is madeover to fit into society.

The movie establishes that people’s identities are more than the stereotypes they fit, but if so, why did the basket case need to be “fixed”?

The Princess Diaries

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy The Princess Diaries makeover montage mainly because of the cucumber facemask and I know plenty of other people feel the same. But, there are some aspects of it that don’t sit right with me. The big thing about Mia’s (Anne Hathaway) makeover in The Princess Diaries was that Paulo (Larry Miller), her stylist, straightened her hair, which adheres to eurocentric beauty standards. The fact that we never see her textured hair again supports societal prejudice against curly hair. Frizzy hair being used as a characteristic to make her less appealing in the beginning of the movie is also a big problem. Would it have killed the production team to style her hair with the curls? Why did the image of a princess automatically mean straight hair?

A movie targeted towards younger audiences shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that curly hair is bad. It also shouldn’t discourage Mia’s glasses, which were promptly snapped in two by Paulo. Making Mia beautiful shouldn’t have meant taking off her glasses and relaxing her hair, as was done in the movies. Although it’s become kind of iconic, this makeover scene displayed a eurocentric and shallow concept of beauty.


Image via Buzzfeed

The makeover in Enchanted isn’t so much of a controversial makeover scene than a disappointing lack of character consistency. One of the things people--me included--loved about Giselle (Amy Adams), a fairy tale princess running around in New York, is how she makes the whimsical dresses that are her daily attire out of curtains and bedsheets. These dresses looked like the typical Disney princess ball gown with puff sleeves and layered skirts. The makeover scene in this movie is towards the end, when Giselle is getting ready for a costume ball. She initially frets over not having a dress for the occasion but Morgan (Rachel Covey), the young daughter of Robert (Patrick Dempsey), Giselle’s love interest, digs up her dad’s credit card and the two go on a shopping spree.

The spa scene and the numerous bags they stock up all hint to a glorious transformation but she shows up to the ball in a simple purple dress that is quite the letdown, and even more of a letdown when you remember that she’s at a costume ball. Her hair is also straightened and left down, unlike the previous wavy updos she wore before. Giselle is from a time when being flamboyant was normal, and her initial, over-the-top attire reflected her starry-eyed, Disney character personality. For a concluding scene, this makeover just didn't seem true to her character.

She’s All That

This movie’s makeover cliche wasn’t as unreasonable as the others, but Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) also wasn’t as undesirable of a character as the storyline tried to make her out to be. The movie is about this class president-jock-good grades-homecoming king type of guy, Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr), who makes a bet with his friend that he can turn any girl into the homecoming queen. His friend’s choice of Laney is a bit stupid because she’s an antisocial art nerd (one variation of the “social outcast” trope) but she’s not unattractive or disliked because most people just don’t know her. The makeover scene involves cutting her hair, swapping her overalls for a slim red dress, and the cliche of taking off her glasses. Although moving her up the social hierarchy is sometimes difficult because there are some popular people, Zach’s ex included, who don’t like her, my main criticism of this movie is that Laney’s makeover doesn’t really prove Zach’s point. His belief that anyone could be prom queen is arguable, in fact I believe it too, but making Laney into this beautiful, popular girl is not a great way to prove it. The character of Laney has clear skin, is skinny, has delicate features, and mainly just lays low in terms of social life. She doesn't want anything to do with popular kids but she’s also not this exiled, revolting person.

Not Another Teen Movie, a parody of high school movie tropes, mirrored my sentiments when Jake (Chris Evans), the popular jock, makes the same bet with his friend and reacts with disgust to Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh), the parody of Laney Boggs, and says, “Guys, she's got glasses and a ponytail! Aw, look at that, she's got paint on her overalls, what is that?”. The parody points out that Janey Briggs, or Laney Boggs, isn’t exactly undesirable, thus criticizing the meaning of Jake’s, or Zach’s, bet.

So do I like the makeover trope? Very much, yes. Are a lot of makeover tropes callously executed? Also yes. I think it’s important to remember how a makeover is happening and who it is truly for. Changing a character so they can get a guy, a streak that showed up in The Breakfast Club, Enchanted, and She’s All That, is never the right way to go. If a character is going through a physical makeover to represent their character growth, it should have nothing to do with pleasing other people.

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