Vox on Makeover Movies

Posted on July 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm

In my book, The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies, there is a discussion of “makeover movies.”

Little girls and bigger ones see a lot of what I call “makeover movies:” in a crucial scene Our Heroine gets a new dress and hairstyle (or just takes off her glasses) and her life changes. Sometimes she transforms herself, as Ella does in “The Bells are Ringing” , causing her to have enormous conflicts and self-doubt. More often, she is transformed by someone else. Cinderella gets a dress to go to the ball, where the prince falls in love with her. Sleeping Beauty’s ballgown is so crucial that the fairies’ fight over its color literally leads the bad fairy to her hideaway. The modern counterparts are Eliza Doolittle, who, like Cinderella, goes to a ball in borrowed finery (and accent) and dazzles everyone there (“My Fair Lady” ) and “Gigi” who is actually groomed by her grandmother and great-aunt to be a very elegant prostitute, trained almost like a geisha in manners and skills for pleasing a man. Over and over, we see the heroines rewarded for being passive pleasers.

Transformation themes have been a central part of stories long before there were movies. The examples above were fairy tales before they were on screen. And girls and women are not the only ones who are transformed; superheroes all have origin stories that are a form of makeover, though they are changing to fantasy versions for themselves, and not to get positive attention from the opposite sex.

VOX has a nice commentary on makeover movies.

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