Most of us have heard the story of the poor, ugly duckling that was physically and verbally abused, but later transformed into a beautiful swan and became accepted (and if you have not you can click here for a fuller summary.)
There’s even a term for this phenomenon in people, oh so cleverly referred to as “ugly duckling syndrome.” Essentially, for the beginning of your life you were ugly but have a good heart and after some milestone (usually high school) you get “hot.”
I see this all the time in television and movies, both old and new: female characters become “better,” (i.e. more successful, find love, get a better job, make more money) when they go through some sort of metamorphosis to make them more attractive, as dictated by cultural norms.
This is most commonly in the form of a makeover movie montage- which, by the way, I love. I love to see this transformation process, it’s absolutely fascinating to me, but why is that almost always what happens? Why can the female lead only become successful when she starts wearing a push-up bra and lipstick? And as a woman who wears glasses, I would really love to know why no woman has ever kept her glasses ON during this transformation. Contacts aren’t always fun and I know many, many people who look better with their glasses on so this whole “glasses=ugly” thing has got to go. (Sorry, rant over.)
If you’re having a difficult time thinking of examples of this happening to women in movies, a quick Google search for “movie makeovers” will bring a zillion lists up. Entertainment Weekly had this one: click here.
There are also a few television series I can think of that make the female lead characters pretty as the season goes on, although it usually more subtle. For example in the show Parks & Rec, Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope gradually gets more “feminine” looking outfits, starts styling her hair in more fashionable ways, etc. to become more attractive. In the U.S. version of The Office, Jenna Fischer’s character Pam Beesly starts off as a timid, sort of frumpy receptionist with frizzy hair and an asshole boyfriend. As she starts to find herself, pursue her ambitions, falls in love with a good man…she starts to have more controlled, styled hair, wear make up and tighter-fitting, brighter clothes. Most of the characters on The Office went through this type of transformation, but Pam’s seemed the most obvious.
There’s, of course, nothing wrong with altering your appearance or getting something to “make you feel pretty.” But I feel like on days when you don’t feel like wearing make up/dressing up, we’ve been taught sort of subconsciously to prepare ourselves for a shitty day. I’ve heard “Ugh, I look horrible today I forgot to put on my make up,” more times than I will ever understand (I “forget” to put make up on most days.)
We’re taught that being hotter means being happier, through television, movies and so many other mediums and it’s really…sad. Finding happiness isn’t only possible when you look perfect.