The Magical Makeover Trope

When I saw the movie Grease in 1978, when I was 13, I knew something about it bothered me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time. In it, Sandy, a sweet, fresh-faced girl, transforms herself into a spandex- and leather-wearing, curly-permed, cigarette-smoking temptress to win over Danny, who has been a complete jerk the entire time. Because that’s what women are supposed to do. We’re supposed to twist ourselves into pretzels to reach the ultimate pinnacle of womanhood: finding a man to take care of us. We’re supposed to be accommodating. Ugh. I can’t even watch that movie anymore. It sickens me.

The Magical Makeover Trope has been around since at least the earliest known versions of Cinderella popped up in Greek lore in 7 BC. It seems it has never been the content of a woman’s character that matters as much as outside appearance. Hollywood is notorious for this bias.

I particularly take it personally when a girl removes her glasses on screen and voila! She’s a knockout. Case in point: Princess Diaries, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Miss Congeniality. As someone who can’t, and wouldn’t want to, wear contact lenses, it’s insulting. Heck, even Clark Kent has to remove his glasses to become Superman. Sheesh.

How many women have managed to make it through life without someone saying to them, “You’d be pretty if you’d just…” 

Take off your glasses. Loosen your hair. Wear makeup. Fix your teeth. Change your wardrobe. Wear high heels. Paint your nails. And for God’s sake, lose some weight.

Not only is this advice usually unsolicited, but it does a great deal of psychological damage. Many women spend their lives thinking they’re not good enough. But the worst part about being told that “you’d be pretty if” is that it gives you the impression that being pretty should be your life’s goal. To hell with educating yourself. Heaven forfend you be ambitious or funny or dedicated to something other than the maintenance of your outer shell.

It drains me, thinking about this stupid trope. It disgusts me that so many people see it without really seeing it, and that so many people reinforce it without stopping to think about the harm it does.

For what it’s worth, dear reader, I think you’re fine just the way you are.

Slip on those glasses and read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

3 thoughts on “The Magical Makeover Trope

  1. Lyn

    They said I was brave not to dye my grays. Not brave, just didn’t want to spend time and energy pretending to be something I wasn’t…10 years younger. I’m old and own my years. I have attracted men half my age just being myself, but now I have no need for those kinds of relationships.

    Since when is wearing glasses ever been an effective disguise Superman? At least add some facial hair. 🧐

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