Our Love/Hate Relationship With Movie Makeovers

Movie Makeover Clueless

Gotta love a movie makeover. A solid transformation montage with a feminine edge scored by pop music? What would our tween years have been without this concept?

Hmm, however, it does seem like a lot of these scenes revolve around a woman conforming to a particular standard of beauty in order to get what she wants. Isn’t that kind of F’d?

OR is it okay because these makeovers usually lead to a commentary on how caring too much about conforming to beauty standards can be detrimental to your identity,  and that you should never change who you are for someone else? (Though they never decide to go back to their "before," which incidentally is almost always a conventionally attractive white woman).

On the one hand, movie makeovers are yet another film cliché that can reinforce harmful stereotypes about women and superficiality. On the other, a stereotype can be enjoyable as hell to watch if you identify with it, and can be used as a tool to prove a point. After all, it’s certainly a dated notion that one can’t be feminist while performing femininity.

Phew. It's complicated.

Either way, a look CAN change your life, and we love to watch it happen onscreen — even when it might be for not-so-right reasons.

Here are some movie makeovers we grew up loving (and, while we're at it, what's problematic about them).

The Princess Diaries

Why we love it: The dad from Ten Things I Hate About You makes Anne Hathaway look cute. Cold cream and cucumbers. Stuart Weitzman strappy sandals. Before & After photo reveal. Classic.

Problematic because: An implicitly gay hair stylist changes the life of a frumpy girl by taking off her glasses and smoothing her hair? SEEN IT. Also, those women are tweezing the MIDDLE of Anne’s eyebrows. Sorry, what??

Miss Congeniality

Why we love it: Gracie Hart is a sarcastic badass with perfect comedic timing. And the fact that this is a secret FBI operation in an airport hanger makes it inherently entertaining. Finger waxing and dental work are a nice touch.

Problematic because: This is the first step in Gracie’s overall journey, which is basically her learning not to be such a bitter “angry feminist.” Women have the right to be bitter! And unkempt for that matter! Ultimately, though, the lesson is that all women, despite our differences, should work together, not against each other. And that’s valuable.

For reasons unknown, the only youtube clip we could find of this one was in Italian. But you get the idea.


Why we love it: Cher & Dionne are indisputable fashion icons. Brittany Murphy is a lovable doll playing Tai the clueless airhead. “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule is an amazing song. Also, 3 words: coke can curlers.

Problematic because: Even though this movie is self aware (it makes fun of teen social conventions to a point of nearly satirizing them) the audience is totally on their side as they scrub the androgynous grunge out of this poor girl. Luckily, as with many teen movies, they learn a lesson or two when they end up creating a monster.

Legally Blonde

Why we love it: Elle Woods is glamorous AND brilliant AND looks great in a bunny suit! This "taking care of business" montage is her make-under where she begins to dress the part of a law student.

Problematic because: Putting a blonde sorority girl in law school is presented as a WILD juxtaposition. But, since the movie’s goal was basically to prove the haters wrong, we’re not mad at it.

House Bunny

Why we love it: Anna Faris is a comedic genius. Emma Stone is adorable. Nothing is more fun than a tutorial in sluttiness. 

Problematic because: The whole “all girls would have fun being hot if only they knew HOW!” thing. But, you know, it’s a farce.

New York Minute

Why we love it: We have to admit, Mary Kate & Ashley movies were a big part of our life when we were younger. They somehow managed to be super fun to watch even though the twins are terrible at acting!

Problematic because: If you watch any ten minutes of this movie you will find an almost unbelievable amount of racist jokes and stereotypes. And this scene is a big one. The makeover part is fun, but the plot device of unnamed Black characters coming to the aid of white protagonists is overused, reductive, and an issue. And it’s not even the most overtly fucked up part of the movie. We know, we know...it's not like your expectations were very high.

Ms. Doubtfire

Why we love it: Need we even answer this? Robin Williams gets into several different drag looks and does what he did best, characters and impressions.

Problematic because: First, some of these accents...and second, the concept of Mrs. Doubtfire is that in order to see his kids, Robin Williams’ character will do the most humiliating thing you can do -- become a woman! This stems from some pretty misogynistic social norms. But the movie is well done and has a lot of heart, so it will always be one of our favorites.  


Why we love it: Because we grew up wanting to be princesses and hoping if we were down on our luck enough something magical would happen to make us shine!!

Problematic because: Cinderella is the godmother (PUN ALERT) of all movie makeovers. It’s the archetype. The basic idea being that, yes, you may already be the most amazing woman in the room, but no one can tell unless you look good, loser!

Here’s the Rogers & Hammerstein version with Brandy and Whitney, even though there’s no real makeover scene...just because we feel like watching it.  

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