By Madeline Brady, Regular Contributor
I have never been able to pin down why movie makeovers are so satisfying. Whether it’s the classic scene from Princess Diaries or the most recent marathon of What Not To Wear, I’ve always been drawn to them.
Is it the glamour? The promise of a fresh start? Is it because these scenes usually involve lots of beautiful clothes and great music? I’m not sure, but I love them in the same way that I love flossing or vacuuming a really dirty rug. It’s the satisfaction of being able to say, “It looks so different now! How did that happen?!”
But recently, something has changed for me. These scenes that used to exude female confidence and exciting character transformation kind of make my skin crawl now…
And, of course, I blame school.
I’m currently writing my senior English thesis on the ways girls’ bodies are treated in young adult literature, specifically in regards to characters with eating disorders. It’s fascinating to look back on the books I read in middle school and examine them with a critical eye instead of an open heart. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the construction of body image and the ways our patriarchal culture pressures girls to conform to a particular standard of beauty and weight. The books I’m reading depict girls as taking dangerous measures just to feel like they have control over their bodies, and, frankly, I wish these feelings didn’t hit so close to home.
I recognized that desperation for validation and those feelings of worthlessness. Even as I tried to remain objective, I couldn’t help but feeling at times like I was reading words written by a younger version of myself. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I would be shocked if I met anyone (of any gender) that has never felt pressured to look a certain way. We have all been there- looking crinkle nosed in the mirror with long sighs and mean words for ourselves. But why? Because some magazine or bully or misguided friend told us we needed to change the way we look?
So when I watch those makeover scenes now, it isn’t the hair or the jewelry that I’m noticing. I am watching the transformation of how the person feels. Those scenes are never just about feeling great for the day or treating yourself after a job promotion or personal achievement. They are always these enormous life-changing moments for those characters. After their makeover, their crush finally notices them or they feel ready to take on an obstacle they couldn’t before.
But can confidence really be achieved in a 90-second montage?
This is where those scenes fall short for me now. Self-confidence takes years, not minutes. Self-love is a marathon, not a sprint. These scenes are not realistic, because they leave out moments of self-forgiveness and the development of self-care routines. They focus on the outside and not on the real work being done on the inside.
So, of course, love that new top you bought that fits like a glove or show off that pedicure you’ve been saving up for all month. But remember, these things are the cherry on top, not the cake itself. They are the jewels in the crown of self-love that you wear every day.
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Madeline is a soon-to-be recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College where she majored in English and Theater. She is looking forward to joining the real world, learning how to cook more than cereal, and living abroad after graduation. Her passions includerunning, music, feminism, and spending way too much time on Instagram.
image via pinterest.com