There is a pernicious sort of cliche (at least in k-dramas, which are more my area) where the girl is dragged off to the high-end of town to be made to try on clothes she would never have picked out for herself, and leaves the place aglow with beauty and a suddenly new idea of her own worth.
Since this is often done under the eye of a male character (or better: on his credit card), there’s a justifiable cynicism toward them. Since (especially in k-dramas) the more deprecating the guy is toward the girl’s appearance the more you know he’s the rich Prince Charming…well. Problematic is a good word for it.
The character is discovering their value as determined by sex appeal.
I was thinking about this as I watched Mean Girls for the first time. (Pondering also a SMS post about the issue with making “evil” girl characters or alter egos inevitably be sexy in counterpoint to the ingenue.)
See, makeovers are about hope.
This was what you know as a young girl: looks matter. You may never become a princess (and goodness, you might not even really want to, apparently you have to behave) but the way people treat you has a lot to do with how well or badly you do the beauty thing.
Which takes time, skill, money.
Even girls like me who spent years feeling vaguely morally superior for not learning these skills and investing that time and money, we knew that it mattered.
And maybe we just needed more help.
So let’s not bag on the way this fantasy of support plays out in media. Instead of making fun of makeover scenes, or even blaming girl characters for having them, how about we talk real about the fact that the skill of dressing and redrawing oneself is complicated?
Because it’s hard to be good at it, and it’s totally okay to not care to be that good.
But it’s also cruel to pretend that hope is silly.