Makeovers in Movies Aren’t ‘All That’

A while back, I went to see Funny Face in the NZIFF Autumn Season at the Civic, wherein notoriously uggo Audrey Hepburn gets a wildly unnecessary makeover. It got me thinking a lot about different makeover sequences, and how they reveal a scarily similar message for women: you must be better and you must do this by changing your goddamn face and hair. Otherwise you will have no friends, no success and, most importantly, no boyfriend.

Basically, it feels really crappy sitting in my pyjamas with eczema cream on, watching these beautiful people get made over to be more beautiful for no reason. It hurts my feelings and it’s been around for-bloody-ever. Put on your glasses and prepare to have them snapped – the makeover montage ain’t going anywhere.

Funny Face

Audrey Hepburn is a young intellectual who works in a bookstore and is plucked from obscurity to become a model. Fred Astaire spends a whole musical number telling her that she has a weird face, whilst failing to acknowledge that his own face looks like a wet brioche that has been thrown at a wall.

In order to remedy the cripplingly hideous condition that is “being-Audrey-Hepburn-and-having-the-most-perfect-bone-structure-of-all-time-itis”, she undergoes a “dramatic” makeover, which mostly consists of swapping her tunic for a ball gown. She quickly becomes a model, quickly falls in love with the wet brioche and quickly gives up all of her hopes, dreams and personal pursuits. Audrey Hepburn will reprise this role of “not good enough woman” several years later in My Fair Lady.


Ol’ Jimmy Stewart has got it so bad for this dead woman called Madeleine (Kim Novak) and really lucks out when he finds bookish Judy (Kim Novak), who bears more than a striking resemblance to Madeleine. But there’s one problem, the classic age-old problem: this new chick is dowdy as hell. So Jimmo goes about moulding her into the exact image of Madeleine.

He is a real stickler for detail, and refuses to even kiss her until she has her hair exactly right. “Can’t you just love me the way I am?” Judy pleads, which really makes him mad and his face infamously turn a deep aubergine colour. Judy fears the growing purple face explosion and tells him “I don’t care any more about me”, allowing herself to be well and truly Trinny and Sussanah’d by J.Stew. Not to worry – it all blows up in his purple face by the end.


I don’t feel I need to say a lot here because we all know Grease inside and out, so I’ll just give it a sentence: Girl not good enough for boy until poured into black catsuit.

This movie sets a very annoying precedent for women. There should be subtitles to remind everyone that Olivia Newton John was SEWN INTO that outfit on set and couldn’t go to the bathroom for the whole day. Remember ladies, nothing says “I am a sexy and edgy girl” like having a chronically ruptured bladder.

Ironically, John Travolta poured himself into leather years later for Wild Hogs – and also probably wet himself.

Pretty Woman

Richard Gere gets lost on the way to Gerbil store and asks prostitute Julia Roberts for directions. After a brief interaction, Gere decides to hire her for the week to be his faux girlfriend as he attends various events in Los Angeles, because if there’s one thing women love more than buying accessories, it’s being an accessory. But not before a makeover, because clearly she isn’t going to charm a boardroom in thigh-high boots.

Pretty Woman taught me that if you are wishing to free yourself from the vicious societal trappings of prostitution, you should buy an enormous floppy hat. That’s how you get people to respect you and get someone like Richard Gere to fall in love with you.

Sidenote: after trying this look for summer 2k14 I am happy to report that on a good day, you look like Michael Jackson trying to keep his Lupus at bay and on a bad day, you look like the thing from Jeepers Creepers. Pretty.


Protagonist Cher states that makeovers give her “a sense of control in a world of chaos”, so preys on the curly and bespectacled to satisfy her own rich white girl dilemmas. She begins with her English teacher (via removing glasses) and then moves on to the new girl.

Ty (played by Brittany Murphy (R.I.P)) starts out as a cool and funny tomboy, who continues to be cool and funny except in a mini-skirt and midriff top. Suddenly she becomes very, very, popular. I believe the formula discovered here is miniskirt + midriff top = popularity squared.

She’s All That

Rachel Leigh Cook dons on glasses, overalls and a sound knowledge of art and world events in order to become a revoltingly smart boner-shrinker called Laney. The popular jock (Freddie Prince Jr.) makes a bet with his friends that he can turn any girl into a prom queen. His friends pick Laney after they spot her carrying a big art portfolio around like a true untameable freakburger.

Next minute, she snaps her glasses, puts on a dress, abandons any personality, and walks slowly down the stairs to Sixpence None The Richer. She has to walk slowly because she isn’t wearing her glasses and could break her neck on the stairs at any minute. Voila! Freddie falls in love and she falls in love back even though he has dead black eyes like a shark and refers to her as a “project” rather than a person.

Princess Diaries

Mia Thermopolis finds out that she is heir to the throne of Genovia, but can’t possibly rule with thick eyebrows and curly hair. If Prince Charles has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t be a royal without looking super hot.

Her Grandmother brings in a set of European beauticians wearing plastic coats and Morpheus glasses to primp and preen her. They snap her glasses, straighten her hair and pluck the crap out of her eyebrows. This is all undermined later when she insists on wearing a big hat over it and then makes her maiden speech in down-to-earth wet hair and hoodie. Shame, grandma.

The list goes on and on. Makeovers continue to be the “solution” to women’s problems. Other examples include My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The House Bunny, Never Been Kissed, Jawbreaker, Mean Girls, and of course, the founding text that screwed it all up for everyone: Cinderella.

Obviously, as long as the beauty industry and fashion and consumption in general exists, so will the makeover. There is a very dangerous implication that a woman’s worth is in her image, and that her value as a human increases as she gets more conventionally beautiful. It’s times like these we need a little reality check from spirit guide Diana Vreeland:

“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.”

It is also absurd that these beautiful women are being made “ugly” or “geeky” in movies just by putting them in overalls and glasses. It sets an impossible standard for us normal people – what if we fancy wearing a lovely pair of overalls? Might as well do a pin drop deep into the nearest dumpster.

And finally, I’m sick of seeing glasses getting snapped. Glasses are expensive. I only know this because my friends wear glasses. Not me, I’m not some kind of bloody nerd.