We All Just Want Makeovers

There is a part early in the article where Weber mentions a positive aspect of this makeover culture. She says that it is the “assumption that women rightfully belong to the collective citizenry, provided they are willing to transform into signifiers of that citizenry’s values.” While I don’t disagree with the point Weber is making, I question whether that’s really a positive aspect of this very problematic phenomenon. Even if it is suggesting that women are belonging to this citizenry, why is that a good thing? This collective citizenry is one that endorses a makeover culture and a very specific type of beauty, as Weber states in the article. It is a “racially normative” woman who “participates in consumer culture.” This is not the culture that we should be striving to be included in, surely, but rather we should be working towards a radical reworking of the current system that we are oppressed under.

Another thing that I questioned about Weber’s argument was the target audience for these makeovers. While it might be true that the audience is “white, female, working class, middle-class and middle-aged bodies,” I think that it is important for Weber to mention form the beginning that the affect is far reaching. The trope of the teenage girl makeover is a very prevalent one, and something that I’ve though about for as long as I can remember. There is a scene in the movie Clueless where the characters Cher and Dionne give Ty, the new girl in school, a makeover. After the makeover, Cher is noticed by guys and becomes so popular that she ditches Cher and Dionne, the people who ‘made’ her this way.

As a pre-adolescent and teenager I dreamed of having a makeover like Ty in Clueless. Like Weber discusses, the subject of the makeover becomes a “citizen” (usually of the US, or wherever the show is based) and in Ty’s case this means a citizen of the popular crowd at the high school. While she is white, they encourage her to change the way she speaks, fitting her the tropes that Weber discusses—a “racially normative” person of the correct class, which in this case is upper-middle class. As a citizen of the popular crowd at the high school, Ty also becomes someone who talks down about people whom she liked before the makeover. Getting the makeover creates a version of Ty that is not her true self. As Weber states, “After-bodies are not simply distinctive from Before, they are different from all other bodies in a plurality that has not (yet) undergone a makeover.” Something is being projected onto these people as the way that they should be, and suggests that changing the outside look of a person changes everything about them. Your appearance is not only malleable, but the definition of yourself. This is true for Ty, to an extent. While much of her makeover seems to stick, by the end of the movie she has realized how poorly she has acted to the people around her, and is dating the guy who (after the makeover) she deemed a loser and not worthy of her time. This further exemplifies the malleability and way makeovers can easily be retracted or reversed.

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3 thoughts on “We All Just Want Makeovers

  1. In reading the selections from Makeover TV, I was also reminded of the overused and oft-expected makeover scene in most teen and pre-teen films. Growing up, I lived for these over-the-top scenes. In a way, they did teach me womanhood and gave me a look into a world of glamour that I hoped to inhabit once I was of age. Not surprisingly, no one was there to dye my hair and do my makeup for me once I turned hit teendom. However, I now wonder why these makeover montages are useful in films made for a younger audience.

    In Mean Girls, Cady Heron’s makeover transformation is subtler and progresses gradually, but there is still a noticeable physical and inner makeover. But again, the film arrives at the message that everybody is a little quirky and inner beauty reigns supreme at last. Like with Clueless, the protagonists only change so much—or not much at all—in proportion to their physical change. I do think that Weber would agree with this, though. She’s not trying to further propel the notion that makeovers wholly change someone’s interior, she’s just pointing out that these shows trick us, the viewers, into thinking that.

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  2. When I read the chapters from Weber, I was reminded of a TV makeover that’s slightly different from the ones we see in Clueless and Mean Girls, but one that I think perfectly embodies the “positive” Weber sees in makeover culture. I was reminded of Season 1, Episode 5 of Gossip Girl (Dare Devil), when Blair invites Jenny to her annual soiree. I think the transformation (both physical and behavioral) that Jenny undergoes in this episode perfectly embody what Weber says that makeover culture contains the “assumption that women rightfully belong to the collective citizenry, provided they are willing to transform into signifiers of that citizenry’s values.” Not only does Jenny have to physically change her looks (losing the simple hoodie and jeans she arrived in in favor of a strapless yellow cocktail dress that her brother Dan describes as a napkin and even she confesses to not feeling right in), she also has to engage in all the wilder sides of the elite Upper East Side girls’ world, like drinking, clubbing, and shoplifting. Because she is willing to engage in these behaviors, she becomes inducted into the collective citizenry of Blair and her friends. But is it really the positive that Weber makes it out to be? Gossip Girl fans know Jenny’s ultimate fate. Was that really the positive Weber makes it out to be?

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  3. In 7th grade, I tried to get « in » with the popular girls. Once they accepted me as one of their own (their moms made them be friends with me since they were friendly with my mom), two girls came to my house after school one day and decided to give me a makeover. They were so excited that they, the “attractive” girls (this is 7th grade so in retrospect we were ALL pretty unfortunate looking) would give me, the chubby girl with ill-fitting clothes, a makeover. I was also so excited, because finally, I could be like one of them, accepted into their clique and maybe being able to attend a boy-girl party! What a day it was. They straightened my hair, put on pale blue sparkly eyeshadow (from Claire’s), and frosted pink lip gloss. They picked out an Abercrombie skirt, knee high socks, and ugg tasmans for me to wear. The outfit was completed with a Lacoste polo. They dressed me like they did and did my hair and makeup like them. I was so excited! But when I looked in the mirror, I was kind of disappointed. Yes, I maybe looked a little better with makeup and straightened hair (my hair used to be wavy), but I was still pretty chubby. My teeth were still crooked, and I still had gigantic eyebrows. Even though I tried to change these things, I still could not be like those girls. It took until I reached adulthood to understand that I will never be as naturally thin as those girls were, that I will never have the more delicate features that they did, and that if I got my eyebrows done regularly, they were manageable. The makeover taught me that unless I did serious, serious work on my body, I will never be able to look like how I thought I was supposed to. And now I realize, that’s okay.

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