Movie makeovers are a staple in the chick-flick, teen, romcom genre and some of the most fun moments you will see in cinema, especially if you were growing up in the noughties. Emulating these scenes at sleepovers with your friends was undoubtedly the best way to spend a weekend.
Last week the trailer for ‘He’s All That’ was released; a sequel-come-spin-off of the popular 1999 film ‘She’s All That,’ which famously centres on a teenage boy attempting to transform a teenage girl into Prom Queen for the sake of a bet (you’ve probably seen a gif of this, if not the film.) This time, however, the roles are reversed, and a young female social media influencer is tasked with transforming the school ‘loser’ into Prom King. I’ve not seen the film yet so maybe it’s too premature to comment but my first thought upon seeing it, after a suitably dramatic sigh, was ‘really?’
As much as I love The Princess Diaries, Mean Girls, Clueless and more (and trust me, I really do love them), watching those makeover scenes through the lense of a late twenty-something, makes me feel deflated and just a little sad. All the makeovers in those films occur because the character doesn’t fit the aesthetic that is expected in order to be popular, powerful and successful, at least in high-schooler terms. They are basically told that who they are is incorrect and they must change their physical appearance otherwise they will be miserable failures. The saddest part for me is that they are usually witty, passionate girls with ferocious interests and their physical transformations always seem to turn them into hyper-feminine versions of themselves because that’s the goal that women should be aspiring to. Lest we forget the final scene in Grease where Sandy completely overhauls her look because it will make her boyfriend and his friends more accepting of her? Admittedly, Danny tries to do the same thing with his preppy cardi but that comes flying off as soon as Sandy takes a drag on her cigarette and calls him a stud.
I’m not against makeovers, I know they can show a character’s growth on the inside as much as the outside, and when I think of how Queer Eye’s Fab Five approach a makeover, my main takeaways are the warmth and respect they show for the people they’re working with. Wouldn’t it be nice if our fictional narratives followed the same pattern?
I understand that ‘He’s All the That’ is probably trying to rectify decades of double-standards for women but I’m not sure that changing genders does anything to combat these issues. Regardless of the character’s gender, telling someone that they need to present as someone else is a message that I’m well and truly over. Like ‘fetch’, let’s stop trying to make it happen.