Miss Congeniality

Analyse the concepts of gender and sexism in Gracie Hart’s supposed journey ugly duckling to beauty pageant swan, weighing the various kinds of positive and negative depictions of women, particularly beauty pageant contestants.
How are common tropes of the though guy/girl, the ditsy blonde, etc. presented? Are the viewers expectations challenged? If so, is that the intention of such a film? How does the film hold up?

  • I think the film did a pretty great job at representing real-life women with Sandra Bullock's character. I think the idea behind the stereotypical females in the pageant was purposeful but they used Sandra to counteract that. But I do see your point about whether or not that challenges us. – hannahshort 5 years ago
  • I don't think it's worth distinguishing between 'positive' and 'negative' portrayals of women unless you define both definitions. What's a 'positive' depiction of a woman? One who is confident in themselves and how they present their gender? Are these definitions defined on the basis of how the characters see themselves, or how WE see them (as either validating or opposing our ideals of how women should be depicted?) You could talk about men and how they might be the ones constructing these positive/negative depictions of women... But, I would much rather say that these depictions are intentionally stereotypical to serve the wider narrative, which in my opinion, is about women competing for self-empowerment. That's what the Miss America pageant is all about, right? Why antagonist Kathy Morningside wants to crap on everyone's parade, and why Gracie struggles to get her boss (and stylist) to see her side of things. Gender certainly plays a role in these situations, and the movie shouldn't be excused for bordering on sexual harassment at some stages. But I personally think the film sends a good message. I think, on a basic level, the film subverts (or experiments) with what we'd typically associate with a 'strong, confident woman'. A strong, confident woman can be a badass like Gracie, or an attention-seeking maniac like Kathy, or fire-baton twirler Cheryl. The film first uses these stereotypical depictions to distinguish between Gracie and the rest of the contestants, but by the end, it tells us that hey, it's okay to have the best of both worlds. One thing to note is that Gracie didn't achieve self-empowerment by becoming a 'beauty pageant swan', nor did she ever lose that confidence entering the pageant as an 'ugly duckling'. She became empowered through her newfound female friends, the only thing she, a strong confident woman, was lacking. That, I think, is the significance behind 'Miss Congeniality'. Besides world peace. Yeah. – Starfire 5 years ago
  • Miss Congeniality, I think, had a lot of female empowering concepts that they used brilliantly. The idea that a woman who was widely regarded as unattractive to the male population and undermined by her superiors ended up relying on herself to save these women who she, herself, first thought were ditsy and a poor representation of the female population but then came to find that they were real women with real opinions. The idea of the Miss America pageant in the film came across more of a battle for Gracie because of the standardised ideas of what beauty means for the female population and how a woman such as herself overcame these. I'd like to see more of how the movie overcame stereotypical depictions of women and pageants, and even villains. The whole movie is a great girl power movie that can be related, in some sense, to the brilliance of Legally Blonde. – CarlyStarr 5 years ago

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