Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gracie Hart Being a 'Good' Girl

This week’s reading is focused on gender and sexuality in society, and more importantly how these concepts are socially constructed. Members of society are conditioned to act a certain way, or more accurately, enact a certain role: heterosexual male and female. According to Jean-Anne Sutherland’s article Constructing Empowered Women, and personal observation, failing or refusing to enact your gender role will cause you to receive negative sanction from your society. The movie that came to mind when it comes to gender roles was Miss Congeniality (2000) starring Sandra Bullock, where she plays a masculine FBI agent, clearly strong and powerful within the work force. The transformation she has to go through in order to go under cover for a job is an excellent example of gender roles in societal productions and reproduction. Bullock’s character, Gracie, transforms from a woman who doesn’t follow the conventional role of her gender, which demands her to be subordinate to men in her field. She becomes a beauty contest contestant, the quintessential female of our society. She learns how to walk in heals, speak like a women, and most importantly, become weak and emotional: showing femininity. Basically, Gracie learns how to be the complete opposite of what she used to be: a powerful woman who is feared in her field.
Gracie’s transformation and plot line is a process in which her power type changes. In the beginning, Gracie character has power-over, where she exude power and strength, things a male character usually embodies. And while in other films, such as The Devil Wears Prada (2006), the powerful character is fashionable and classy, in this film Gracie not only embodies the characteristics of males, she also enacts that: sloppy, messy, careless about her looks. After her physical transformation, Gracie learns how to enact her gender role, and she begins to care about the way she looks, her manners, and how she is presented in front of her love interest. However, Gracie’s transformation in power seems to be similar to Sutherland’s definition of Power-to relations. Gracie becomes aware of the power her gender holds, and almost as if it’s a reverse of what Sutherland’s explanation of the power-to concept, in which women realize how restrictive their circumstance is, Gracie realizes the power of her hyper-sexualized image society chooses to view. Eventually, Gracie saves the day and gets the man, coincidentally after she becomes more attractive. In the end of the film, Gracie’s looks seem to be a compromise between her initial image and the beauty contest image. This is a characteristic of the makeover subgenre of the Women’s Film.

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