Our thoughts on “I Feel Pretty”

It’s been a week since Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” hit NZ shores and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I don’t think I’ve ever left a movie theatre so conflicted before, and a week later and I’m still processing how I feel. I definitely do know, though, that I don’t feel pretty at all. In fact, I feel pretty ugly.

First things first, let’s talk plot. I Feel Pretty centers around Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) who struggles with low self-esteem bad enough for it to hold her back from living her life. After a brutal fall, she wakes up and finds herself suddenly ‘pretty’ though nothing has changed physically. Thus begins her story.

In many ways I’ve been Renee, walked through her shoes, have felt how she felt to some extent. I, too, have wondered what life would be like if I wasn’t born myself, if I didn’t look the way I do, wasn’t the size that I am, wasn’t the skin colour that I am… how different would life be?

I mean for all its flaws and problematic themes, I did like how they’ve put a very raw and real emotion that I’m sure we’ve all felt at some stage, regardless of who we are and how we look like.

There were other bits in the movie that were great too. Mainly Michelle Williams, Michelle Williams, and Michelle Williams! I didn’t even know she was in this film until I saw her name in the opening credits. Whether you liked the film or not, I think we can all agree that Michelle Williams was the star of that show! I’m so used to seeing her in heavier roles so to see her play a completely different character than her previous roles is exciting. Who knew she possessed such comedic prowess?

The hopeless romantic in me also enjoyed that arc of the film, and even my inner critic couldn’t help but turn a bit soft with that ending.

That being said though, I found that the film had more things that missed the mark completely. I can’t promise this bit will be completely spoiler free so if you’re planning on seeing the movie, stop reading this until you’ve seen it.

I’ve struggled to put my thoughts into something coherent, mainly because this film had a lot going on. When people were laughing at particular scenes throughout the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were seeing the same movie or not. I’m left with a few questions after 2 hours of that and while I have no answers and this is probably going to be one of those situations where I’ll never get closure, I’ll ask them anyway:

Why were all the ‘pretty’ girls so mean? Seriously. You’re telling me that not one of those women were nice and kind and would want to be friends with her because of how she looked? Why are women STILL being pitted against each other? In a society making us constantly choose, telling women we can only either be this or that – pretty or smart, pretty or kind – this just further reinforced that. In the age where so many people are quick to jump in the #realwomensupportingrealwomen #lifteachotherup bandwagon, there was hardly any of that in that narrative aside from her ‘ugly’ friends being the only ‘nice’ friends in her life who genuinely cared about her.

Also in what universe is Busy Philipps and Aidy Bryant considered ugly?! I can’t even with this concept, truly.

While we’re at it… Amy Schumer isn’t even remotely unattractive. Also she’s not fat at all?! I get for Hollywood standards she looks like your ‘typical’ girl on the street, but I found it so hard to sit there and watch Amy Schummer navigate life as an ‘ugly’ girl, let alone an ‘ugly’ girl who thinks she’s ‘pretty’.

Why are we so obsessed with watching ‘fat’ ‘ugly’ people do normal people things and call it ‘comedy’? Why is it hilarious to watch someone we’re told looks ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ enjoy their bodies, think they’re attractive, dance on stage, fall in love, and own their sexuality?

Can we get rid of the notion of ‘pretty’ and ‘ugly’ people? Because really, who are we to decide who’s pretty or not? Who’s worthy of that title or not. It’s exhausting and judgmental and also so harmful to fit ‘pretty’ into just one box. There is no right or wrong way to be ‘pretty’.

I haven’t even touched on the budget make-up storyline yet. I feel like that should be a separate post in itself, and that I can’t really talk about it without giving away the plot too much. It was very reminiscent of 13 going on 30, though.

Lastly, I hated how it invalidates how ‘pretty’ girls feel. That scene where Mallory (played by Emily Ratajowski) opened up about her insecurities (this isn’t a spoiler per se as it’s in the trailer) and Renee goes “I want to punch you in your dumb face right now’ was so horrifying to watch! Everyone has insecurities. To invalidate how someone feel about themselves because they look a certain way is harmful and cruel. It’s like saying you have no right to feel this way because you look like that. That your feelings don’t matter because you’re ‘pretty’ so what real problems could you possibly have? It’s not okay to completely downplay how bad someone is feeling about themselves just because you perceive yourself to be ‘less than’ them.

I went to see it with my best friend, Steph, and we talked about the film at dinner afterwards. At that stage I was trying to pinpoint what made the movie such a disappointment for me. She argued that while the movie was problematic, it was a step in the right direction.

I agree in a way. It made me think. It made me open up my Twitter and see what people are saying. “I Feel Pretty” did a great job in getting people talking – even if what we’re saying is negative. I’ve heard both sides of the argument. Maybe through these conversations we’ll start to be more empathetic and discerning about the implications of movies like “I Feel Pretty” and what it says about not just society but ourselves.

I’ve seen some people argue that we shouldn’t take it too seriously as it’s just a movie. “Lighten up, it’s just entertainment,” they said. But is it though? When we think about what influences culture and society, isn’t it movies, music, art, science, religion a big part of what informs and dictates our ideals? Whether we like it or not, art imitates life, life imitates art. What we see on screen impacts our thinking whether subliminally or not. To say that a movie is just a movie – especially ones like “I Feel Pretty” that had every opportunity to redefine and influence how we see beauty as a whole, to showcase an inclusive sisterhood parallel to the solidarity we are seeing brought on by movements like #metoo and #girlboss – is a great disservice.