Miss Congeniality Brings Cultural Issues to the Forefront

Once again you see Sandra Bullock take on a main role in a comedy movie. In a new twist on her traditional romantic comedy movies (The Proposal, Two Weeks Notice, etc.) you see Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, an FBI agent, and not your typical damsel in distress you often times see in movies. Gracie Hart transforms to a tom-boy un-proper girl, to a polished beauty pageant women all while using her skills and saving the day.

Ms. Congeniality has a way of subtly introducing cultural issues or bias into the story line. One example of this is stigma’s when it comes to beauty pageants, this movie makes a lot of effort to open the audiences perception of them. One way in which they do this is Gracie Hart’s (played by Sandra Bullock) characters development. In the start of this movie Gracie Hart has a very negative view even saying

“what could possibly motivate anyone to join a beauty pageant is beyond me”

believing in the typical stereotypes of beauty pageants. Throughout the movie you see Gracie Hart morph more then her appearance but her beliefs to, you see the things beauty pageant women face and see her start to bond with the girls. Toward the end of the movie you see Gracie hart find the positive side of beauty pageants and she finds herself very protective of her fellow pageant woman even going so far as saying

“if anyone tries to hurt my new friends, I would take them out, I would make them suffer so much they’d wish they were never born, and if they tried to run, I would hunt them down”.

Along with trying to break stereotypes, this movies gives you a little hint at a much bigger issue, sexual assault and self defense. Through the Cheryl Frasier (played by Heather Burns) character you get a glimpse at issues women face when it comes to things like sexual assault. Cheryl tells Gracie Hart that she was attacked by her professor in college, when Gracie asks Cheryl if she reported that professor, she responds that she didn’t tell anyone because she

“knows it happens all the time”.

This hints at a bigger issue in our culture where we normalize unacceptable behavior like attacking a women. In addition the movie then goes on to show the importance in teaching people self defense. In Gracie Hart’s final talent act at the pageant she mentions how important it is for women to be able to protect themselves and even teaches people how to do so in a hilarious way. The writers do a brilliant job of actually teaching people who watch this movie some of those techniques because the hilarity of those scenes help them stick in your brain. In addition they use techniques that help you remember like a mnemonic device, SING (solar plexus, instep, nose,and groin).

Sexual assault and harassment is a leading problem for women in our society today, with new scandals coming out all the time, including the recent Harvey Weinstein Scandal. America was shook when multiple accusations of various sexual misconduct came out about Harvey Weinstein that lead to even more actresses and women to speak out about similar experiences with Weinstein. This is just one example in a long cultural trend of men in high power positions using their position to sexually assault and harass like in scandals including Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, etc. As a country we have allowed these kind of scandals to continue to keep happening. Through devices like victim blaming, turning a blind eye, and greed we have created a society in which we justify this behavior or under-prosecute people due to financial/social status. It is mind blowing to think that the issues talked about in Miss Congeniality a movie made in 2000 has just as much relevance, or maybe even more, today as it did 17 years ago. Things like technology and weapons have grown leaps and bounds in the last 5 years let alone the last 17 years, I mean 17 years ago the idea that new technology could be so affordable/commonplace (like an iPhone) would seem insane, yet it is. The real question is with all this advancement why is there so little when it comes to sexual assault and harassment problems? Why as a society to we focus on greed and technology rather then human rights issues?

In addition to bringing up cultural issues throughout the film Miss. Congeniality, the production team also does a great job of music choices that fit with the theme of the movie. For example in some scenes they try to convey a sort of classy vibe by using classic songs like “shes a lady” by Tom Jones when Gracie Hart gets a complete make over, becoming a “lady” and feminine,soft songs like “one in a million” by Bosson during the pageant finale.

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