Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” Struggles to Empower Women

 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons  Amy Schumer's latest film, "I Feel Pretty," was released on Friday, April 20.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Amy Schumer's latest film, "I Feel Pretty," was released on Friday, April 20.

BY JAHIYA CLARK ’20

Society has conditioned women to believe that they must look “pretty” to be happy, but how valuable is  feeling “pretty?” In Amy Schumer’s new comedy “I Feel Pretty,” the running joke for most of the film is that the main character, Renee Bennett (played by Schumer, “Trainwreck”) thinks she is conventionally pretty. After a cycling-related head injury, the “old” Renee, who didn’t feel comfortable in her body and felt lesser than other, “hotter” girls (like “Gone Girl”’s Emily Ratajkowski), is transformed into a prettier, more confident version of herself. The joke is that it’s only in her head.

The audience never finds out what Renee thinks she looks like but we assume it is something on par with the beautiful Michelle Williams (“The Greatest Showman”), who plays Renee’s boss. But it is obvious that the biggest change in Renee is the boost in confidence and ego — the two become interchangeable as the movie progresses. Renee is able to upgrade her life with a new job, wardrobe and man. Yet she falls for common “ugly girl makeover” cliches, such as making cooler friends and leaving her old ones behind, falling for a hot guy who she thinks wouldn’t be interested in her old self and, of course, oversexualizing herself for male enjoyment. 

Many critics have agreed that Schumer’s intentions may have been to make a movie about body positivity, yet the film doesn’t completely deliver. Schumer’s message of “all women have to do to be pretty is be confident” is superficial and only represents a “hyper-commercialized [version of] feminism,” as stated in a review in the Chicago Reader. Another plotline in the film is Renee’s  constant reminding of her identity as a “real woman.” Schumer’s brand of slapstick comedy finds most of its jokes at the expense of her character who thinks she’s “pretty,” yet is obviously not the type of woman Western society idolizes. Contradictory to its message of self-love, viewers will actually find themselves laughing uncontrollably at the ridiculousness of Renee’s various predicaments. Schumer signs up for a wet T-shirt contest in a dirty bar, goes to secret Chinese restaurant parties and becomes possibly the most sought-after receptionist in all of New York.  

Though  Schumer does not always hit the mark, she does attempt to debase the popular idea that beauty is only skin-deep. The age old rhetoric that all “hot” girls are mean and “regular” girls are boring is proven wrong in “I Feel Pretty.” Set in New York City at an upscale beauty magazine, viewers are met with different characters who both fit and dispel stereotypes. In a “Vulture” review, Schumer is likened to the Muppets star Miss Piggy, a glamorous, confident character who people often forgot was a pig because of her high-quality personality. 

It’s difficult to find a deeper meaning in “I Feel Pretty” besides the theme that even if everyone thinks you’re ugly, you’re not if you don’t believe it. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, at the film’s premiere at the Westwood Village Theater in Los Angeles, Schumer said she made the film for her 12-year-old self, who battled low self-esteem. Schumer hoped the film would “heal” those who also struggled with self-esteem. However, there aren’t any real takeaways from the film for young girls to look up to. The film’s writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (who collaborated on “The Vow” and made their directorial debut with “I Feel Pretty”) try to win the audience over with heartfelt monologues — that don’t really touch the heart — about what’s important in Renee’s life: true friends.

That being said, it is a comedy. Most viewers will find themselves entertained, but in the #MeToo era, we need to expect more from films claiming to empower women.

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