Funny, but I like this trope. Or rather I like the idea behind it, even if the execution often leaves a lot to be desired. The idea that a woman really is beautiful or worth noticing if only a man cares to look. That, I believe, is how it should be.
Unfortunately, the truth is usually that said woman is made into someone else’s idea of beautiful by going through a transformation that’s wholly against the grain of their usual self. Worse yet, it’s often to please someone else. And of course, once they’ve done that, they realise that this new person is who they were all along and that they’re happier this way.
The first time I came across this as an idea (one that I understood and paid attention to, rather than just taking it as it as it appeared) was watching the extras commentary for The Mummy. The director was talking about the Evie character and the line I’ll always remember is: ‘Then she did the classic thing: she changed her clothes and took down her hair.’ Personally, I think Rachel Weisz is stunning whatever the hell you do to her, but I’m not the one writing these film scripts . . . pity . . .
And that is this trope in a nut shell. A woman who, at the start of the novel is prim, proper and all those other ‘boring’ words goes through some sort of change. Either she makes a decision or something happens to her that forces a change that she (usually) fights against. Through doing so, this woman is revealed to be a stunner: all she had to do was take down her hair/take off her glasses/loose the baggy clothes/stop stuttering/loose the tom-boy clothes/start smoking/looses her braces/wear a
little lot of make up.
There are examples of this trope all over the place and not just in erotica. Just off the top of my head here are a few examples (some are books adapted into films, others are just films):
Hermione Granger – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (it’s magic, Harry!)
Eliza Doolittle – My Fair Lady (Wooooooooooooouldn’t it be laaav-eerr-leeeeeey!)
Gracie Hart – Miss Congeniality (yep, ball gown and a gun. My kinda lady!)
Laney Boggs – She’s All That (doesn’t everyone love that dance scene at the prom?)
Cinderella – Any incarnation you like (though, personally, I like this one)
Tai – Clueless (LOVE this film, haven’t see it for years!)
Sandy Olsen – Grease (still can’t watch this film, thanks, Sis -_-)
Fran – Strictly Ballroom (another I haven’t watched for a long time)
And the absolute classic: Vivian Ward – Pretty Woman (Hell, it’s even in the title!)
It interests me how this idea of what is ‘beautiful’ or ‘sexy’ is often not what a woman starts out as. That she has to change to become beautiful or sexy. If it were simply that the change involved the woman becoming more comfortable in herself, I’d be happy, but it isn’t. Very often it’s about her appearance and how she is perceived by others.
But then, isn’t that the life of a woman in a nutshell?