Personal Response: Pygmalion

While watching Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, I realized how deeply ingrained the idea of male chauvinism and glow up culture is present in our society. My first impression about Eliza Doolittle is that she is just trying to get a better life for herself by undergoing an extreme transformation. Doolittle is handcrafted into Higgins prefect little creature, to the point where he thinks no one else but him should “have” her. 

The idea of “male chauvinism” and “glow-up” culture disturbs me. In the media, we see this trope of glowing up: a way of expressing one’s growth through a drastic change in appearance, usually making the character more visually acceptable to societal beauty standards. These young women in the media go through a vast transformation in popular movies and TV shows, such as Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, She’s All That, and many more.

Why is there such a big presence of glow ups in the media? Why do we enjoy a typical makeover? We see these makeovers in coming of age or romantic movies. No surprise but these makeovers are toxic towards women. The women in these films are physically changing to fit society’s ideal beauty standards of that time. This discriminates against a vast majority of young girls and women. But it also says that if you want to change to become a “better person” or experience some sort of growth, you’ll have to change your appearance to fit this ideal beauty. Not only is changing your looks to fit this ideal problematic but it is also with the help of a man. The men in these movies are shown as “trying” to help their romantic interest by making their conquests more socially acceptable. Like in Pygmalion, Higgins buys and teaches Doolittle everything, to the point of her not having a say of what she wants to be. In all of the before mentioned movies, all of the women go through a transformation not by their own prerogative, but by someone telling them they have too, or by someone helping them change. This change usually stripes the main character of their usual charm.

I believe that we should move away from physical transformation in the media and focus more on discovering one’s inner values. I think it is important to have a clean appearance, but we should be able to express ourselves and our flaws. In Pygmalion, it upsets me that Doolittle couldn’t get a job because of the way she speaks. Without Higgins’s or Pickering’s help there would be no way for Doolittle to get out of poverty. It is interesting that society puts so much value on looks; does this really enhance what’s important to our inner values?

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