“Shallow Hal wants a gal,” that line sums up most of this movie.
Whether or not you’ve heard of this story specifically, I’m sure you’ve heard that Beauty is not only skin deep, and it’s about what’s inside.
That’s all well and good. But does this movie make that point well?
Here’s the good and bad of Shallow Hal.
Good: Hal is a loser, who’s trying to find a hottie to go out with, but he’s not that good looking, so most of the hotties he meets aren’t interested in him. Even his neighbor, Jill, who’s less shallow, is disgusted by his shallowness and not interested.
But after a self-help guru helps him broaden his horizons (sort of) Hal starts getting successful with the hotties he’s flirting with. They seem a bit surprised by his attentions, but they go along. Then he meets Rosemary, a blonde beauty with a great personality who’s also really nice. He’s scored big time!
Until he finds out that he’d be seeing everyone as they are on the inside.
Long story short, Hal gets over his shock, and his shallowness because he’s fallen in love with Rosemary for who she really is. They go off to live happily ever after (after a few hurdles he has to clear.)
Bad: This movie’s number one sin is how stereotypical it is. The whole plot almost revolves around stereotypes. Even though the guru says “We’re all brainwashed to see certain things as beautiful, by society.” (I paraphrase.)
But the movie implies that society is partly right. If a girl is nice, smart, and funny, then she’s obviously not pretty. Or she’s pretty but doesn’t realize it. And there is some evidence in Rosemary’s character to support this. She’s pretty, in her own way, but believes she’s ugly and fat. She is fat, but Hal still thinks she’s beautiful when he finally sees her at the end.
But what made me kind of annoyed is that anytime we, as the audience, see Rosemary in a good light is when she looks like Gweneth Paltrow, who plays her. Whenever we see her as fat, she’s always being insecure, upset, and otherwise less desirable. We don’t get to see her humor or smarts except when she looks pretty.
This might seem to defy the stereotype that pretty girls are stupid or mean, but it really doesn’t. We know the whole time what she really looks like, The effect is that at the end it’s hard to see why Hal is attracted to her, since we’ve never seen chemistry between him and her in her real form.
Say as much as you like about what her real form actually is, it still doesn’t work in the context of movie where you need to be able to see it.
Also, I find it offensive that the movie doesn’t give one example of a pretty girl in real life who was also pretty on the inside. Other than Rosemary that is. I’m not sure she counts.
Possibly there were one or two, but we don’t see for sure, so it seems incomplete. Also there’s no example of an ugly person who was ugly on the inside.
The movie ignores the fact that inner beauty makes outer beauty and inner ugliness makes outer ugliness. Which is a tried and true fact. Lots of people have observed it and written of it.
It’s a valid point to make that Hal never was looking for either inner beauty or ugliness, so of course he missed both.
But does that help us as the audience? The movie lays down no real guidelines as to discerning inner beauty, other than that someone does things which are culturally perceived as nice.
But wouldn’t even a beauty want to help her Grandma?
Couldn’t people working at the Peace Corp have bad motives?
The nurse at the hospital does indeed look ugly, and act ugly. But we never see her in real life to know if she was pretty on the outside or if she was ugly there too.
We just don’t know.
Maybe I am asking more of this movie than it ever meant to give. I think Shallow Hal is what it intended to be. A slightly different take on a Romantic Comedy in which instead of a girl getting a makeover, a man has to learn to accept her how she is.
But I don’t think it’s true that society has brainwashed us all into perceiving beauty. Different cultures have different ideas of beauty, yes. (Sometimes that can work out in your favor.)
But it would be incredibly racist, as well as untrue, to say that our culture blinds us to the beauty of people in other cultures.
White people can find African American’s attractive; American’s can find Asians attractive; and in many cultures looking American is seen as an enviable thing because they associate wealth and strength with America. While in other cases, looking Jewish or African has made people uglier to countries that hated them.
Sometimes that hatred actually takes advantage of the beauty in those races.
But the point I’m making is, beauty is universally acknowledged. And most people wouldn’t argue about external features being beautiful. Even if they have a different taste.
Just because you like tall, dark, and handsome doesn’t mean you find short or blonde unattractive.
So this brainwashing line of reasoning doesn’t hold up.
In the end Shallow Hal is more about how love makes you desirable than it is about how our culture is wrong about its standards. It’s an okay movie, but there are better sources for the subject of superficiality.
Hope you enjoyed, until next time–Natasha.
One thought on “Shallow Hal”
I certainly didn’t think very deeply about this movie when I saw it. I just figured that since it starred Jack Black it was doomed to be generally lame. Your points are valid, however, and thinking back the movie doesn’t really accomplish what it pretends to be attempting.
Reading what others see differently than my mind perceives is good for expanding my view of the world. Thanks!
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