Have any of you seen or heard of this yet? Yeah, it’s a makeover show called Plain Jane, and m.snowe happened to come upon it a few days ago. As an experiment in “what the hell people find entertaining these days on teevee,” m.snowe took mental notes and made some observations.
Some fancy, smartly dressed, airbrushed twiggy British woman is the host, or the fairy godmother of the plain janes if you will. She seems to be the style/makeover equivalent of Super Nanny.
The opening credits have her saying this:
“Meet plain jane, she’s ordinary, awkward and forgettable. Every Plain Jane has a secret crush, but she can’t imagine telling him how she feels.”
She then trolls on about “style and confidence” being the main things she wishes to impart on her acolytes.
Are you still with me here? If you’re anything like m.snowe, you are already bristling and indignant. Without the throwaway reference to boosting confidence, this is basically a makeover show that tells young women, some of whom are actually quite interesting, that their main priority when seeking happiness is style and fashion. In the episode I watched, the “jane” was quite interesting–a photographer, and she seemed to have a good sense of humor, albeit she was a bit shy. She was the opposite of forgettable–if anyone on the show was, it was the host–she had the same Hollywood face and skin-tight fashion that has been paraded in front of us by scores of dating shows, reality television, and sitcoms. As the faces increasingly rush towards society’s accepted vision of what it means to be hot, they become more and more like each other, and utterly unmemorable.
The etymology of the term “plain jane,” is said to have come from Jane Eyre. Sure, Charlotte Bronte tells us in the novel that Jane Eyre is decidedly not a beauty, and could be described in appearance as “plain.” But anyone worth their salt would know that being like Eyre is something to aspire to–she is fiercely independent, and committed to her beliefs. She is wise and artfully arranged. Many scholars have latched on to Eyre (and Bronte) as a groundbreaking characterization of feminism. For some reason, Jane Eyre is a heroine, whereas the term supposedly spawned by her is absolutely a negative. It’s not surprising that some enterprising fellow distorted the positives of Eyre and used her appearance to negate all her natural attributes. Just like this show.
Let’s remind our friends at Plain Jane the show what exactly they are taking their name from. To summarize quickly–Jane Eyre does not change in appearance throughout Bronte’s narrative. She doesn’t get made up, and even resists the gifts of fancy French clothing Mr. Rochester tries to foist upon her, repeatedly. She wins Rochester’s love, initially, by her own charms–her own determination, good works, and even-keeled character. When she discovers the strong and rich lord’s folly, she gets the heck out of dodge with aplomb. It’s only when he comes back, a changed and ruined man, that he truly understands her many strengths. He is now blind and maimed. Yet he finally sees her as the triumphant person she was all along.
So this is m.snowe’s humble suggestion to teevee show producers: why not have a different show–one that finds these “plain janes,” discovers their positive attributes, and then makes their love interest observe them unawares, and give them a better sense of how wonderful they truly are? And don’t think I’m prejudiced against men here–they should do this for both genders, and sexual orientations, for that matter. Because the makeup and clothes and high heels are just accessories, and you’re still stuck with the person who was temporarily adorned with them at the end of the episode. So maybe, instead of working backwards, why not work with the Mr. Rochesters of our age–the “Complex Rexes” if you will, and show them what they are missing.
**Oh yeah, and this whole show is an exercise in “getting the guy,” which is clearly a woman’s duty in life. Am I right?
According to recent polls, 18% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. He goes to a Christian church (sometimes), but best guess is he’s actually pretty secular. No one, even most Republican politicians (mainstream ones, anyway) are willing to confirm what 18% believe to be true.
Whatever. The word “Muslim” is a stand-in for what some (most right of center) folks use to scare others and themselves. While m.snowe might not like Islam’s take on womanhood, she does believe in the freedoms of the Constitution to practice one’s religion, given it is not violent or impedes another’s Constitutional rights. Clearly, we don’t know enough about Islamism as we pretend.
Tangents. So anyway, m.snowe was curious. Shielded as she is in metropolitan and socially advanced NYC, perhaps around 1/5 of her friends and acquaintances are in the clear from this gross ignorance.
But here are just a few other interesting 18 percentages:
—18% of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. Geocentrism lives!
–m.snow’s just gonna link to this. You can decide how you want to take it.
Hey Crosley, let’s talk about some of the things all the women in the reading audience were thinking when they read your almost unreadable op-ed in the NYTimes the other day.
Your most egregious paragraph is thus–
“Third, and this one every woman in the crowd was thinking but was articulated by a friend when she leaned toward my ear and shouted, her words vibrating painfully: ‘Well, at least she’s got the body for it.’ True, she did.”
#1–EVERY WOMAN in a crowd doesn’t think anything collectively. We are not some homogeneous mass of chicken heads (unless, of course, we all happen to be irredeemable hipsters talking about that awesome concert we just went to the other night, of that band you’ve never heard of, that are actually quite painful to listen to, but dammit, hipsterdom is pain). m.snowe would laugh if you were saying this with some kind of irony. But she really thinks you aren’t. And that’s sad. Not only do you characterize women as all unoriginal, pre-programmed twits, you’ve made us incredibly shallow and vain. Your article also reveals how vain you are. How many times do we have to hear about bare calves, cadbury-fed thighs, etc.?
#2 — Chicken-fight metaphors linked to nudity are an incredible stretch. Even the Goofy/Pluto pants /no pants question is one worth more intellectual toil.
#3 — You employ phrases such as “sexy groundhogs,” and a “hairdryer’s version of surround sound.”
#4 — This entire closing paragraph:
“You see, nudity’s permanence would still require an unfathomable shift in our culture, not just an unbearable spike in our thermometers. Frankly, New Yorkers don’t have the system to support a permanent change right now. We have enough riding on our shoulders.”
–Oh look, you tied it back to chicken-fighting! Aren’t you clever! Except, all your cutesy (intellectually insufferable) similes and metaphors don’t actually claim anything. Basically, your article, striped of its horribly stretched word play, reads: “OMG, it’s HOT!” You don’t really support anything, and you don’t really accurately describe anything about NYC either–you just expanded on some of the crazy thoughts in your head on the way back from a concert. Please tell us you were drunk. Thnx.
There are at least 20 more comments m.snowe could make. One of which is–NYTimes, how did you let this get posted?