Msnowe's Blog

Complex Rex

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 27, 2010

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?

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