Beauty Standards in "Tall Girl"

Curator's Note

In Netflix’s “Tall Girl” (2019), high school student Jodi is seen as “other” because she is 6’1”, taller than any girl (or boy) in school, leading other students to bully her and even liken her to Sasquatch. Jodi attempts to control and discipline her unruly, unacceptable body by consenting to a makeover from her pageant queen sister, who seemingly effortlessly conforms to traditional beauty standards. Through the use of normatively feminine clothes, makeup, and hairstyles, Jodi attempts to gain social acceptance.

Jodi’s mother comes along for the makeover (her sister says, “Fixing you is a two-person job”) and gives feedback on lipsticks offered by a saleswoman: one is “too vampy,” while another is “not vampy enough,” indicating the precarious line Jodi must toe in order to present as acceptably feminine.

This makeover scene takes place at the mall, thereby reinforcing the idea that money must be spent to correct those aberrations and be deemed socially acceptable. After debuting her “new look,” Jodi’s peers react more positively toward her, signaling that conforming to beauty standards works. In addition to encouraging conformity, beauty ideals uphold capitalistic systems. 

Though Jodi is “freakishly tall,” she’s also thin, white, able-bodied, and pretty. In other teen movies featuring makeovers as vehicles for characters to gain social acceptance, the subject of the makeover is usually such a girl: someone already on the precipice of meeting traditional beauty standards but for one quirk — perhaps she wears dark clothes and makeup, or has glasses and doesn’t wear makeup at all. Or in this case, is tall.

That an "offense" like being tall can render one’s body monstrous establishes a clear but fine line between what is acceptable and what is not, and underscores the work of disciplining the body that all girls — especially those are not as close to being as “acceptably feminine” as Jodi is — must do, for no deviation from the norm is too small to be grounds for ostracism. This scene contributes to an entire genre of makeover media that teaches girls to self-surveil their bodies for defects — and self-discipline those defects by any means necessary.  

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