Pageant Girls Take on Pizza
by Caroline Gwaltney
Miss Congeniality (2000) is a movie about the Miss United States pageant. There is an FBI investigation on a bombing threat, and Gracie is assigned to go undercover to investigate the situation. Gracie, in the movie, was introduced to the audience as a messy tomboy who is everything a pageant girl is not. In the picture above, Gracie eats a steak, pasta, and beer. The beer is what stands out the most. Pageant girls are ‘proper’ and would not be caught drinking beer. They also wouldn’t be seen eating a carb-filled meal, something like pasta. Gracie’s manners also stand out in the film. She chewed with her mouth open, spoke while she chewed, and, overall, just lacked basic manners. So, how is Gracie going to become a pageant girl? They gave her a complete make-over, taught her some manners, and practiced for the pageant for hours until she looked like a true pageant girl, including how to eat and what not to eat. Her pageant coach had to steal the donuts she was hiding while practicing for the pageant. At first, her lack of manners, hygiene, and eating habits were all barriers between her and the other pageant girls. Once she connects with them more, compromising some of their lifestyle, she lets them see her old habits. What was a barrier originally ended up becoming a bridge between her and the other pageant girls. Gracie and the pageant girls ultimately bonded over a carb-filled meal of pizza and beer.
Once Gracie arrived at the pageant site, there was a brunch for all the girls. She comes in and meets Miss Rhode Island and some other girls. They are portrayed as stuck-up pageant girls, just as a stereotype would make them out to be. They sit down, waiting for the festivities to begin. The only person at the table who eats is Gracie. She eats a bagel with some cream cheese. No comments were made on what she was eating, but later, there were several instances where the girls commented about watching their carbs. It seemed odd since they were all at a brunch for the beginning of the pageant, but Gracie was the only one eating. Gracie being the only one eating further separates her from the other pageant girls.
As the movie progresses, the gap between the stereotypical pageant girls appears to be closing as Gracie begins to understand them more. However, Gracie still has her ways and brings pizza for a group. Gracie was becoming more like them, but she wanted to share her attitude towards food with them. She got a large cheese pizza for them to share (Figure 1). The facial expression of all the pageant girls makes it obvious how they feel about the pizza. They rush to it because of how good it smells, and they look at it and know how ‘bad’ it is, even though it smells so good. It didn’t end there, either. Gracie took them to a trashy bar where paint was thrown on them. They took shots, drank beer, and ate more pizza! The pictures, the beer at the bar, and the pizza were a significant contrast from what the girls are normally used to. They are used to eating non-fat, low-carb foods and being prim and proper. At least, this is how the movie portrays them. This was the ultimate bonding experience for the group of pageant girls, and at this point in the film, Gracie seemed to fit in finally. They all bonded over junk food!
Miss Congeniality. Dir. Donald Petrie. Castle Rock Entertainment, 2000.