During last week's series premiere, it was immediately established that the Scream Queens Kappa sisters are seriously obsessed with beauty and image. In plenty of ways, the depiction is hilariously over the top — I mean, no one at my college had a wardrobe that even came close to Chanel's, and most people are not quite so brazen with their unkind words about other people's appearances. But during the Sept. 29 episode, Chanel gave Hester a major makeover (buh-bye, neck brace) and officially granted her the coveted title of Chanel #6. Of course the scene was hilariously overdone, because not too many people get free clothes from Karl Lagerfeld — even in the world of film and TV. But we've seen this type of transformation on screen more times than I can count. Plenty of movies and TV shows utilize the "surprise!" moment where the supposed ugly duckling turns out to be gorgeous and suddenly all her problems are solved.
Sure, we're all aware that these moments are unrealistic and they usually send the wrong message, but it's uncommon for a TV show to actually use this trope to brazenly poke fun at our society's problematic obsession with beauty, clothes, and weight. Hester states that without her neck brace she's in extreme pain, but she's never been happier! This seems like a satirical nod to the extreme measures women are pressured to go to in order to look a certain way. This can be anything from those of us who don't even like high heels forcing ourselves into seriously uncomfortable shoes in order to look taller, to risking our health with extreme diets, to getting surgery in order to fix perceived flaws.
And the obsession with appearance doesn't stop with the Kappa sisters. When Denise teams up with Grace and Zayday to get to the bottom of Chanel #2's disappearance, she repeatedly points out that her most recent Instagram picture is "not cute." The fixation with beauty and image doesn't stop after college, and it can't even be put aside during a murder investigation. And I'm actually going to say these comments aren't terribly far-fetched. Every time I turn on cable news and a crime is being discussed, the anchors can't seem to stop themselves from commenting on the victim's appearance. There's been plenty of rightful criticism that the media pays more attention to the disappearances of beautiful, young, white women than any other demographic, and Scream Queens seems to be poking fun at that as well.
Sure, Scream Queens is a fun, campy series that hinges on a murder mystery, but that doesn't mean we should dismiss its more serious aspects, especially the excellent way it's using humor and satire to point out the very real pressures that women deal with everyday.
Image: Skip Bolen/FOX