In the new comedy I Feel Pretty, Am Schumer plays Renee, a highly insecure woman who hits her head in a Soul Cycle class and instantly gains major confidence about her appearance. Before the incident, Renee's low self-esteem is exacerbated by constant reminders that she isn't a size two, as shown in a scene in I Feel Pretty that feels just like Mean Girls' store scene. You know the one: after Regina George tries to buy a dress for Spring Fling and she doesn't fit in a size five, the saleslady haughtily tells her, "Sorry, we only carry sizes one, three, and five. You could try Sears."
Towards the beginning of I Feel Pretty, Renee goes into a high-end store and the saleslady asks, "Are you shopping for a gift?" When Renee responds that she's looking for herself, the woman tells her, "So sizing is a little limited here in the store, but you could probably find your size online." Mean Girls fans will undoubtedly note the similarity, but in a phone interview, I Feel Pretty's co-writers and co-directors, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, reveal that that the nod wasn't intentional.
"No! Is there a scene like that in Mean Girls?" asks Kohn. It turns out that the teen movie didn't even need to inspire the I Feel Pretty scene. "It’s literally just something that happened to a friend of ours," Silverstein explains. "At a lot of the stores in LA, they just stopped carrying over certain sizes, and you have to order them online if you want to get them, which just feels like a crazy idea."
Silverstein's friend and Schumer's character aren't alone. During a sit-down interview, I Feel Pretty star Busy Philipps reveals, "I mean, I’ve been told that in a store." The actor laughs after saying it, but the store scene is actually one of the film's more serious moments, illustrating how hostiles certain places can be for women who might not fit into what society deems thin or "conventionally attractive."
When the I Feel Pretty trailer was first released, the movie received significant backlash due to the fact that many people believe Schumer does fit into society's concept of attractiveness. As comedian and podcast host Sofie Hagen tweeted, "Amy Schumer is blonde, white, able-bodied, femme and yes, thin. She is society's beauty ideal. So they give her a ponytail and remove her make-up and suddenly she's ugly?"
Yet Philipps disagrees with people's critiques that suggest Schumer's insecurities lack justification and offend people who miss Hollywood's beauty standards by a greater margin. "You’ve decided who gets to be conventionally attractive and unattractive?" Philipps asks those critics. "I just find it to be truly a little bit hypocritical of the entire feminist movement. I would never invalidate any woman’s life experience based on the way they look."
It's true that the beauty industrial complex likely affects every woman, and it's also true that sitting around and calculating Schumer's attractiveness — and questioning whether or not she "deserves" to play a character with low self-esteem — is missing the point. Ironically, Schumer once created a whole sketch about how ridiculous it is for people to debate and wrestle over her attractiveness, "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer." Even still, though, watching Schumer scowl at her reflection in I Feel Pretty and take criticism from others might feel off-putting to some viewers.
Silverstein and Kohn acknowledge that, in I Feel Pretty, Renee's lack of confidence isn't actually founded on her objective appearance, but rather on her overly-critical perception of herself. "We don’t have her playing an unattractive woman," Kohn explains. "We have her playing a woman who —" Silverstein chimes in, "thinks she’s unattractive. Nothing happens to her because of how she looks that’s keeping her down."
Those who watch the film might disagree with that last claim. In one scene, Schumer's character runs into Mallory, a fellow Soul Cycle participant (Emily Ratajkowski), in a drugstore. A man walks up to the two women and asks Mallory a question, and when Renee answers him, he responds that he wanted to talk to Mallory. Then, a store employee yells at Renee to "get back to work," and the unspoken joke comes off that Renee is seen as being far less attractive than her friend.
When asked about that interaction, Kohn says, "I think in that scene it was just funny." Adds Silverstein, "She happened to be wearing a colored jacket that looked like she worked there. The guy was coming up to Emily Ratajkowski to hit on her, and so she was feeling in that moment that she didn’t look like this other person — who later in the movie is revealed to have her own insecurities about her stuff — so in that scene I think there was that joke about working there."
"We were never making fun of her," Silverstein continues. "The comedy was always coming from over confidence, the idea that it’s really funny just to watch anybody walk into a room and say things about themselves that are so brazenly self-confident."
Kohn explains that the overall intention of the movie isn't about discovering one's own outer beauty. "At the end of that... it’s about the confidence," the director says. Regardless of how you feel about some specific I Feel Pretty scenes, the movie certainly succeeds in reminding us all that we deserve to give ourselves a little more credit and feel as good about ourselves as Renee does — just hopefully without the head injury.