Triumph for the geeky girl?
May 28, 2007 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Hello! I am looking for examples of movies (or pop culture in general) in which the geeky, less-attractive girl gets a guy who (she thinks) is totally out of her league.

I recently had a discussion with a friend about how this happens in movies far less than the other way round - i.e., that the geeky or loserish guy gets the hot girl he's totally in love with. Now we are trying to amass a collection. So far, the only ones we can think of are Dirty Dancing and My So-Called Life (sort of). I guess Pretty in Pink kind of fits, too. You'll notice of course that "less attractive" doesn't accurately reflect reality - there aren't many female Jack Black analogues. Please do not suggest She's All That or The Breakfast Club or anything else that requires the girl to undergo a makeover to snag the man of her dreams. Thank you!
posted by granted to Media & Arts (73 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
This should be obvious but this thread is going to be nothing but spoilers. If that bothers you stop reading.

Va gur vaperqvoyrf Ivbyrg trgf Gbal.
posted by Mitheral at 5:08 PM on May 28, 2007


Never Been Kissed?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 5:09 PM on May 28, 2007


I don't remember if the protagonist undergoes much of a makeover, but one that comes to mind is The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
posted by katie at 5:13 PM on May 28, 2007


Tomboy drummer girl Mary Stuart Masterson is in love with her best friend, Eric Stolz in John Hughes's Some Kind of Wonderful... only he's in love with their school's resident Pretty Girl. Kind of like Ducky Dale in Pretty in Pink, but with a more satisfying ending.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:14 PM on May 28, 2007


The Truth about Cats and Dogs is one that springs to mind - Janeane Garofalo as the plain girl.
posted by nomis at 5:15 PM on May 28, 2007


too slow
posted by nomis at 5:15 PM on May 28, 2007


To my memory, Some Kind Of Wonderful is totally about that, although of course Mary Stuart Masterson is totally hot.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:15 PM on May 28, 2007


Hairspray (the original John Water's version)
posted by kimdog at 5:27 PM on May 28, 2007


I always loved the geeky-girl portrayal in Real Genius, and that character gets the guy at the end without that cringe-inducing makeover plot - though it's been a while since I've seen it, though I don't remember whether she actually thinks the guy is out of her league or whether he's just too dumb to realize her awesomeness for a while.
posted by Stacey at 5:37 PM on May 28, 2007


16 Candles
posted by monkeymadness at 5:37 PM on May 28, 2007


A Walk to Remember - Mandy Moore is a goody two-shoes nerd who gets the hottie cool kid without any kind of make over or transformation. Not that I personally would know, because I haven't seen this really cheesy movie 4 times or anything.
posted by iconomy at 5:42 PM on May 28, 2007


Mmm, does A Walk to Remember fall under this category?
posted by Phire at 5:50 PM on May 28, 2007


Hm. Thinking about this further - vast quantities of Katharine Hepburn movies, perhaps? I'm specifically thinking of Holiday and Bringing Up Baby - in both cases she ends up getting the guy who starts off engaged to someone else. I'm not sure "geeky" applies, exactly, to either character, but you could certainly call them the offbeat black-sheep-ish characters.
posted by Stacey at 5:54 PM on May 28, 2007


I read in an interview with Janeane Garofalo that in the original screenplay for The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Garofalo's character did not get the guy in the end, and that she was upset that they ended up hollywood-izing the ending. She thought that the less attractive girl would never get the guy in real life, and that one of the points of the original script was that in our society the Cyrano de Bergerac thing doesn't work when the sexes are reversed.
posted by twoporedomain at 5:56 PM on May 28, 2007


16 Candles is the best example. Who wouldn't want Jake Ryan?

How about Carrie? She does get the hunk for a few brief, wonderful minutes.
posted by saffry at 6:01 PM on May 28, 2007


This is barely in the "pop culture in general" category, but Sondheim's musical Passion looks like a good contender.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:02 PM on May 28, 2007


Babycakes starring Ricki Lake.
posted by hermitosis at 6:10 PM on May 28, 2007


I read in an interview with Janeane Garofalo that in the original screenplay for The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Garofalo's character did not get the guy in the end, and that she was upset that they ended up hollywood-izing the ending. She thought that the less attractive girl would never get the guy in real life, and that one of the points of the original script was that in our society the Cyrano de Bergerac thing doesn't work when the sexes are reversed.

I find this funny in light of the fact that every time my (male) friends wind up talking about this movie, we laugh off the idea that a stiff like Uma Thurman would have been a better catch than the adorable Janeane Garofalo - thereby making the movie's central conflict very odd to us.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:11 PM on May 28, 2007




Can't By Me Love.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 6:14 PM on May 28, 2007


"some kind of wonderful"—where the outsider girl gets the guy—was written by john hughes as a response to "pretty in pink" because he was pressured into changing the ending so that andy got together with blaine rather than ducky dale, hughes's original choice.
posted by violetk at 6:15 PM on May 28, 2007


Wicked
posted by pearlybob at 6:26 PM on May 28, 2007


Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones the Edge of Reason spring to mind
posted by seawallrunner at 6:29 PM on May 28, 2007


Zuckerbaby (the German version of Babycakes that hemitosis mentions)

The Mother maybe?
posted by dog food sugar at 6:32 PM on May 28, 2007


Dogfight.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2007


Ugly Betty? (although she hasn't gotten him yet...)
posted by srah at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2007


This is a really hard question! Maybe Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, although Saunders certainly isn't unattractive.
posted by transona5 at 7:07 PM on May 28, 2007


I like to think that's the fallout in Vertigo.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on May 28, 2007




How about Grease?
posted by RussHy at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2007


My Big Fat Greek Wedding
posted by LoriFLA at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2007


Oops! didn't read the whole question. She gets a makeover, doesn't she?
posted by RussHy at 7:16 PM on May 28, 2007


Oh, maybe Hermione and Krum in Harry Potter -- she gets a makeover, but after Krum falls for her.
posted by transona5 at 7:20 PM on May 28, 2007


Cannot believe I'm about to go here, but, sigh, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The movie at least.
posted by socratic at 7:26 PM on May 28, 2007


Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is way out of Darcy's financial orbit, and a geek only in that she speaks her mind and likes to read.
posted by hooray at 7:26 PM on May 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


damn you transona5. Heh.
posted by socratic at 7:26 PM on May 28, 2007


There are a couple of Bollywood movies where this happens. In Andaz Apna Apna, a guy scheming to marry a glamorous heiress falls in love with her dorky secretary in spite of himself (who then turns out to be the real heiress). In Shri 420, a hotcha socialite, Maya ("illusion") throws herself at our guy, but he chooses the poor schoolteacher instead, Vidya ("knowledge"!)

On the makeover tip, a common theme is the glamorous, Westernized girl being unloved until she has a make-under, and gets geekified: traditional and "homely" (home-loving, simple). In the beginning, she might look like
this, but can't get the time of day from the hero until she looks more like this.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:32 PM on May 28, 2007


I love Never Been Kissed, but she definitely undergoes a prolonged makeover throughout the movie. Same with My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I can't believe I forgot about Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones. Of course, every single "plain"/"geeky" girl mentioned so far is conventionally gorgeous outside Hollywood (with the possible exception of Ricki Lake in Hairspray.) - seriously, Mandy Moore? Oh well.

Oh, there's also that episode of Saved by the Bell where Zack has to take the fat chick to the dance and ends up liking her. But her character and that plot development was totally forgotten as soon as the credits rolled.
posted by granted at 7:38 PM on May 28, 2007


were totally forgotten (sorry)
posted by granted at 7:39 PM on May 28, 2007


Sandra Bullock in "Love Potion #9."
posted by WCityMike at 8:16 PM on May 28, 2007


If we can include Pride and Prejudice, then You've Got Mail gets in automatically — although in neither story does the girl think that the guy's out of her league — he just is and she doesn't care.

A great Russian classic comes to mind, a movie about a little tiny, not-much-to-look-at girlie winning the heart of the Prince Charming character: Devchata.

There's also the plot of the oldest sister in Tortilla Soup, although she makes herself over slightly on one occasion to help "get the guy", and the guy isn't entirely "out of her league."
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:57 PM on May 28, 2007


It's not the main plot arc, but in "Rushmore," Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzmann) eventually matures enough to realize he's not going to get his teacher (Olivia Williams) to fall in love with him and he finally connects with Margaret Yang (Sara Tanaka) - the (nerdish) girl he's ignored the whole film, despite her obvious crush on him.
posted by Crosius at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I suppose it could be argued that Audrey Tatou's Amelie thinks the photo-booth repair-guy is out of her league.
posted by Crosius at 9:12 PM on May 28, 2007


Persuasion---adding to the Jane Austen.
posted by brujita at 9:23 PM on May 28, 2007


"The Music Man", Broadway musical and movie version. Marian the Librarian gets con man "Professor" Harold Hill to actually fall for her, although she initially doesn't want him, because she's the only one in town who realizes that he's a fraud, and he initially was just being nice to her so she won't expose him. She thinks he's out of her league in the sense that he's a huckster and she's looking for a nice guy.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:29 PM on May 28, 2007


I'm pretty sure that Circle of Friends fits your requirements, but I can't fully remember the ending nor can I find a place online which will spoil it for me.

The main character Benny is not only the smart interesting one, but supposedly the larger/uglier one who gets the hunky rugby player guy. Considering that it's Minnie Driver I remember it was a bit of a stretch to think of her as either ugly or big.
posted by mulkey at 9:50 PM on May 28, 2007


Jane Eyre, if it counts as pop culture. Most of the movie versions cast a beautiful actress, but in the book she's straight ugly.

Although out of her league socially, Rochester isn't physically too hot either. Jane Eyre: a tale of two ugmos.
posted by lemuria at 9:51 PM on May 28, 2007


The Science of Sleep works here — oddball Stéphane (Gael Garcia Bernal) isn't so much out of homely and slightly less odd Stéphanie's (Charlotte Gainsbourg) league as he is initially interested in her hotter friend, Zoe. Stéphane ends up falling for Stéphanie, thinking that she's his kindred spiritg, but she spends most of the film suspecting that Stéphane is just manipulating her to get to Zoe. Stéphane and Stéphanie ostensibly end up together in the end.
posted by thisjax at 10:14 PM on May 28, 2007


Strictly Ballroom, which is also along the lines of Muriel's Wedding.
posted by O9scar at 11:34 PM on May 28, 2007


Being from Mexico myself, I'd like to mention that a lot of telenovelas used to do this. The ones with Thalia come to mind. Usually it's a poor girl, or the maid or whatever that falls in love with the rich handsome guy [with some ridiculous name].
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:57 PM on May 28, 2007


Not a movie but here's a universally adored novel:

Looking for Andrew McCarthy, by Jenny Colgan.

The story of a couple of girls on the brink of their 30th birthday following a childhood dream to track down the king of geek-girl-gets-the-boy movies.

Written by Scottish writer Jenny Colgan, so very much a UK-take on American movies and culture. Pretty much kick-started the chick-lit phenomena.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:41 AM on May 29, 2007


You can't exactly call Kirsten Dunst ugly, but she is quite geeky and kookily charming in Elizabethtown.

And it's a total male geek fantasy, but in Free Enterprise, the love object is a female comic geek fan, and rather good looking and sassy at the same time. No makeover required.

But yeah, bring on the geeky girl films.
posted by electriccynic at 2:48 AM on May 29, 2007


Maybe Fucking Åmål aka Show Me Love would count? The plain girl gets the hot girl at the end, no make-over involved... if I remember correctly.

Julia Stiles is not plain, and neither is her character, but no-one wants to date her in 10 Things I Hate About You, and if that counts all the other versions of Taming of the Shrew should count.

If it doesn't count, this BBC version should, as there is no make-over and Katherine (who is considered a plain harridan) does *not* change her character or looks, but still gets the guy.
posted by esilenna at 3:23 AM on May 29, 2007


Not a movie, but the final episodes of The Vicar of Dibley may qualify.
posted by teleskiving at 5:00 AM on May 29, 2007


(Strictly Ballroom involves a lengthy makeover process.)
posted by desuetude at 6:04 AM on May 29, 2007


How about Shirley Maclaine as a reluctant G-MILF in "The Evening Star", or Diane Keaton diddling vapid Keanu Reeves in "Something's Gotta Give"? In both, they wind up with Jack Nicholson (don't they?) as an alternative to these dippy younger guys, but they get to hump some (arguably) hot younger manz first.

Although, neither of these women are exactly "Geeky".
posted by Lieber Frau at 9:11 AM on May 29, 2007


Oh, also, "Harold and Maude" is a far superior film to either of these, but again, Maude is hardly a geek.
posted by Lieber Frau at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2007


"Desk Set" might qualify - Katharine Hepburn is a geeky-ish researcher/librarian and Spencer Tracy is a dashing "efficiency expert". She doesn't really lust after him in the beginning, though.
posted by milkrate at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2007


Oh, and if you're accepting dyke movies, check out "Go Fish". The chica who Guinevere Turner's Max ends up with is a consumate nerd, and the "makeover" is hardly standard Hollywood.
posted by Lieber Frau at 9:17 AM on May 29, 2007


Isn’t this the basic plot of pretty much EVERY romantic comedy/dramedy? It’s certainly the core idea in every high-school version: Our heroine is always more “real” than her A-list rivals, but wins in the end, not in spite of this, but because of it. We identify easily with her, and don’t wind up thinking the target male is a loser because his values turn out to be OK after all.

Whether our gal is actually, arguably UN-attractive, as opposed to less-attractive, or is truly a “geek” in the viewer’s mind is simply a matter of degree.

Show me a movie where the plot is the opposite of this: Our heroine is prettier, dumber, shallower than all her rivals, yet she wins!
posted by dpcoffin at 9:35 AM on May 29, 2007


What about Cinderella?
posted by plep at 9:58 AM on May 29, 2007


dpcoffin: "Clueless"
posted by nev at 10:44 AM on May 29, 2007


I wondered if anyone would consider Clueless/Emma a case of girl-with-everything-wins-again. But she doesn’t get what she wants until SHE gets a makeover. Also, she’s had him from the start and isn’t actually in rivalry; she just needs to get a clue, not the guy, who’s her’s by default.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2007


I don't think the Cinderella, poor-girl-winning-over-rich-guy counts, because the girl is generally beautiful and hardly a "geek." I meant specifically where the girl is considered, at least in the realm of the movie, plain and uncool, the "nice" but unattractive or tomboy friend.

What specifically triggered this question, actually, is that I recently watched the entire Freaks and Geeks series and although I loved it, it was definitely skewed towards the geeky guys triumphing in their romantic pursuits rather than the (few) geeky girls. So all Millie got was a few chaste kisses with her probably closeted "secret love," but Bill Haverchuck got to make out with the head cheerleader. You hardly ever see the reverse.
posted by granted at 12:09 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I also just noticed that in the three I mentioned in the beginning, there's an even geekier/less attractive guy who's in love with the heroine, but whom she rejects for the hot guy. Not sure what that says, if anything, but I find it interesting.
posted by granted at 12:25 PM on May 29, 2007


I don't think the Cinderella, poor-girl-winning-over-rich-guy counts, because the girl is generally beautiful and hardly a "geek."

Also, she gets not just a makeover, but a magicial makeover!
posted by desuetude at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2007


I was pathetically addicted to Life Goes On [the TV show] and the geeky Kellie Martin character eventually lands the popular football player with no real makeover action. It doesn't end well, but she gets him.
posted by Mozzie at 2:22 PM on May 29, 2007


In Circle of Friends, the movie, the girl does get the guy. (The book, on the other hand, is pretty well, "Stick to your own kind, fat girl.")

Uh...My So-Called Life.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:56 PM on May 29, 2007


While You Were Sleeping springs to mind. The heroine, played by Sandra Bullock, works in the transit ticket kiosk and falls for the guy she saves from the train, played by Peter Gallagher, who turns out to be 1) engaged, 2) unconscious, 3) part of a large family, all of whom immediately assume she's his fiancee. There are even more plot twists at the end, when she realizes she's actually in love with....

No, I can't do it to you, if you haven't seen it. Let me just say that besides Ms. Bullock being way hotter than the unconscious guy's fiancee (that part didn't work for me), this movie contains one of my favorite all-time movie soliloquies, when Bullock's character stands by Gallagher's character's hospital bed and tells him all about herself.
posted by Lynsey at 4:18 PM on May 29, 2007


it's silly but zoolander kind of falls into this category. and i don't really remember the plot that well, but i'm thinking that strictly ballroom does as well.
posted by lgyre at 4:30 PM on May 29, 2007


What specifically triggered this question, actually, is that I recently watched the entire Freaks and Geeks series and although I loved it, it was definitely skewed towards the geeky guys triumphing in their romantic pursuits rather than the (few) geeky girls...

Yes, my feeling like you is this is down to gender stereotypes, male intellect versus female beauty.

A TV show like 'Beauty and the Geek' with genders reversed would definitely make interesting viewing.
posted by plep at 9:54 AM on May 30, 2007


My favorite movie to buck this genre is Janeane Garofalo's Sweet Hearts which is a blind date that goes horrendously and deliciously wrong. It's more unpredictable, and makes fun of the genre in a morbid, dark way. It's an underappreciated film and I recommend it highly, but after you see Sweet Hearts you may understand why Hollywood 1) insists on happy endings most of the time, and 2) insists on the stereotypical model type who dirties down rather than a woman who looks real which they can spruce up a little bit by the last real: for some reason they make more money when the look of the film doesn't reflect reality.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:12 PM on October 6, 2007


real=reel
posted by ZachsMind at 3:19 PM on October 6, 2007


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