After loving the adorably hilarious book, I went to see Confessions of a Shopaholic last weekend. I won’t get into why the former was better or complain about the weird talking mannequin scenes because I didn’t expect more than mindless entertainment from the movie — and that’s what it delivered.
One benefit of the film, though, was the costumes. The main character, an aspiring fashion magazine journalist, consistently wears the most fabulously ridiculous outfits, both in and outside of the office, as well as on her way up the corporate ladder. From the mini skirt she wears to an interview to her bright pink laptop, screaming colors and blinging accessories are worn unapologetically – and not only accepted, but rewarded by The Man, e.g. Rebecca Bloomwood becomes a celebrated finance columnist under the pseudonym “The Girl in the Green Scarf.” (And wins readers by comparing investment decisions to shopping for shoes and sweaters.)
Rebecca’s wardrobe, and her silly-but-surprisingly-smart character, reminded me of Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods, who debutes as a sorority girl who noone takes seriously, but turns out to have what it takes to be a high-powered lawyer. While Elle does tone down her signature style for a bit at Harvard Law, she goes back to full-force pink in the movie’s climactic court scene – and wins the case (thanks to her extensive knowledge of hair care).
With two movies, a musical and an MTV show, Elle Woods has certainly proven to be a popular character. And with seven(?) books in the Shopaholic series, Becky Bloomwood isn’t far behind.
So why do we love these characters so much? I think the resonance they have with today’s working gal is similar to the popularity of the mid-20th century novel and movie, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. I haven’t read or seen it … but I learned about them in a women’s studies class in college and just got a refresher on wikipedia, which says they’re about “the American search for purpose in [a] world dominated by business,” with the gray suit symbolizing the monotony and soullessness of the corporate world.
But obviously they’re not exactly the same. While The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit reflected a dismal reality, Bloomwood and Woods act out a fantasy. The glitzy, gorgeous, colorful characters are a remedy for the grey flannel suit – a symbol for a more diverse, happy and fulfilling workplace.
Of course this kind of chic flick/lit could also be seen as more of a sedative than a cure: Just as the corporate cogs of the 1950s drowned their sorrows in booze and seedy affairs, today’s pink-collar workforce is diverted by wildly unrealistic stories … and cocktails and one-night stands ... Well, at least we can take heart in the fact that we’re not wearing grey suits while we earn the money to spend on mindless entertainment.