In Miss Congeniality, when FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) transforms into the beauty queen no one ever thought she could be, her reconstruction is framed as an uplifting tale of self-discovery. But looking back, some of the film’s messages are less than inspirational.
Looks are prioritised over personality, workplace harassment goes unchallenged, and much of the humor revolves around misogynistic gender norms. These toxic takeaways aged so poorly that the sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, tried to rectify them a few years later. Still, there’s a lot that the original film gets right, which explains its powerful legacy. It champions female friendships, stresses the importance of having priorities outside of work, and encourages women to stand up for themselves.
Here’s our take on the mixed messages of Miss Congeniality, and the legacy of this reluctant beauty queen over 20 years later.