8 Weird Things About ‘Miss Congeniality’
08.02.18
Harling Talks about Weird Things from Ms. Congeniality
Photo via Everett Collection. 

As an adult, there are few things more entertaining than discovering that a multitude of things you used to think were normal are actually completely and totally weird. For me, that list includes the revelation that most people eat eggs for breakfast instead of dinner (contrary to how my parents served them throughout my childhood) and the reality that basically every single early 2000s romantic comedy is riddled with peculiarities.

The latest one to come to my attention is none other than Miss Congeniality, a movie The New York Times described as “happily, deliberately second-rate, as if its ideal audience consisted of weary airline passengers.” I take slight offense to that accusation, as I would (happily and deliberately) watch this movie whether I was on an airplane or not, but I do have a separate bone of my own to pick — one that only occurred to me recently when I watched it for the first time in years: THIS MOVIE IS SO, SO WEIRD, YOU GUYS. Entertaining, yes, but normal? Absolutely not. Read on for my carefully chronicled evidence of reasons why.

1. When protagonist Gracie Hart places a massive order at Starbucks, the last thing she asks for is a compilation CD.

Remember Starbucks compilation CDs? I surely did not, until I watched Miss Congeniality last week and was reminded of this strange precursor to unicorn Frappuccinos. I want to give the movie’s writers the benefit of the doubt that this was some kind of joke, but given that Grace asks for one with the same inconsequential nonchalance as she might an extra shot of espresso and there is zero mention of the incident for the rest of the movie, I have to wonder: Is Special Agent Gracie Hart the only person alive to ever openly purchase a Starbucks compilation CD, or was this some kind of weird ad placement? Weird is the operative word regardless.

2. Speaking of weird orders, Gracie’s local bar is surprisingly good at accommodating them.

Early on in the movie, after a hard day at work, Gracie sits down at a bar and asks for a pint. Without missing a beat, the bartender produces a pint…of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. To be clear, it isn’t weird that Grace is indulging in a pint of ice cream after being reamed out by her boss, but it is weird that she is procuring it from an establishment that is typically in the business of serving alcoholic beverages. While I’m dying to know how Grace managed to strike up a deal wherein her favorite bar stockpiled ice creams for her to dig into upon request, I’m even more curious why she prefers eating them in this setting as opposed to her sofa like the rest of us homosapiens.

3. The skepticism around Grace’s ability to pose as a Miss United States contestant.

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Even with messy bits of hair hanging in her face, steak in her teeth and a commitment to cargo messenger bags, Sandra Bullock is a conventionally beautiful woman. Her character in Miss Congeniality is also a trained federal agent whose job it is to go undercover to catch criminals. The overall skepticism — nay, derision — amongst her colleagues over the suggestion that she should be the one to pose as a Miss United States contestant in hopes of stopping a serial killer in the act is therefore not only weird, it’s laughable. Proof of point: When lauded pageant mentor Victor Melling’s proclaims, “There’s no way on earth I could make this woman ready in two days,” I chortled aloud. Unless it takes 48 hours to tuck someone’s hair behind her ears, brush her teeth and locate a clutch, this claim is utterly bogus.

4. Gracie’s makeover takes place in a giant warehouse with a team of people dressed in flamingo pink attire.

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If this is an accurate depiction of the F.B.I.’s official makeover SWAT team, I couldn’t be more intrigued. But that doesn’t make it any less weird!!!! Why are the beautifying forces wearing flamingo pink? Why did the beautification process take place in a giant warehouse when it could have easily taken place in a normal-sized room or salon? Why does Sandra Bullock, a hot woman of note, require dozens of hours and dozens of people to transform into someone worthy of winning a Miss United States pageant and Benjamin Bratt’s affection?

5. At one point, Pageant Director Kathy Morningside holds out her hand and asks Gracie to spit out her gum.

Asking a grown woman who is not your offspring to spit out her gum is weird. Asking a grown woman who is not your offspring to spit out her gum into your hand instead of a trashcan or tissue is SUPER FREAKING WEIRD. I am especially unraveled by this sequence given that Kathy Morningside seems like the kind of person who, while somewhat lax in the “murder is illegal and uncool” department, is otherwise extremely uptight and wouldn’t relish holding someone else’s chewed-up gum in the palm of her hand when there is a logical and easy alternative. But hey, maybe she’s actually really chill about that kind of thing and I’m just projecting Enid Frick’s psyche onto her. On that note, it’s also weird that Candice Bergen is consistently typecast as a powerhouse with secret insecurities about younger women unseating her in various regards, huh? Candice deserves better!

6. The pageant contestants sneak out to attend a paint splatter rave.

I fully understand and support the contestants’ collective decision to follow Gracie’s lead and sneak out of their quarters for a night on the town, but I have one eyebrow frozen skyward vis à vis their choice of venue. A rave???? With paint splatter flying everywhere???? You’re trying to be discreet, people! Coating yourselves in a substance that requires vigorous scrubbing to remove is not the approach! My only consolation is that Instagram hadn’t been invented yet, so at least there wasn’t any risk of drunken photo dispatches.

7. Despite claiming she knows nothing about fashion, Gracie somehow predicts the milkmaid trend of 2018.

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There’s no sensible reason why Gracie Lou Freebush, a.k.a. Grace Hart, would decide to wear a milkmaid costume to play music on the rims of water glasses (her pageant talent, for the uninitiated), so my working theory is that she is a genius trend forecaster lightyears ahead of her time. I know it’s a weird hypothesis, but that’s what this rodeo is all about, and there are some serious-ass CLUES to back it up. Not only does she predict milkmaidcore, but she also wears a choker that looks like the genesis for Roxanne Assoulin’s designs, and a perfect white summer blouse that I could have found on Instagram today.

8. Miss Rhode Island is the most intriguing character in the entire movie and we barely know anything about her.

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If there’s one universally beloved and endlessly quotable interaction in Miss Congeniality, it’s this:

Host: Describe your perfect date.

Miss Rhode Island: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th, because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket!

Yes, Miss Rhode Island (née Cheryl Frasier) has the best line in the entire movie but pretty much all I know about her is that she makes gross non-fat hot chocolate and can twirl a mean baton. It’s super duper weird that her performance didn’t garner its own spin-off, in my humble opinion.

Are there any other weird things about this bizarre-o film I didn’t mention? Dîtes-moi in the comments.

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