Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Ugly Duckling

Transformation stories are some of the most common in classic fables and fairy tales, stories we've grown up with from childhood. And I have to admit that some of them, like Cinderella, really bother me. At least they bother me as an adult – Cinderella happened to be my favorite Disney Princess as a kid. But come on, how could he not recognize her without the stupid shoe? What a shallow, inconsiderate, self-centered son-of . . . Moving on. 

So for today's post I'd like to highlight some of my favorite Ugly Duckling stories. The ones where the duckling finds independence and self-confidence, and someone who loves them despite their appearance, rather than simply for their beautiful, swan-esque end product. So, without further ado . . . 

U is for Ugly Duckling aka. Transformation Stories

Penelope Wilhern (Penelope) – Penelope's is one of my very favorite transformation tales. Long ago following the betrayal of a young, pregnant servant girl, the aristocratic Wilhern family was cursed. The curse the stipulated that the first girl child born into the family would be born with the face of a pig, face she would keep until she was accepted by "one of her own". Penelope was that girl. Born with a pig nose and ears, Penelope's story becomes one of finding independence and learning to accept yourself for who you are. It's a message I think every little girl should learn from an early age (rather than the messages spread through misguided, albeit fun and classic, Princess movies).

Toula Portokalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) – Perhaps one of the sweetest transformation/love stories, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the story of Toula Portokalos, a modern woman struggling with her Greek background. Over the course of her metamorphosis, she must learn to stop letting her family dictate her life, but also that her background shapes who she is. 

Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion/My Fair Lady) – Eliza Doolittle is one of the most misunderstood characters highlighted in the blogfest, in part because of the final scene in My Fair Lady [Spoilers] implying that she goes back to Henry. As originally intended by the play-write, George Bernand Shaw, at the end of the play Eliza leaves Henry Higgins, grasping her new found independence with both hands. Her transformation is one of a timid flower girl to a an independent, educated woman who emancipates herself from the man who transformed, but emotionally belittled her. 

Princess Fiona (Shrek series) – Ahh, Fiona. The princess who spent her days as a princess and nights as an ogress, waiting for the day when true love's kiss will break her curse and reveal her true form. Through Fiona and Shrek we learn that real beauty doesn't always look the way we expect it will. A transformation story doesn't necessarily mean that the "Ugly Duckling" becomes a beautiful, Barbie-like swan; sometimes it means learning to accept yourself for who you are and finding beauty in what's there rather than what you wish were there. 

Gracie Hart (Miss Congeniality) – Okay, I can't say that we learn a ton from Gracie Hart other than the pretty pageant girls want world peace and, okay, they're nicer than they seem. And it's certainly suspect that her love interest falls for her only after she becomes beautiful. Her story is less one of self-discovery through transformation and more sticking to her conviction through despite others' doubt. But I simply couldn't leave her off the list. Why? Because the scenes between Gracie and Michael Caine's character were just too funny to ignore. "I'm gliding here!"

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Ugly Duckling transformation stories. What are some of your favorites?
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This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

15 comments:

  1. i love watching my fair lady, my house mate and watch it from time to time and start singing along....yea we rock

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  2. Ahh, Fiona was a good one. Such a good twist.

    A light hearted look at the transformation is Mia in the Princess Diaries.

    Rinelle Grey

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  3. The Toula Portokalos character is my favorite!

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  4. Your list is exclusively female. So on that note, I'd add the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Wreck-it Ralph, just to even things out. :)

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  5. Eliza Doolittle is a great choice, as is Fiona and Gracie Hart. I get a kick out of her scenes with Michael Caine too.

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  6. What about Beauty and the Beast, just to turn it around?

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  7. Eliza, Penelope, and (even though I'm no Shrek fan) Fiona are excellent choices. I agree with them all Fiona is my favorite because with her, the tables were turned: she went from pretty to well, not conventionally pretty. :D

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  8. I've never read/seen Penelope, but now I really want to!

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  9. Loved that you referenced Fiona. That was a good one.

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  10. Miss Congeniality was a funny movie.

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  11. I enjoyed how the Shrek story turned out!

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  12. uhhh, a transformation stories post and you didn't mention the Transformers? geez...

    Actually, I absolutely loved the Princess Fiona take. I mean, how many of us thought Shrek was gonna end up with a real "looker" at the end? That was nicely done.

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  13. I agree with Andrew! Also, I think the first Princess Diaries was kind of an ugly duckling series. It may be bleh, but I thought it was cute.

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  14. I know the last three (and loves them) don't know the first two, so I'll have to check them out.

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  15. Wear the Crown, Be the Crown, You are the Crown.
    Agree with the addiction of The Princess Diaries. Would also add Harriet Manners from Holly Smale's Geek Girl.

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