Deglamming as Estrangement: Ugly in Monster, The Hours, and Cake


  • Sharrona Pearl Drexel University



delgamming, ceelbrity, estrangement, prosthetics,


In this paper, I explore female actresses undergoing radical or seemingly radical physical transformation in service of a broader kind of career transformation.  I problematize the simple calculation of deglamming, thinking more closely about the ways that celebrity structure raises challenges to actors and especially actresses attempting to engage with against-type characters.  I turn specifically to three well-known examples of this trend: Charlize Theron in Monster (2003), Nicole Kidman in The Hours (2002), and Jennifer Aniston in Cake (2014).  I argue that the process we see is not about deglamming (or getting ugly) for its own sake.  Deglamming in these cases is a process of estrangement: from beauty, from the celebrity machine, from audience expectations.  I draw on screen shots, film reviews and interviews to explore the relationship between deglamming and estrangement as a kind of acting and character technique, paying particular attention to the stakes for presenting historical characters in biopics.  And while the three films I examine here – Monster, The Hours, and Cake – are often thought together as examples of actress Oscar uglification, they are actually quite different, both in terms of the physical transformations the actresses underwent in service of their characters, and the ways in which these transformations were understood and received. 

Author Biography

Sharrona Pearl, Drexel University

Sharrona Pearl is Associate Professor of Medical Ethics at Drexel University.  A historian and theorist of the face and body, she has published widely in both academic and public-facing venues.  Her most recent book is _Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the other_.  You can find her at or on twitter @sharronapearl.


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How to Cite

Pearl, S. (2020). Deglamming as Estrangement: Ugly in Monster, The Hours, and Cake. CINEJ Cinema Journal, 8(1), 218–248.