Season 2, episode 16: “Inner Beauty”

Oh no! We’ve reached the Very Special Episode!

This one’s essentially about eating disorders, so if that’s a topic you don’t feel good about, this might be a week you want to skip.

It opens with Lizzie and Miranda dancing to extremely loud stock music. It’s blaring so loudly that it’s hard to make out some of their lines. That’s because this super boring generic dance beat replaced the original song, Play’s “Us Against the World,” and whoever dumped this song in for syndication turned it up way too loud in the mix.

Gordo comes in with snacks and exposition and judgement. He reveals that they’re rehearsing for a music video because he’s “branching out” of his documentary style, which seems completely un-Gordo-like, and makes a bunch of rude comments about the girls eating too much, which is also un-Gordo-like because we’ve seen a couple episodes this season where his Whole Thing is eating a lot.

Matt’s subplot this episode is perplexing. He comes in and does a quick sketch of Lizzie that’s really good even though it’s not what she’s wearing and the prop designer who made it seems to have been working off an image of Lizzie from the pilot. Apparently he’s now good at art.

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The next day, Miranda has a meltdown because she got a B on a test. Last season she and Lizzie defended being solid-B students (one example, if you need one, is “Educating Ethan”), but here she declares that the difference between a B and an A is “the difference between ‘President for you on line 2, Miss Sanchez’ and ‘do you want fries with that?'” That’s the sort of “we could’ve been killed – or worse, expelled” line that we never get from Lizzie or Miranda on this show. I’d believe this reaction more if she’d actually failed the test.

Gordo tries to cheer her up with stills that he shot during their video rehearsal….but Miranda thinks she looks fat in the pictures. She yells that girls in music videos are tiny and gorgeous and she’s neither, and Cartoon Lizzie comes in to offer that those people are all airbrushed to look perfect. Cartoon Lizzie pops up to offer a lot of counter-arguments for eating disorders this episode. Miranda says that Gordo was right when he said they ate too much and resolves to go on a diet.

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Jo gets a call from Matt’s school and tells Sam to brace himself. He asks what Matt did wrong, listing off a whole bunch of absurd things Matt had done in the past, but Jo continues to drag it out with “no…not that…sit down…brace yourself” before revealing that his teacher said that Matt might actually be “the Picasso of his generation.” I don’t know what to make of that at all. Should I feel bad for him that he’s been creatively stifled? Is that supposed to justify his truly awful behavior and personality?

Miranda remains moody and skips lunch because she “had a really big breakfast.” Gordo and Lizzie are immediately suspicious and concerned. The emotional intelligence of the middle schoolers this episode contrasts drastically with the reactions in “Just Like Lizzie,” wherein Miranda and Gordo could not be convinced to see a single weird thing about someone copying Lizzie’s entire wardrobe and personality.

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Matt wrecks the backyard making a painting in a completely different style than his sketch and that’s much more Jackson Pollack than Picasso. Sam is worried about him splattering paint everywhere, but Jo insists that they encourage him. When they try to see his painting, Matt announces that his inspiration is gone because of their interference. I kept expecting his art to be some sort of con that he was pulling as an excuse to treat people even worse than he usually does, but that never happened. He and Lanny run off to find inspiration elsewhere.

After school, Miranda insists they practice their dance over and over, despite Lizzie’s protests. This leads to Miranda dramatically crumpling to the ground because she’s too light-headed. When Jo asks if she’s having stomach pains, Miranda lies again and says she had a really big lunch. But she had no lunch! Miranda has a problem!!

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Gordo and Lizzie discuss the situation at some later point that I think is supposed to be that night but can’t be because they’re both wearing completely different outfits. Maybe a scene of the next day was cut and this was supposed to be that night. It’s distracting. Lizzie says she’ll talk to Miranda at the mall the following day.

Miranda remains sullen and snippy at the mall and continues complaining about her body. Lizzie tries to talk to her but ends up offending her. Lalaine’s Serious Acting kicks in when she tells Lizzie she’s toe-lee overreacting and it’s none of her business and she’s not going to thank her for butting in! It’s all fairly cringe-worthy and I actually laughed out loud on the stinger, when she dramatically whispers, “I’m outty.”

I disagree with most of the directing choices this episode. I understand that they want Miranda to seem like she’s under a lot of pressure, but instead they just make her pretty rude. For instance, she starts this scene with a quiet, almost sarcastic “Great idea to go to the mall, Lizzie,” which just makes her come off as antagonistic.

Matt fills the house with garbage for an artistic installation and Jo continues to insist that the family encourage him. Matt being an artistic genius – in multiple media, no less – is baffling. He’s just always been a prodigy and it’s never come up? I guess if Lizzie could land a modeling contract by walking gracefully down a catwalk, anything is possible.

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Lizzie asks for Jo’s help with dealing with Miranda. Jo says to give it a few days to make sure it’s a real problem and says that she’ll then sit down and talk with Miranda and her mother. Interestingly, this episode isn’t so much about dealing with eating disorders as it is about helping a friend with an eating disorder.

Miranda shows up to the video shoot and Lizzie and Gordo both air their concerns pretty sensibly and Lalaine’s Serious Acting tells us that she’s been dealing with so much pressure lately that eating was the only thing she could control. That line is really over-the-top, but it’s also a really accurate descriptor of why a lot of people develop eating disorders.

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Anyway, Lizzie and Gordo say they’ll always be there for her when she feels pressure and that basically solves her problem and they shoot the video. They watch it later and Miranda can’t believe how gorgeous she looks!

Oh, and Matt ruins the family’s car and isn’t allowed to make art anymore.

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I don’t really know where I land on this episode. Besides Lalaine’s Serious Acting, the performances were all very capable and the material wasn’t handled poorly. I’m not going to say it was a bad idea to make an episode about eating disorders for a show aimed primarily at young girls. Some of it was treated pretty realistically, with Lizzie explaining more than once that what Miranda sees in the mirror was not what the world sees, which is a useful descriptor of dysmorphia. I don’t know how much Very Special Episodes actually help anyone, though. Because of the length of the episode and its target audience, they necessarily had to make Miranda’s issue something very dramatic and noticeable that lasted only a few days.

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As I mentioned above, it provides more information about how to help a friend than how to get help yourself if you have an eating disorder. Cartoon Lizzie serves as the voice of reason a lot in this one, which is helpful, but we don’t actually see Lizzie struggle with this problem and really understand it. Again, I’m not going to knock them for trying to address a real problem – I just don’t know how effective this ever could have been.

Very Special Episodes are also, by nature, a real drag to watch. I can’t imagine anyone putting this on a rewatch list, unless it was solely for the music video.

On that note, and now that we’ve gotten through the tough stuff, we need to talk about that music video! Here it is in its original form, with “Us Against the World” and not dumb license-free music:

What the shit, right? This is….weird. I thought it was weird at the time and I think it’s weird now. The framing device is a straight-up Britney homage, with the ticking clock, daydreaming in class, and dancing in the halls all ripping off “…Baby One More Time.” But there’s also an added element of a male teacher they dance for and with and on. What’s up with that? Did they ask a teacher at their school to be in their video? That teacher should be fired for this! This is grossly inappropriate. The song is supposed to be about friendship, so it was clearly chosen for this episode because friends have to help each other deal with the world, so why not just have Lizzie and Miranda dancing together? It would make more sense than this.

Also, Play – whose name I wouldn’t know if I didn’t have to look it up for this episode – is obviously one of those Swedish bands who make earworm pop despite a minimal grasp of the English language, if you couldn’t tell from the chorus of “there is nothing better/than a talk to you.” So there aren’t a lot of good lyrics they could have pulled for this short bit, but I have qualms with the ones they did pick. The song is specifically about friends helping each other with boy problems, which isn’t relevant to this episode OR TO THE IDEA OF SHIMMYING ON A TEACHER, and the verse that they chose includes the line “You know that boy I started to see?/He thinks he can have it all for free.” Have what for free? Is this song about a guy who’s just with you for the sex? Why are Lizzie and Miranda dancing to this with a teacher on the Disney Channel?? There’s a dancier breakdown later in the song that’s just vaguely about friendship that would have been better than that bizarre line.

Also, the editing hiccup in the beginning (how Lizzie’s head-bobbing at 0:10 is immediately repeated at 0:11 from a different angle) really bugs me.

Hilary Duff’s cover of “I Can’t Wait” came out in June of 2002, and her first album (Santa Claus Lane! That was the first one! Not Metamorphosis!  Weirdly!) came out in December of 2002, which is when this season began airing. I wonder if episodes like this were included to boost Hilary Duff’s pop career.

Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “call me blonde, but” for “call me dumb, but;” “I’m outty” for “I don’t want to have a conversation about disordered eating”

Unnecessary references: Miranda calls Lizzie “Big Brother,” a reference she’s made multiple times. 1984 isn’t a middle school book!

Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears a shirt that says SCORPIO on it, which is really funny to me for no real reason.

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Miranda wears the above insane hodgepodge of camo and American flags. Look! Lizzie and Miranda have the same bracelet. I’ve been wondering if the costume designer has just been switching it back and forth between them. I hope they say BEST and FRIENDS on them. Lizzie has a matching necklace on, too. She wears either the bracelet or the necklace every episode.

Lizzie wears a shirt with the red cross on it?

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Here’s the outfits Lizzie and Gordo wear suddenly in one scene but nowhere else. Lizzie’s is a LOT.

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Lizzie wears a shirt that says ROCK 65 ON because of bad design. Miranda wears a shirt with a word search puzzle on it.

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This is unorthodox, but I’d contend that it’s miles ahead of her crocheted tic-tac-toe…vest (?) from season one.

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This is a pretty good encapsulation of how drastically the costume design changed between seasons one and two.

Other interesting tidbits: Lizzie and Miranda’s “Us Against the World” video is bizarre, but the original one isn’t much better. Four Swedish tweens solve a “Ninja Crisis” and pretend to play electric guitar in a secret lair inside their lockers.

The bit with Matt sketching Lizzie and calling it “Girl Who Makes Me Hurl” was used in commercials a lot. Lizzie responds, “I call this ‘Brother About to Run for His Life!'” and chases him around. It’s not funny.

This episode’s jokes were very badly muddled. On several occasions, I had to pause and try to find the joke in a scene that was clearly supposed to have one. For instance, in the first scene Gordo asks them to cut their snack break short to rehearse – I don’t know why, since he interrupted their rehearsal by bringing in a tray of snacks for them – and says the video is important to him. Miranda says it will look good on his school record and theirs as well. Cartoon Lizzie says, “Gordo’s making sense, but Miranda??” I do not get it.

Similarly, the scene with Gordo and Lizzie promises to talk to Miranda at the mall is completely confusing. Gordo keeps rambling about not knowing what to say to Miranda, and I think the joke is that Lizzie was already planning on talking to Miranda so it’s not necessary for him to talk to her? Or maybe it’s that Gordo could talk to Miranda because he does have a lot to say about it? This happens pretty often on this show, where it’s clearly set up like a joke, with goofy music and sound effects and edits, but the joke itself is impossible to find. It feels like the writers wrote a subpar scene and then the director didn’t bother explaining the point of it to the actors, so the teenage actors interpreted the lines however they wanted to and any original intent is completely obscured.

Remember when someone actually calculated how much fictional money has been blown saving Matt Damon’s characters from bad situations in movies? I want to do that with money wasted by Matt McGuire. His parents had to replace every possession in his room, eat the costs on his $300 self-made T-shirts, and now they have to get a new car – and yet Lizzie can’t have a $65 pair of jeans.

For anyone playing along in the “when did Lizzie McGuire end and Hilary’s music career began” game, here’s an odd note to ponder: season 1 aired from January ’01 – January ’02, but season 2 aired from February ’02 to February ’04. It only had three more episodes than season 1, so boy did they stretch that one. The finale aired in February ’03 (smack dab in the middle of the second season, bizarrely but at this point unsurprisingly) and the movie came out in May ’03. It’s all fairly confusing. Here’s a very poorly written article on Hilary’s career that came out in March ’02. It’s chockablock with copyediting and grammar mistakes, but it gives a good overview of this Lizzie/recording/Agent Cody Banks period.

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7 thoughts on “Season 2, episode 16: “Inner Beauty”

  1. I had a nevklace slightly different version of those bracelets. It was part of her jewelry clothing line target carried. So I’m guessing she really did love it if she designed her own rip off of it, or they wanted her to have a “signature” piece.

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  2. I share in your confusion over that music video. I very clearly remember that (I also remember the clips of Lizzie and Miranda dancing being part of commercials for the show back in the day), but wow, yeah, looking back on that as an adult, that is a super strange video. Your breakdown of it was great :D.

    I also would very much love to see your tally of all the money the McGuires have wasted due to Matt.

    Like

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