Things Only Adults Notice In Miss Congeniality

Released in 2000, "Miss Congeniality" centers on tomboy FBI agent Gracie Hart (played by Sandra Bullock), who must go undercover as a beauty queen in order to prevent an attack at the Miss United States pageant. The film has something for everyone. There's comedy, romance, action, and even a couple of musical performances. How could you not love it? 

While the film received mixed reviews from critics, "Miss Congeniality" holds a respectable audience score of 69% on Rotten Tomatoes. As Den of Geek puts it, "This is peak Bullock in a film you'd have to be something of a monster not to like."

A lot of things have changed in the decades since "Miss Congeniality" was released, though — and if it's been a number of years since you've seen it, you might be in for a bit of a surprise. The movie is still as iconic as ever, and Sandra Bullock never disappoints, but there's a big difference between watching a film as a kid and watching it as an adult. There are a lot of things about "Miss Congeniality" that jump out to the adult viewer.

Where are the adults on this playground?

"Miss Congeniality" opens with a flashback scene of a young Gracie putting aside her "Nancy Drew" book to stand up for a kid being bullied on a playground. She punches both the bully and the kid she was sticking up for after he expresses his disgust at being defended by a girl. While the scene sets up Gracie's character nicely, showing her as a tough girl who doesn't pull punches, we've got to wonder where the adults are on this playground.

It's a major girl power moment, and we sympathize with Gracie, but the fact that she's able to get away with beating up multiple children is pretty alarming. The whole fight should have been stopped as soon as the bully started picking on someone. Someone should have been looking out for the safety of the children on the playground — and reminding Gracie that it's not okay to punch someone in the face just because they hurt your feelings.

Gracie's hidden camera is far from stealthy

In the first "Miss Congeniality" scene in which we see the adult Gracie, she's undercover at a restaurant as part of a sting operation. She's sitting in a booth pretending to read a book that actually has a video camera hidden in it. There's a small screen showing everything being recorded.

While Gracie blends into the crowd, we have to question if this is really the best equipment the FBI has to offer. As far as hidden cameras go, it's not exactly well hidden. Couldn't she have some sort of spy camera eyeglasses? Maybe a pen? This book setup looks like something a teenager could pick up at the local Radio Shack. All someone has to do is peek over Gracie's shoulder to see that she's up to something. She's lucky the server didn't notice what she was really up to, or things could have ended very badly for Gracie and the entire operation.

Flashing her badge to cut the coffee line is a serious abuse of power

Gracie is a talented FBI agent, although she's in hot water after disobeying an order toward the beginning of the film. Still, there's nothing that justifies the coffee run she's forced to make, which involves turning on a police siren to speed through the streets in order to fill her coworkers' Starbucks orders. Once there, she claims to be on official FBI business, flashing her badge to get to the front of the very long line. There are so many things wrong with this scene. Not only is it a total abuse of power for Gracie to use her position to cut through traffic and the morning rush coffee line, but it's absolutely ridiculous that she's bringing the coffee to work. Doesn't the FBI have interns or assistants?

While it's possible that having to do this coffee run is punishment for her prior mistake at work, it's still a red flag that Gracie — one of the few women in her department — is being made to fetch the coffee. The FBI portrayed in "Miss Congeniality" is very much a boys' club where women are treated with less respect — and this is just one of the icky scenes showing just how toxic Gracie's work environment is.

Eric Matthews is a total creep

FBI Agent Eric Matthews is played to perfection by the devastatingly handsome Benjamin Bratt. He's so attractive that it's tempting to forgive some of his macho behavior at first, but he just gets sleazier and sleazier as the film progresses. He's clearly a player, bragging about having dated a pageant queen he refers to by her title rather than her name. 

More disturbing is him using his position as an FBI agent to take out a college student who is writing a paper on law enforcement. While we don't learn Eric's age in the film, the minimum age to be an FBI agent is 23 and we know Eric has been with them for several years, so he's likely in his late 20s at the youngest, and taking advantage of his position to date a college student who could be a decade or more younger than him. While it may be legal, there's a clear power imbalance here, and even Gracie seems disturbed by the relationship. 

It gets worse, though. We see Eric repeatedly objectify women, notably sexually harassing Gracie by slapping her on the rear multiple times as he informs her that no one really sees her as a woman. This is worrisome behavior, especially because we're supposed to see him as a handsome leading man.

Won't people notice that Gracie has never competed in a pageant before?

The plot to have Gracie infiltrate a major nationwide pageant might have made more sense in the '80s or even the early '90s. By 2000, though, the power of the internet makes getting away with the scheme much harder. 

Many of the contestants in the Miss United States have likely been on the pageant circuit for years and would certainly have checked up on their competition. The fact that Gracie is a total newcomer to pageants is unlikely to go unnoticed. Even with the story that Gracie is taking over for the real Miss Jersey winner after a scandal forced her to give up her crown, the title should have still gone to the runner-up of the Miss Jersey pageant. Many of Gracie's fellow contestants would have likely paid attention to the finalists of that pageant to know who they would be going up against. 

While the movie came out before Google was widely used as a verb, it did exist back in 2000, and there were also other search engines around. The era of social media hadn't emerged yet, so you couldn't look up a contestant's IG to get the dirt on them, but we're willing to bet that some driven competitors would have done their best to scope out the competition and have called Gracie out.

Why are there only 50 contestants?

Per the website for the Miss United States pageant, the pageant is open to women from "50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories." Despite this, the Miss United States pageant depicted in "Miss Congeniality" only has 50 contestants, one from each state. What happened to the rest of the competition?

While this is a detail that kids probably won't notice in the film, as an adult it's hard not to see the injustice of it all. Limiting contestants to the 50 states means little girls growing up in Washington, D.C. or an American territory would not be able to realize their dreams of representing their home in the pageant. Of course, this is good news for Gracie, as it means less competition as she fumbles her way through the pageant.

Even more interesting is that the film didn't even cast one woman for each state, hiring around 40 women to portray the contestants. Director Donald Petrie explained this to E! News, saying, "In a wide shot, who is going to go, 'Hey, there aren't enough girls up there!'"

Are we supposed to believe there are good bagels in Texas?

Apologies to our Texan friends, but we are having a hard time believing that a New Jersey native such as Gracie Hart would enjoy the bagels on offer at a Texas hotel. While there's some debate over whether New Jersey or New York has the best bagels — residents of both states claim theirs are tops, reports Insider — it's likely that a Jersey woman who works in NYC would turn up her nose at a Texas bagel. Yet there she sits, smearing what is no doubt store-bought schmear on her bagel

While the scene is supposed to show how Gracie, unlike the other contestants, eats whatever she wants, carbs be damned, it's just not very convincing. Even Eater Dallas admits that Texas' bagel game has long been weak, although it does note that this has changed in recent years. Still, we'd bet money that a hotel bagel in the 2000s would not be anything to write home about. They should have had Gracie eat a danish or a muffin instead.

Cheryl could benefit from therapy

When you're an adult watching "Miss Congeniality," you can't help but notice just how trauma-inducing Cheryl's life has been. The Miss Rhode Island beauty queen comes from an incredibly sheltered upbringing in which she was raised to look at something as innocent as a pair of red panties as sinful. It's no wonder that she's constantly apologizing for everything and in need of validation.

There's also the fact that her professor assaulted her in college, something that she believes is so common that it's not worth reporting. Then, there is the more recent trauma of nearly being murdered at the Miss United States pageant.

Hopefully, winning the pageant gives her a confidence boost, but Cheryl still has some major healing to do. Her life after winning the crown will also become a lot more stressful, and she could really benefit from going to therapy and working through all of those emotions.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

You might need more than a light jacket on April 25

During the Q&A portion of the Miss United States pageant, Cheryl is asked to describe the perfect date. While she is supposed to describe a romantic date, she misunderstands the question and instead replies, "That's a tough one. Um, I'd have to say April 25, because it's not too hot, [and] not too cold. All you need is a light jacket."

While there are certainly areas where April 25 likely has perfect weather, Cheryl's home state of Rhode Island is not one of them. notes that "temperatures in Rhode Island in April are quite cold, with temperatures between 41°F and 53°F" and "warm clothes are a must." In fact, snow is not uncommon in the northern state during the month of April.

April 25 may not be the perfect date for Rhode Islanders, but the line has nevertheless become one of the most iconic ones from "Miss Congeniality." One of the film's stars, William Shatner, explained why that date was chosen in a 2019 tweet, writing, "[I]t's the birthday of the wife of the director of #MissCongeniality So her birthday is memorialized in the film forever! Isn't that just adorbs?"

Is Gracie clumsy or not?

If "Miss Congeniality" had been made in the 2020s, we imagine it would be a very different film. As classic as the original is, there are some frustrating elements. For example, Gracie is a talented FBI agent who keeps her cool in dangerous situations. She's also a highly trained fighter and showed she can hold her own against her male colleagues when she and Eric Matthews go fist-to-fist in a sparring match.

Gracie is an incredibly skilled athlete — and yet, in an effort to show that she's not a girly girl, is also somehow clumsy, tripping over her own feet and even falling flat on her face on stage during the pageant. The clumsy scenes are played for laughs, but it's honestly just silly to imagine that someone who can knock down opponents much larger and heavier than her can't walk in high heels or even maneuver around her apartment without running into something.

Adding to the problematic portrayal is the fact that Gracie is shown to lack even basic table etiquette before being trained to be a pageant queen. The message seems to be that before Gracie becomes a beauty queen, she doesn't even have manners, as if tomboys are so boorish that they can't chew with their mouths closed.

How could Gracie be runner-up of the Miss United States pageant?

Don't get us wrong, we love our girl Gracie Hart — but there's no way she could have placed as runner-up in the Miss United States pageant. Her talents (while entertaining) are poorly rehearsed, she tackles a man in public during the pageant, her answers in the Q&A portions are all over the place, she misses her cues during the group dance number, and she falls flat on her face on stage.

As endearing as Gracie is, it's just not realistic that she would come in second place instead of one of the actual contestants who had been training for this competition for months, or even years. Miss California is an actual opera singer, for crying out loud. While Gracie deserves props for how hard she's worked, it's unfair for her to be named runner-up. Even weirder is that she's allowed to keep the title, even after it comes out that she wasn't a real contestant to begin with.

Gracie coming in as runner-up also brings up the issue of diversity in the pageant. While there were several women of color who advance to the top 10 — all of whom performed better than Gracie in the pageant — only one of them is named a finalist. Racked notes that pageants have quite a racist history, after all. It's quite possible that the Miss United States judges were biased in favor of white contestants.

Cheryl's fire batons are not safe

"Miss Congeniality" is all about girl power, so we were super excited to see Cheryl whip out those fire batons as she competes in the finals of the Miss United States pageant. It's a bonding moment for her and Gracie, who gives her the batons — and also a full-circle moment, as Cheryl's parents had never allowed her to use fire batons before. That being said, the fact that she's trying them out for the first time ever on stage is a fire hazard. Cheryl clearly knows how to handle her batons, but playing with fire is pretty risky, and things could have gone quite badly. Just one wrong move could have set the stage on fire or seriously injured someone.

There's a reason that fire batons come with a warning, like one on the website of Star Line Baton Co. Inc. that cautions people not to use fire batons unless they are "at the appropriate skill level, have proper training in use of fire batons, and understand the risk to the performer and property." The site also cautions against using fire batons indoors "unless approved by the local fire marshall in accordance to local codes."

Using fire batons also seems like something Cheryl would have had to clear with the people running the pageant for insurance and safety purposes. Or, at the very least, they would have been prepared with plenty of fire extinguishers backstage.

Gracie and Eric's relationship is a terrible idea

By the end of "Miss Congeniality," the bad guys are caught, Gracie is back in the FBI's good graces, and she and Eric are going on a date. This might be cute if Eric weren't such a creep, as we previously established.

There is so much wrong with this relationship. For starters, Eric only really started to treat Gracie nicely when he saw her all decked out for the pageant after she went through a head-to-toe makeover. The romantic tension between them begins to build during the pageant. Before that, he seemed to have some respect for her as a colleague, but it's clear that he wasn't interested in dating a tomboy. Eric seems to view women as sexual objects rather than as partners, and this doesn't bode well for his future relationship with Gracie.

While it's good to see Gracie feeling more confident by the end of the film, hopefully she realizes she can do much better than Eric. As for Eric, well, he seems beyond reform — but in an ideal world, he will learn how to treat women with respect.