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Drop Dead Gorgeous is a 1999 Black Comedy Mockumentary about a small town beauty pageant in Minnesota and the murders surrounding it. In much the same vein of Black Comedy as Heathers.

Not to be confused with the trope of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Adam West kicks off the first scene.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Hank is apparently masturbating during one of the Judges' interviews.
  • Adult Fear: A role reversal of sorts when Amber learns about her trailer exploding. She rushes home, wondering for a while if she had just been orphaned. Luckily, her mother has survived.
  • Alliterative Name: Amber Atkins, Annette Atkins, Lars Larson, Lester Leeman, etc.
  • An Aesop: Subverted by the characters themselves.
    Loretta: You stop right there. You are a good person. Good things happen to good people.
    Amber: Really?
    Loretta: No. It's pure bullshit, sweetie. You're lucky as hell, so you might as well enjoy it.
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  • American Accents: The Minnesota/Northern Plains accent is very prevalent, helping to play up the smalltown atmosphere.
  • And Another Thing...: Gladys, regarding Lester, as she is being hauled off by the police.
  • Annoying Laugh: Lisa's laugh is long, polyphonic, and full of snorts.
  • Anvil on Head: Jenelle goes deaf after a light is dropped on her during rehearsal.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Amber's mother Annette loses her right hand when her trailer catches fire and her hand is basically melted onto a can of beer she was drinking at the time, forcing it to be amputated.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Former pageant winner Connie Rudrud shilling for Saint Paul Pork Products.
    • "What IS... Soylent Green?"
  • Bare Your Midriff: Doesn't go very far, but Amber's shirts are a bit short.
  • Beauty Contest: Duh
  • Betty and Veronica: Amber vs. Becky over Brett. It didn't end well.
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  • Big Breast Pride: The Minnesota American Teen Princess contestant from Burnsville.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The first time we meet Molly's adoptive family, the Howards, their daughter's dialogue in Japanese is not translated. She says: "Dad, Mom, when are we going back to Tokyo? I hate it here, they put butter on EVERYTHING!"
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Becky and Gladys
  • Black Comedy
  • Blatant Lies: The police, after some thorough investigating, find that all of the deaths are just accidents that happened through very convenient coincidences and are totally not deliberate murders.
    • "What? Oh, my God. Lights, camera, and me without a stitch of makeup on!"
    • Becky pretends to be good friends with Mary Johansen, even though Mary has no idea who she is and says so right on camera.
  • Brainless Beauty: Leslie
  • Brick Joke: "Are we on COPS?"
    • "Nice one, <person>. You know <other person> is dead!"
  • Chatty Hairdresser: Annette
  • The Cheerleader: Leslie
  • Chekhov's Skill: The first scene at the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club has Becky not aiming for the center of the human-shaped target, but rather, for the area right above the target's right eye. Cue the morgue, and Amber pulls back the cloth to reveal...
  • The Chew Toy: Tess, quite literally at one point, when she mentions her last dog mauled her. She also hits her crotch, had a bolt from a plane hit her in the head, and blows chunks during the pageant.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Everybody at the Minnesota State Finals getting food poisoning, except for Amber.
  • Crapsack World: Mount Rose, Minnesota to be exact.
  • Creator Cameo: Judge #3 is writer and producer Lona Williams.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The murders are ruled as accidents. No one is fooled.
  • Cute and Psycho: Becky
  • Deadpan Snarker: Loretta has many snarky and hilarious one-liners.
  • Dirty Old Man: John Dough, one of the judges.
  • Disappeared Dad: Amber's father.
    Amber: What did Ma always use to say?
    Loretta: Once a carnie, always a carnie.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: During an interview, Gladys stops talking to begin ogling a high school wrestler and becomes flustered.
    • Leslie stops her interview to makeout with her boyfriend.
    • John Dough during many moments.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Tammy's rides on her dad's thresher.
    "But I know for a fact Tammy only smoked after a good drive."
    • And Leslie's running her hand up the Washington Monument replica on her head during the opening number of the pageant.
  • Dope Slap: Harold and Hank exchange a few.
  • Dumb Blonde: Leslie. Arguably Annette, although she's more Book Dumb.
  • Eagleland: Parodied with Gladys' uncreative ideas for pageant themes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Amber's idol is Diane Sawyer, and she dreams of getting out of Mount Rose and becoming a big-name news anchor herself. As has become a pattern for her, a wise decision and dumb luck converge to give her a job as an anchor for a Twin Cities news station.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk
  • Everybody Smokes: Including a pharmacist, a pregnant teenager, the entire fire department, and people in a hospital.
  • Evil Matriarch: Gladys Leeman.
  • The Fake Cutie: Becky.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Becky complains that the swan float reeks of gas.
  • The Fool: Through circumstances worthy of a voodoo protection spell, Amber bumbles into lucky breaks and close-calls that allow her to achieve her dreams, and she never stops being an absolute sweetheart about it.
  • Foreshadowing: "Jesus loves winners." And Becky is very intent on winning.
    • The state pageant. The suddenly changed schedule (with no stay at the Hotel Howard Johnson) and maybe the improperly cooked seafood hint that Sarah Rose Cosmetics is having financial problems. Amber and the other contestants who reach the National level later discover that Sarah Rose has been shut down due to a long history of tax evasion.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: There is a cape trimmed with white feathers, and a dress with a white feather neckline.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Averted: Annette fears that Amber will turn out just like her and end up spending her entire life in Mount Rose.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Molly has one for Japanese culture; her Japanese-born adoptive parents have one for American culture.
  • Freak Out: All contestants of the national American Teen Princess Pageant (save for Amber) go through this when they find out the company has been shut down.
  • The Fundamentalist: Downplayed, but still present. While no one character is particularly fundamentalist, we do see that the town's Lutherans are very outspoken about how much more moral and traditional they are than the 'sin cities'. Then all the murders start happening.
  • Funny Background Event:
  • Generation Xerox: Gladys hopes for one with Becky winning the Mount Rose pageant, as she did before her.
  • Genki Girl: Lisa.
  • Gilligan Cut: Amber's hesitant, uncertain naming and spelling all the United States in alphabetical order cuts from a tentative "Arizona?" to Amber confidently naming and spelling West Virginia.
  • Godwin's Law: When Amber is told her outfit is too skimpy for the pageant, she says "this is... This is Nazi Germany".
  • Groin Attack: A rare female example occurs during dance practice. Poor, poor Tess...
  • Hair of Gold: Amber.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first half of the movie is build-up to the pageant. Then the pageant happens...and there's still a half hour of film left.
  • Happily Adopted: Molly, but to the detriment of their biological daughter, who's practically ignored.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: Each pageant contestant wears an elaborate, personality-reflecting headpiece for the "Proud to Be An American" opening number:
    • Amber's headpiece features a map of the continental U.S. in blue and red, with Minnesota highlighted in gold glitter.
    • Becky's headpiece features her face as a new addition to Mount Rushmore.
    • Leslie's headpiece features the Washington Monument.
    • Lisa's headpiece features the Statue of Liberty.
    • Molly's headpiece features an atomic blast.
    • Michelle's headpiece features the Hollywood Hills.
    • Tess's headpiece features the world's largest ball of twine, created by her uncle.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted - Becky doesn't screech or slide tones randomly, she's just awful at singing.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Lester Leeman is a sleazy furniture salesman.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Iona Hildebrandt is a large framed and very masculine cranky woman with mediocre looks, but she won the crown in 1945. With pictures showing off what a classic,mid-century beauty she used to be.
  • Ill Girl: Dangerously underweight reigning Miss Mount Rose Mary Johanson, who is in Inpatient, wheelchair bound, and struggles to breathe. It's highly implied her anorexia was triggered by competing in the pageant.
  • Informed Ability: Both subverted and Lampshaded at the same time. Becky's dance is depicted as genuinely awful, despite Gladys' efforts to play up its quality. The subversion comes with Amber's dancing, where most of the complicated routines were performed by a body double. Oddly enough, Kirsten Dunst also began learning tap dance to perform some of the basic sequences herself, and is still tapping more than a decade later.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Tess: "Spike, my German shepherd, he went to live with a nice family on a farm after he attacked me..."
  • Karmic Death: Becky
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Loretta, who tries flirting with a married man at the hotel bar, only to notice his wedding ring. She immediately starts flirting with the bartender instead.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Becky doesn't take it too well when Brett shows an obvious attraction to Amber... so he ends up with a bullet in his head.
  • Miss Exposition: The cutaway to Iona Hildebrandt, who helpfully explains what lutefisk is.
  • Mockumentary: With a few exceptions the whole movie is shown as a documentary about the beauty contest.
  • National Stereotypes: The Howards, despite doing everything they can to naturalise themselves to Minnesota, are one Japanese stereotype after another. The only reason there was such close up footage of Becky's float exploding is because the dad can't put down the video camera.
  • Nice Girl:
    • Amber is arguably the nicest girl in the movie with a wholesome demeanor and down to earth attitude.
    • Lisa also qualifies, dropping out of the pageant so she can give Amber her costume so she can compete. Leslie also seems like a very sweet girl, if a bit dim.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Nice job blowing up your own daughter due to your own carelessness, Mom!
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Gladys's attempt at revenge against Amber inadvertently leads to Amber getting her dream job.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Becky, just before she gets blown up.
    • Amber, realizing that the other Minnesota American Teen Princess contestants have much stronger talents than she does.
  • Only Sane Girl:
    • Amber isn't as dorky, awkward, dumb, or as backstabbing as the other contestants. This is made all the more obvious when she gets to Nationals, and the contestants find out that Sarah Rose has been shut down and the pageant has been canceled. The other girls riot and destroy the building, while Amber simply sighs and gets back on the bus.
    • Loretta is this for the adults.
  • Parental Substitute: After the Atkins trailer blows up and Annette is hospitalized, Loretta steps in to help prepare Amber for the pageant.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Gladys Leeman eventually develops a major hate-on for the teenage Amber Atkins, her daughter's main rival in the pageant.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Amber.
  • Police Are Useless: The cops don't see anything suspicious about the various deaths.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • He's not quite villainous, that's his wife, but Lester Leeman is pretty sexist, and throws out racist remarks against Jews, Mexicans, and black people in most of his appearances.
    • Not that his wife is any better; her blithe comments about feminists, Catholics, and the handicapped count.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: How Brett is killed.
  • Pun-Based Title: Murders surrounding a beauty pageant!
  • Punny Name: John Dough.
  • Quirky Town
  • Really Gets Around: Loretta.
  • Removing the Rival: Being Becky's only real competition after Tammy's death, the entire pageant is so blatantly rigged against Amber, it Crosses the Line Twice. After the murder attempt fails, her interview is made ten times harder than the other contestants' (she's forced to spell out all fifty states — in alphabetical order), then during rehearsal a stage light is rigged to fall on her (luckily for her, she switched order placement with Jenelle at the last minute), and then her talent costume is stolen the night of the pageant and Gladys refuses to approve the new one she gets from the choreographer. When all that fails, it's implied that Gladys bribed the judges to get a higher score for Becky.
  • Rich Bitch: Gladys and Becky, the Leemans being the richest family in Mount Rose. It's implied that Gladys has bought the police off to literally get away with murder.
  • Running Gag:
    • Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club, Lutheran orphanages, the world's oldest living Lutheran, and so on.
    • "Are we on COPS?"
  • Sanity Slippage: Gladys wasn't all there to begin with, considering she murdered Tammy and tried to murder Amber so Becky could win the pageant, but after Becky dies, she loses it.
  • Shout Out: The song over the closing credits is Joan Jett's cover of the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was also about a sweet-natured, wide-eyed Minnesota girl aspiring to make it in TV news.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Mayor's first appearance.
    Oh, yeah, sure, Freda, sure. She was the oldest living Lutheran, now she's dead as a doornail. It's the damn Shriners who won't take down the goddamn sign, the lazy sons of bitches. Every year, every damn year, I tell 'em, "Take down the goddamn Freda sign, you lazy sons of bitches!"
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: The movie is rife with slapstick and the vast majority of those on the receiving end of it are the girls in the pageant; including being blown up on a thresher, swan float, and inside a trailer, being hit in the head with a overhead light, eating tainted shellfish and barfing everywhere, and so on.
  • Small Town Boredom: Amber. Really, though, almost everyone hates living in Mount Rose.
  • Spoof Aesop: The preacher's eulogy for Becky, that the lesson of all this is "Buy American", after a Mexican-made parade float exploded.
  • Stage Mom
  • Stepford Smiler: Gladys and Becky. The unstable kind.
  • Stylistic Suck: All over the place. The St. Paul Pork Products Ad, Soylent Green, Becky's cringe-fest of a routine... and that's just skimming the surface.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: John Dough does this all the time.
  • Teenage Pregnancy:
    • Implied with Leslie.
    • Girls compete in the pageant at the age of 17. Gladys won Mount Rose Miss American Teen Princess 17 years ago, and her daughter is now 17.
    • One of the girls smoking and drinking while being interviewed in the high school bathroom is heavily pregnant.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The judges' interviews before the pageant.
    Harold: If you could be any kind of tree in the woods, what kind of tree would you be?
    Tess: Dogwood.
    Molly: Bonsai.
    Leslie: Green?
  • Trade Snark: Sarah Rose Cosmetics ®©™
  • The Cassandra: The two Goth girls in the school bathroom tell the documentary crew that Tammy's death indicates that more girls will get killed off. Though none of the other girls in the pageant end up dying (unless you count Becky) one girl is severely injured, another has her home destroyed and her mother hospitalized, and a guy their age dies as collateral damage.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Lisa is implied to be this in her family.
    • Molly's sister.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: It's blatantly obvious that Gladys is trying to relive her Glory Days through Becky, including following her to state, something Gladys never got to do despite winning her own pageant (most likely due to being pregnant with Becky). The goth girls in the bathroom even lampshade it at one point.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Gladys has one after Becky's death.
  • The Voiceless: We never see judge #3, Jean Kangas, say a single word.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Done over and over and over, to Also sprach Zarathustra.
  • Yandere: Becky. Boy, she sure doesn't want her boyfriend to look at anyone else...
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Gladys.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist:
  • You Should Have Died Instead: After Becky dies, Gladys has a breakdown and shouts this at Amber. Part of it is out of hate and grief, but the rest is implied to be because Amber was supposed to win the contest and Gladys bribed the judges so Becky could win instead.


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