You definitely remember Meredith Blake.
She makes her first appearance in The Parent Trap when fake Hallie arrives “home” to Napa after camp to find that her father (whom she has not seen since INFANCY, this plot is wild) is engaged to a young lady, Meredith, played by Elaine Hendrix. The nanny and the dog literally hate her, and now the twins’ plan (which was kind of rude and presumptuous, IMO) may be foiled. The plot details aren’t so important; what really matters is Meredith’s outfit.
It’s a LOOK. A white boat neck dress with a keyhole cutout, a cut-away skirt, an empire waist. She also wears the best statement hat I’ve ever seen: black with a dramatic brim, a velvet ribbon, and a white contrast inner lining. Her nails are red, her lips are red, her jewelry is gold and abundant. You could absolutely murder a person with the heel of her shoe.
As a baby-gay who was utterly obsessed with the accoutrements of adult femininity, I immediately felt transfixed by this character who embodied all the ritual and ornamentation I’d always been so mesmerized by. After her introduction to Fake Hallie (Annie), wherein we get a very good shot of the superior tailoring on her crisp cut-away dress as she leans over to scrutinize her fiancé’s daughter, the two have an awkward little tête-à-tête in a gazebo.
In this gazebo, Hendrix delivers one of her most cutting lines: “Being young and beautiful isn’t a crime, you know.” A light went on in my head. Yes, I was only in grade school watching this movie with my mother in an old two-screen New Jersey theater after getting rained off the beach, but still, it was no mystery to me that women were expected to always be feminine, pretty, and alluring, yet simultaneously keep it all cloaked beneath a daily performance of humble self-effacement. I’d observed countless women respond to compliments with a self-deprecating comment. If someone said their dress was great, they wondered aloud if it was too young for them. If told they were beautiful, they often acted like they had no idea. I got the sense that if they were to simply smile and agree, there would always be someone there to tell them they shouldn’t be so conceited.
But here was Meredith Blake. She was aspirational to me not just because she was devastatingly chic, but because she knew how great she looked and took complete ownership of all the power her femininity held. And this kind of femininity wasn’t soft; it was sharp and intimidating and did not serve to make anybody else feel comfortable. Meredith was completely untimid. The thought of apologizing for herself wouldn’t even cross her mind.
If I ever before saw someone break the rules of womanhood this way, they didn’t quite stick with me the way she did. To be sure, there were other glamorous villains in children’s entertainment — Cruella de Vil and Snow White’s step-mom being my other favorites —but much of their appeal was rooted firmly in the grotesque and fantastical. Meredith wasn’t plotting to eviscerate maidens. She was just out to get her life by whatever means necessary (and have a martini by the pool).
Maybe her character stuck with me was because I was a blunt, assertive girl and frequently reprimanded for it. Unwilling to accept my teacher’s constant, tepid dismissal of boys’ physical harassment as “flirting,” I decided to take matters into my own hands and hit one of them across the face with a dictionary. Hard. It resulted in a long lecture from the guidance counselor (who I swear was a reanimated mummy) and a week’s suspension from the school bus (which, like, okay?) but I felt like I’d taken care of myself. Indeed, the boys left me alone.
Maybe she made an impression simply because her outfits epitomized the glam ’90s power bitch aesthetic I was so enamored of then, all the square necklines and white contrast piping and her mini nylon Prada backpack (you remember, the one the twins thought would be cute to fill with rocks).
Or maybe it was because way down in my chest I already knew I was gay and hurtling toward womanhood in a world where my high-femme self would always be perceived as something it wasn’t. And even though this character was written as straight (though, omg, ask me about Hendrix’s earlier role as white-suit-wearing-fashion-lesbian, Lisa Luder, in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), she still embodied a kind of self-possessed, self-serving glamour that flew in the face of every girl-next-door archetype I was so sick and tired of seeing.
I’ve collected lots of unlikely style icons over the years. My bridal look was literally inspired by Billie Burke’s 1939 Glinda the Good Witch costume, and more often than not I think of Patsy Stone when I’m accessorizing. But right now, July of #20gayteen, marks the 20th anniversary of when the world was first blessed with that SICKENING black and white, statement-hatted, red-lipped, poolside look on (fight me) the flyest evil almost-step-mom Disney ever came up with.
Parent Trap Week is an entire week dedicated to the 1998 iconic film, in honor of its 20th anniversary. See all the posts here.