Extreme Makeover, 10 Years Younger, What Not to Wear, Ambush Makeover, The Biggest Loser, and more…these are all hit reality shows dedicated to helping people change their lives by changing their faces, bodies, hair, lifestyles, and/or wardrobes. I believe this trend started in 2003 with the mega-hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show that profiled one poor schmuck who (supposedly) needed help in five areas of his life: hair, fashion, cooking, home decorating, and culture. I loved this show when it first came out, mostly because of the dynamic “Fab 5” cast and the way they interacted with each other. I also enjoyed how they made over so many elements of a man’s life and not just his appearance. But the newer shows that have jumped on the reality makeover bandwagon are so much more shallow. Most of them focus on physical appearance alone and send the message that the way one looks is everything. You never get a second chance to make a first impression!!!
I am so disturbed by this trend in television. It perpetuates superficiality. The worst ones, in my opinion, are the shows where someone narcs on a friend who “needs” a makeover and then that person is videotaped unbeknownst to them for several weeks so the show can gather evidence about their fashion/beauty crimes. How mortifying!! I would most definitely have an instant aneurism if I discovered a hidden camera in my closet recording me dress and undress. (Note to self: discard all stained and ratty panties ASAP.) And it is sooo awkward when the surprised targets of these shows are not open to the notion of a makeover and try to defend their choices to the arrogant experts like Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear. I saw one episode of this show where they ambushed a woman who worked for some global cause like Feed the Children or Amnesty International and treated her like a fungal-ridden toenail just for wearing tapered jeans. The horror!!! This was a woman who had dedicated her life to helping others and serving humanity. Clearly current fashion trends were not high on her priority list. But did this woman really NEED a makeover?
Yes, Stacy and Clinton, I get it. You know what looks good on different body types, and when a person looks good, they feel good. And when you feel good, you can accomplish even more good in the world. Yes. True dat, double true — a little self-esteem boost never hurt anyone. And I do agree with you that tapered jeans make anyone look fat. But so what. What if you felt good about yourself before you were thrust into that 360° mirrored room and were perfectly happy until you discovered that one of your best friends didn’t like the way you look or dress? How helpful is that? And isn’t the world actually better with different kinds of people in it? So, even though you think you are doing the world a favor by making over a biker chick into a Brooks Brothers model, you are actually just creating a little army of look alike lemmings with no individual style. What fun is that? And what would you do for a living if you didn’t have other people to make fun of?
The other show that really burns my biscuits is 10 Years Younger on TLC. This show takes a person and stands them in a sound-proof box in the middle of a busy shopping area. They then invite passersby to comment on the boxed person and make guesses about how old they are. An average guessed age is calculated and then we get to see pictures of this person in their prime. Cue the tears and the condolatory host tenderly asking “What happened to you? How did you get this way?” The typical subject of this show is simply a mom who who “let herself go” due to the unrelenting time and energy demands of motherhood, but the producers really hit pay dirt when they get a single mom with three jobs who has survived a series of family tragedies and has no dental plan. After the tears and a promise to take better care of themselves, the subject is then whisked off to a dermatologist for chemical peels, laser treatments, and Botox injections, followed by a trip to the cosmetic dentist for veneers or Zoom whitening. Later they receive personal miracle sessions with a makeup artiste, hair genie, and personal fashion guru. The big finish occurs when they stick the physically transformed person back in the box and inevitably the looky-lous guess that she is between 10 and 20 years younger than she was before the makeover. Big fucking deal. Do you think it really matters that these women look 10 years younger when what they really need is insurance, some family support, and education to get a better paying job? Maybe looking better will jumpstart their motivation to take better care of themselves. But I’m guessing that they won’t be able to maintain the highlights and Botox injections when they are chasing toddlers and trying to put food on the table.
I think we’ve got this one backward, folks. Instead of targeting people who don’t fit the bill on the surface, perhaps we need to focus on things that really make a difference to the bigger picture. Focus on the forest instead of the tree. I propose that it might be the more fashionable, surgically augmented, aesthetically “put together” people who may need a makeover for their souls. Now that would be a good makeover show: “Extreme Makeover – Soul Edition.” Just imagine….a show where good looking, fashionable, shallow people are outed for their lack of philanthropic deeds by friends and co-workers and are ambushed and held in a cell while a team scrutinizes their contributions to society. Volunteer work? Charitable contributions? Random acts of kindness? Recycling? Then they are forced to rethink their style choices so that they will have to give a certain percentage of their income and time to charity and good deeds each week. What? No time for a facial peel because you were busy at the soup kitchen? You made HOW MUCH by selling off your designer purses for charity? WOW! Now this would be life transforming….and for more than just one person at a time.
I am knocking myself out to teach my kids that inner-beauty is more important than outer-beauty. These makeover shows tell us the opposite. Just imagine what could be accomplished in this world if we switched our focus from external appearances to the beautification of the soul. The following was written by Audrey Hepburn who was asked to share “beauty tips.”
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.
It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.
The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.