November 08, 2004

What Not to Operate On

There are several reality TV shows on this season that make ignoring television virtually impossible. I've spoken about two of the shows I'm thoroughly enjoying, "The Apprentice" and "Survivor", in previous posts. Both shows are very similar in that once a week a contestant is eliminated. Both shows are very similar in that the players have to ultimately betray people they are teamed up with. Both shows are entertaining because it's endlessly interesting to see how far people will go to make it to the top of the heap. But that's not what this post is about.

The two shows I'd like to discuss here are also very similar in that they encourage the participants to improve their innerselves by making changes to the outside. The two shows up for discussion are "The Swan" and "What Not to Wear".

"What Not To Wear" on the The Learning Channel (TLC) is quickly becoming my favorite of the four programs mentioned. Here, two fashion experts encourage someone to improve their lives and their look by helping them to revamp their wardrobe, hair and makeup. The recipient of this service is secretly videotaped by their family and friends. Then the friends and family send in the tape to show the producers of the program what dreadful taste their friends have and beg for help. The two fashion experts then surprise the soon-to-be recipient with a $5,000 credit card for a new wardrobe that can be theirs if the fashion criminal is willing to turn himself or herself over to the show, body, soul and wardrobe.

There are several good and positive elements to the show. Not only does one get a $5,000 gift card but the fashion victim is flown to New York City for a week where the hosts of the show give the person tips on what clothing looks good on them specifically, treats them to a hair consultation and hair cut above and beyond the $5K, and then given a lesson on how to apply makeup properly or to groom themselves properly in the case of men. Everyone I've seen on that show has come out the other end a happier person. They all say same thing. . .that knowing how to take care of themselves and shop for themselves ultimately makes them feel a little bit better and a little more confident. I love this show and understand why it is on The Learning Channel. I learn a lot about fashion and makeup etcetera and I enjoy the social psychological aspect of the show that secondarily allows you into the process of improving one's self esteem. Good stuff.

The other show that I'm fascinated with and horrified by at the same time is "The Swan" on FOX. As in "What Not To Wear", the viewer is learning that by making changes to one's outer appearance one can feel better on the inside. Unlike "What Not To Wear", almost every contestant has to undergo radical plastic surgery, compete with other women all suffering from the same, very sad self-esteem and depression issues, to get into a beauty pageant at the end of the show where they will compete once again to be win the title THE SWAN. Every week, the stories get sadder and the Dr's get more cocky. Generally I watch in horror as the experts on the show end up looking like a bunch of Dr. Frankensteins because of the amount of plastic surgery they insist the contestant get. Tonight one of the contestants was bullied into receiving dental work she didn't necessarily want although she really needed it. Another plastic surgeon expressed his interest in this poor woman's snake like and twisted nose which he then broke to correct. These women undergo serious plastic surgery, to the point where they are no longer recognizable. I don't this a good lesson.

Yes. This show has the same socio psycho aspect to it as "What Not To Wear" except it is a mean spirited show. Yes. Producers of both shows are creating entertainment as a commodity. But "The Swan" seems to have a more exploitative angle. They are giving the women who participate thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of physical training, psychotherapy and counseling and mucho plastic surgery. This is all good, but I would respect these people more if they did it without my ever knowing about it. They pretend to be doing these women some kind of favor while simultaneously exploiting them. The lessons are mixed and bad. It teaches us that it's good to be a victim, because victims get rewarded. It teaches us that beauty is the most important thing in life to get ahead.

What do we learn from "What Not To Wear"? That with a little advice, a good haircut and $5,000 shopping spree one can learn how to make the decision to look the best they can look with what GOD has given them.

I will continue to watch both and keep you updated.

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