I have to admit that I am not immune to the guilty pleasure of watching reality shows. In fact, there are some reality shows that I find educational, such as nanny shows where nannies teach parenting skills. But there is one problem with the basic premise behind many reality shows, and that is the concept of the "extreme makeover".
On many reality shows, the basic premise is that, if something is wrong in your life, your life will be instantly better if you just get a makeover, new house, and/or plastic surgery. That is, if things look better, they must be better.
I recently saw a reality show called "Clean House" where the people featured won a contest for the messiest house in America. The people from the show came in to help them clean up their house, hosted a yard sale, and remodeled the house for them, leaving them with a lot less clutter, a new paint job and nice furnishings. But I couldn't help but wonder if it was really going to work for the people. As the show's hosts maneuvered through the incredibly cluttered and dirty house, they revealed that the cause for this couple's incredible amount of clutter was that they were both depressed: he was depressed because he had been injured and was not able to work as a firefighter, and she was depressed because she was not able to have children. The irony, of course, is that in its condition, their house wouldn't have been healthy for children anyway. The "Clean House" team did a great job remodeling and redesigning their living space, but I couldn't help but wonder if the extra assistance they got was enough to help them get over the hump. If their psychological situation was the cause for them to collect so much clutter and dirt, getting a new paint job and living room chairs might not cut it in the long term.
The ultimate bad example of this phenomenon is the show "Extreme Makeover". In this show, they take people who have poor body image and give them plastic surgery, personal training, a new hairstyle, new clothing, and new makeup. Of course they are thrilled, but does this really solve their problems? It seems to me that it actually just reinforces their belief that they aren't worthwhile because of their appearance. So over the long term, it can actually make the problem worse, can't it? We have all heard of people who are "addicted" to plastic surgery; no matter how "beautiful" they look, they can't shake their poor self-worth and poor body image. So they pursue it by getting more plastic surgery, and so forth, never satisfied because they are trying to address their need in the wrong way.
Personally I understand the power of using confidence in your looks to help you out when you're not feeling too great about things. Sometimes a new hairstyle or some makeup can really give you the extra umph you need to fake it until you make it in a difficult situation. But overall quick fixes are not the ultimate solution to a lack of self-worth.
I don't agree with the message that such television shows are sending that making your house, wardrobe, makeup or skin beautiful in appearance is going to make you happy. It seems to me that it's almost the other way around: if you feel a sense of self-worth, you'll improve your appearance and environment.
Here's an article on a related topic that I found through a Google search.