Friday, July 25, 2008

Extreme makeover

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.


Laverna said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Our society has become extremely superficial and that isn't a good thing. While giving some people a 'lift' out of their situation may give them the push they need to break they cycle they are in, for most it will only be a short-term band-aid.
I have never really bought into the whole need-to-look-perfect mentality; I think I have my mother to thank for that. She was never obsessed with dieting or if she had gained a little weight. Not to say that she wasn't concerned about staying healthy, she just had a healthy approach to it. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains and get your exercise. If you're doing that, chances are that you'll look (and feel) good. Who could ask more than that?
I saw an ad on t.v. a while back (I know, I actually watched t.v.) for some sort of canine dietary supplement that was supposed to help ease joint pain. There's all these people talking about how much better their dog feels and how they can walk and run without pain while they show said dog running through the grass. All of these dogs were overweight. If you just fed them a little less, you'd get their weight down and you wouldn't have to give them expensive supplements. It's the same thing with people.

K* said...

One show that I do like that is not too extreme but still superficial is "What Not to Wear" on TLC. I LOVE that show. It doesn't take itself too seriously and is very tongue-in-cheek. It's become one of my summer guilty pleasures that I watch when I should be grading papers :).