A rapidly expanding genre of television is cosmetic or surgical makeover television (catchy title yes?). Programs such as How to Look Good Naked, You Are What You Eat, Extreme Makeover, What Not to Wear, 10 Years Younger and Morning’s with Kerri-Anne are all classic examples of television designed to make ugly or normal people feel better about themselves. It gives participants the opportunity to be publicly berated and humiliated by stylists and fashionistas, most of whom are fully qualified experts and have the TAFE and night school diplomas to prove it.
These programs usually consist of three parts; the put down, the makeover and the rebirth.
The Put Down: The part where the the lucky contestant is ambushed by an inimitable, cocksure host and told that their miserable, drab and hapless existence is about to kissed on the arse by rainbow because they are about to be subject to an extreme makeover/diet/surgery. The contestant is then paraded around and subject to hurls of abuse from the presenter, the extremely judgemental presenter and usually their nearest and dearest. It is by no means unusual for the target’s husband, sister or lifelong friend to provide the most scathing assessment of the person they care so much about. Examples include:
“She looks like a beached whale with the skin like a rhino". “Maggie used to look so young and have so much energy when she was 19.”
Or from the voiceover punk:
“ Maggie is 46 and a librarian, but years of reading and chatting with friends over coffee has taken its toll. After years of neglect this once medium built, girl next door has turned into a frumpy greying shell of a person who hasn’t had sex in five long years."
The Makeover: Enter the saviour. The makeover show host is a piece of work. Some have now ascended the genre, Trinny and Susannah are prime examples. Once they were merely hosts of What not to Wear, now they are up and coming gurus who are a shining beacon for women everywhere - nothing wrong with that, it’s just a pity that they’re both shallow, judgemental f@%ks with no taste in clothes!
I digress, the lucky contestant is then offered a range of procedures that would be out of the price range of both the contestant and sad bastards like me watching. Shows like these fray at the rich tapestry of our society. After days weeks and sometimes months of special treatment ranging from face peels to vaginal restoration (and everything in between) the contestant is ready to be presented to the same loved ones who only a short time ago thought she was a hideous oaf in desperate need of teeth whitening and getting laid.
The Rebirth: Standing side by side, loved ones in eager anticipation wait to make sure that contestant looks nothing like the person they once knew. The end result, despite the sometimes expensive, evasive surgery and clever editing the results can be disappointing. On most occasions the transformation has resulted in the contestant merely looking like they’ve had a tropical holiday, a visit to the dentist a haircut and a bout of sea sickness resulting in rapid weight loss. Despite this, the reactions from loved ones is no less understated than the gaudy jewellery that the shows host is a adorned with.
“Wow she looks like the Maggie I know! Her hair is so straight and that dress she’s wearing, she would never have worn a gown like that at the library."
“Amazing, just amazing. Looks just like the woman I used to know as my sister. I’d be proud to be seen in public with her again."
The voiceover punk:
“So there you have it, the fat old frump that once was Maggie is now Maggie the sexy bitch! No more spectacles, laser corrective surgery has seen to that. A tummy tuck, a face peel, a brow lift and the magic of cosmetic dentistry means that Maggie is no longer as painful on the eye as a wasp sting."
The fact that there are enough of these programs to now comprise an entire genre of television is testament to their popularity. There’s a market for it and where there’s a market there will always be television hosts, cosmetic surgeons and hair dressers.
Article orginally published at www.danieljames.com.au