Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Heather is a remarkable woman" says the narrator of channel four's 'Ten Years Younger'. Reality life improvement shows often have a sinister element to them, a sense that in the first fifteen minutes of the programme the subject is being beaten down, ritually humiliated, in order that they will unquestioningly accept the advice of the minor television deity who claims to hold the key to their happiness. However, tonight's show was one of the most disturbing of this genre that I have seen. The forty-two year old subject was stripped to her bikini, revealing the extent to which years of excess weight and chain smoking have damaged her body. As she was paraded on the beach comments were invited from other holiday makers. These were relayed back to the subject, with the effect, one suspects, of creating a more pliable model for the programme maker's plans. Eventually this woman had six hours of cosmetic surgery including a stomach tuck, breast implants and lift, fat injected into her face, surgical removal of the bags under her eyes, and some 'work' on her thighs. There is no doubt that she was grateful to the programme, and to the presenter. However this does not diminish the frightening impact of the show, and introduces many puzzling questions. What exactly makes this person a 'remarkable woman'? At one point in the programme we are shown two photographs of the subject receiving degree certificates. This is certainly not the reason behind the epithet granted to her. Rather it seems she is remarkable because of her dedication to achieving the ideal image that society requires of women.

This show failed to mention any possible cons to cosmetic surgery. The pain and suffering the subject must have endured were not discussed, and instead we were granted an hour long polimic about the benefits that conforming to a physical ideal will bring to our lives. The same approach, to a less extreme degree, is adopted by the infamous Trinny and Susannah. They present the women appearing on their show with a ready made wardrobe of conformist clothing, aimed at emphasising their female attributes, and preventing them from embarrassing themselves by wearing apparently 'unsuitable' clothing for a woman of their age and shape. This programme stunts personal creativity, and reinforces the idea that women cannot be happy or successful if they do not conform to the image that society expects from them. These programmes are far from light entertainment - the participants may have agreed to be a part of them, and may be happy with the results, but nevertheless the shows perpetuate damaging images of woman as object and more generally emphasise the 'need' to conform to society's expectations in order to be happy. For a more expert article on these programmes see, and for an alternative approach to appearance check out .


Post a Comment

<< Home