The following articles will delve into the variety of perspectives on makeover reality television and its influences in popular culture.
In “Revealing the Makeover Show” Tania Lewis discusses the importance of understanding makeover television as it reflects the shifting dynamics of selfhood and cultural value today (441). Lewis describes the difference between makeover reality shows and regular reality programming. The main ingredients are usually drama, conflict, emotion and stereotypes, however the makeover show is distinguished from its absence of drama. The spice that it adds is lifestyle advice and the provision of expertise from the participants' transformers. (441) The effects produce an economy of sameness, especially by its inclusion of ordinary people. Viewers see the transformation of common people, like themselves, and find a need to do the same. By teaching viewers to adopt particular values, Lewis says it shapes them into self-governing consumer-citizens. Clearly the engagement of the audience to the shows are imperative based on the results its proven to produce. Lewis cited that viewers tended to accept the central premise of these shows, viewing “irregular” clothing and obesity as an issue of self-esteem and willpower rather than as a social structure concern. (445) The general audience now perceives the participants lack of “coolness” as the result of themselves, which shifts even more weight to the lifestyle choices that the experts transforms.
Joanne Morreale in “Reality TV, Faking It, and the Transformation of Personal Identity” addresses the impact of reality television programming and its infiltration on the human identity. Morreale describes the overall premise of reality makeover shows as offering “fulfillment, that transformation is commensurate with improvement.” (30) The show's way to transform the participants are defined by popular culture and dictate a path to which the viewer can achieve access to it. Morreale later discusses consumers interpretation of self-fulfillment from the shows as it being “through consumption, through having rather than being, and thus explains the quest for products that bring physical, emotional, or spiritual health.” (30) Obviously, the transformation of the participants are not only physical but psychological as well. The makeover of the participants creates a more confident, “cooler” individual who can fit into the network of popular culture. Consequently, the audience then sees a product that will make them happy and fulfill them. Morreale delves in deeper and discusses the impact of the coaches who are in charge of transforming the participants. She says the coaches, “teach participants the ritualized sets of behaviors, rules, norms, and expectations...” (31) Clearly, the impact of these programs create a commodified class of people.
Alice Marwick’s article, “There’s a Beautiful Girl Under All of This: Performing Hegemonic Feminity in Reality Television,” addresses the influence to makeover shows main audience – females. Marwick treats this genre of programming as a hyper-stylized version of femininity producing a sharp rise in cosmetic surgery in the U.S. The effect of thousands of women feeling the need to have permanent change establishes a controversial moral dilemma. Consequently, Marwick believes that women then create moral justifications for plastic surgery. Furthermore, such a drastic procedure has been transformed as the morally correct solution to personal problems. Namely it is the plastic surgery television that caused the outburst of women wanting to put under the knife. Marwick claims that these types of programs encourage its viewers to frame cosmetic surgery as a “morally appropriate means to achieving an authentic self.” These women think this is the only, logical way to produce a sense of empowerment. And clearly, the programs are successful in showing transformations that are being viewed as nothing short of self-fulfilling.
Meredith Jones picks apart the topic of cosmetic surgery reality shows as well in “Media-bodies and screen-births: Cosmetic surgery reality television.” Jones directs the purpose of the shows to be about normality rather than beauty (515). However, Jones begs the question of whether these shows mimic a fantasy world that the audience is trying to gain access to. To better argue her theory, she parallels it to Cinderella – of a magical transformation and having to recognize a new self. Rather than a fairy godmother, the shows have an expert in fashion or a cosmetic surgeon to fix what the world pins as flaws. Jones continues to establish that this genre of programming is one in which women’s bodies are made over, surveilled, and squeezed into rigid gender stereotypes (519). However rigid they are Jones argues that the audience expresses a great joy in the revealing of the transformation or rebirth. In a way, women are being empowered by being witness to her own creation, subsequently allowing power to its subjects. The subjects then weigh identity by the skin rather than character.
Sarah Banet-Weiser and Laura Portwood-Stacer compare reality makeover shows to Miss America pageants in their article “‘I want to be me again!’” Stacer and Weiser argue that the participants in the programs strive to become the ‘ideal’ woman – one that are seen in Miss. America pageants. Both spectacles offer their viewers performances of femininity which are a reflection of popular culture (255). The authors agree that this idealization of the physically beautiful woman has become normalized. Even though the subjects are presented differently they are still presented as just that, subjects. Weiser and Stacer continually argue that the focus of the scripted reality shows are based off of cultural and political conditions that shape the performances of femininity.
1. Banet-Weiser, Sarah; Laura Portwood-Stacer. Feminist Theory; Aug2006, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p255, 18p
2. Jones, Meredith. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Aug2008, Vol. 22 Issue 4, p515-524
3. Lewis, Tania. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Aug2008, Vol. 22 Issue 4, p441-446, 6p;
4. Marwick, Alice. Critical Studies in Media Communication, Aug2010, Vol. 27 Issue 3, p251-266, 16p
5. Morreale, Joanne. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature & Culture: A WWWeb Journal, Jun2005, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p30-35, 6p. (Article)