Reality Television is associated with different factors such as unprofessional actors, unscripted dialogue for the realistic effect, however in Snog Marry Avoid? Elements of the programme are staged in which the contestants are humiliated for their appearance, e.g. People talking behind their back as they walk past is often featured. The participants also appear to come off as quite dumb in order to add to the humiliation they are about to face. How to Look Good Naked also uses staged elements. E.G Gok Wan often destroys the participants clothing if it is ‘unflattering’ again this detracts away from realism as it wouldn’t happen if the cameras weren’t filming as well as the organisation of the catwalk in shopping centres where participants showcase their new transformation and are asked to appear naked at the end of the catwalk.
The success of makeover reality television shows are due to the increasing concerns of health and body image, in order to adhere to a certain set of standards set by society women are subjected to what Laura Mulvey calls the male gaze which, it can also be linked to ideology. Ideology can be defined as “a systematic framework of social understanding motivated by a will to power or a desire to be accepted as the ‘right’ way of thinking”(Lacey, 2009, p.100)The underlying systems of ideology within the media makes consumers feel that striving for the ‘perfect’ image is acceptable behaviour and that body image is extremely important.
Magazine images of slim models and celebrity inspiration is constantly in the limelight which makes media consumers feel that they should look that way as it is the only body image being perceived, if celebrities put on weight or are photographed without makeup on then they are instantly criticised for having an unpolished appearance, this reflects on females in society as they are portrayed as being abnormal or unattractive if they have a curvy frame and skin that isn’t flawless.
In How to Look Good Naked, the female participants are unhappy with their looks and it is hyper-emphasized with close up camera shots on the body parts which they find ‘unconventional’, e.g. stomachs and thighs are frequently the parts which females tend to dislike about their selves. “Knowing that she is to be subjected to the cold appraisal of the male connoisseur and that her life prospects may depend on how she is seen, a woman learns to appraise herself first.” (Bartky, 1990, 38) In both Snog Marry Avoid? And How to Look Good Naked the reasons for the contestants wanting the makeovers are often more deep rooted than simply wanting to feel good about their selves, it is also influenced by how they feel they should look. Quite often the contestants lack confidence in their bodies and feel that they need to change in order to attract a partner or what is more relevant for How to Look Good Naked is the desire to feel more feminine after having children, having had their body shape change prior to and after giving birth the female lacks confidence in herself, as Bartky illustrates the female must learn to love her body first and maintain it in societal standards in order for it to be appealing to the opposite sex and even in the instance that elements of her life may depend on her appearance which could be career related.
Although the purpose of makeover programmes is to change the lifestyle of participants it attracts it’s audiences by adding in entertainment aspects at the costs of humiliating those who have taken part in the programme. According to Dovey (2000) lifestyle television is “filled by voices proclaiming and celebrating their own “freakiness”, articulating their most intimate fears and secrets” (Biressi and Nunn, 2005, p.96) In How to Look Naked participants prior to their makeovers have an image of their body projected onto a large building in a public place, wearing only unflattering lingerie as strangers are exhibited to their humiliation.
In Snog, Marry, Avoid? Before their appearance is changed the participants have over eccentric looks, little clothing and large amounts of make up on, they are quite often ‘bullied’ over their appearances by what members of the public have to say about them, another reason why they want the makeover is to feel confident in their selves after being subjected to bullying in the past which is what makes them cover their selves in makeup and fake tan as a sort of persona in order to hide their true identity.
Conboy et al (1997) argues that the body is constantly in the process of change, without the changes linking to societal requirements the female form will always be considered grotesque or undesirable, this links into makeover programmes such as How to Look Good Naked and Snog Marry Avoid? As stated previously females feel they should change the way they look in order to fit the standards rather than to accept the way they already look, this is a reflection of body image and vanity in contemporary culture due to the increasing pressure to look perfect.
Metaphorically the lifestyle programme is like watching a freak show, the female is exhibited in front of an audience who can laugh at her expense because of her unconventional appearance.
In conclusion reality television is constantly using entertainment factors in order to make their shows more appealing to consumers, although it takes away the realism with its use of staged scenes it still makes lifestyle shows such as How to Look Good Naked and Snog Marry Avoid? Successful. The freak show format allows audience to laugh at the expense of others and feel better about their selves which allows the programmes to legitimise the female body in the name of entertainment, if the body doesn’t fit societal standards showcased by the media then it isn’t acceptable so why not laugh at it? This is what the makeover programme offers, the humiliation and entertainment of others whilst they try to fit the norm and adhere to what they think they should look like. It’s the shocking dress and makeup choices that participants in Snog Marry Avoid? Wear that makes the show more appealing, they essentially humiliate their selves on a daily basis with the poor choices of thick layers of tan and little clothing so adding it into the reality format makes the show more entertaining and acceptable to laugh at others as it isn’t something that you could do in real life. It essentially showcases the female body for bullying/humiliation if it isn’t perfect and calls it entertainment.
Biressi, A. and Nunn, H. (2005) Reality TV: Realism and Revelation. London: Wallflower Press.
Conboy, K, Medina, N and Stanbury, S. (ed.) (1997) Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory. New York:Columbia University Press.
Lacey, N (2009). Image and Representation: Key Concepts in Media Studies. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mulvey, L. (2009) Visual and other pleasures. 2nd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
*images from Google