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07-Feb-2020 22:54

[1] In a 2003 episode of Extreme Makeover, ABC’s makeover show offering transformation through style advice and multiple plastic surgeries, Amy, a “painfully shy 29-year-old cake decorator from Indiana,” exclaims in her post-makeover interview, “I’m me now!

I don’t have to listen to what anyone else says” (Season 1- Episode 3, per

Consider also Fox’s makeover show, The Swan, where candidates/contestants are literally scored, or the website offers a formula for beauty based on a numerical analysis of facial planes and their deviation from the “golden mask.” [4] What we’re seeing in both Extreme Makeover and the present media and makeover genre more broadly, then, is not programming dedicated to individuated enhancement, but a clustering of makeover shows working to underscore collectively the imperative of high-glamour appearance—golden highlights, trimmed bodies, four-inch heels, and double D breasts notwithstanding.

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Yet, there is a significant difference between a new washing machine and a new nose, and if we are to look to television antecedents to better understand Extreme Makeover, I believe we’d be more likely to find them in an amalgam of soap opera and game show, say General Hospital and The Price is Right, where sad stories are the only sorts of stories worth telling, where consumer knowledge is assessed and rewarded, where benevolent hosts select from a pool of candidates to “come on down,” and where audiences vicariously participate in the tension and celebrate the outcome—be it love in the afternoon or winning the grand showcase.

Indeed, there is ample evidence that Extreme Makeoveris in step with larger cultural patterns in espousing these narrow beauty ideals, as indicated by just a small sampling of popular texts, including “A Beauty Formula?

,” a Peoplefeature that rated Uma Thurman a D due to her “triangular-shaped face” and Paris Hilton a C because her “eyes are too narrow for her face”.

“Every time I watch it, I see more things I can get done” (Klein).

In the summer of 2004, NPR reported that congressional representatives would give their legislation an “extreme makeover” before it went back up the hill (Weekend Edition, July 10, 2004).In effect, the show exploits the same bodily anxieties that fuel the psychic pain it ostensibly cures, offering makeover participants and home viewers a contradictory pairing—the despair of anxiety, the (promised) joy brought by beauty.