The premiere episode of Jessica Simpson's VH1 show focused on standards of beauty in Thailand. Unfortunately, the mission got off-track when Jessica and her friends gagged on fried bugs and giggled during meditation with a Buddhist monk.
If you go all the way to Thailand, you should experience the culture, including the food. But making a scene over fried worms, grasshoppers and roaches just seemed like a cheap Fear Factor stunt. Jessica (and best friends Ken Paves and CaCee Cobb) didn't have to try the insect snacks, and watching her wretch in a public market was embarrassing; it came off as rude and immature. According to the website, the show's mission is to explore "how different cultures define beauty and the extraordinary lengths that women will go to in order to achieve it." But when the attitude is, "these people are so weird, they eat bugs" it detracts from the larger, more important message: Women all over the world long to better their appearance. Then again, producers did have a half-hour to fill.
Things got back on track when Jessica's beauty ambassador explained that light skin is considered more beautiful than dark. It would have been great if they'd spent a little more time on the class issues involved, but instead Jess met a woman, Panya Bunjan, whose skin had been damaged from lightening cream, putting a human face on the story.
Although it was awkward when Jessica tried to hug Panya Bunjan.
You know what's hilarious? Inner peace!
At the end of the episode, Jessica and her crew visited the Karen tribe, in which some women wear neck rings. There could have been a little bit more detail about how the heavy brass coil presses the shoulders, spines and ribcages of the women, and some discussion about medical issues, or why women who essentially disfigure themselves are considered beautiful, but maybe that's asking too much of a VH1 show, and of Jessica. Maybe future episodes will go deeper than gagging and giggling?