According to a study by the University of Southern California, the unending string of body makeover shows hitting television screens has resulted in a rise in body anxiety for young women across the country.
Professor Julie Albright of USC interviewed 662 college students, concentrating on their television viewing habits and how those habits affected their body image. “The practice[of plastic surgery] now has incredible visibility, which has led to incredible acceptance, which has led to incredible pressure for women to improve their appearance,” Albright says, “Women are being taught to access power and status through their looks. Before women might buy a Louis Vuitton purse to show off their ‘status.’ Now they might buy new breasts as a sign of their success."
The notion that plastic surgery is a quick fix and a solution to deeper self-esteem issues may lead young women to undergo unnecessary procedures, thinking that their lives will be as improved as those they see on television. “The aim of plastic surgery makeover shows is to make women more beautiful and highlight the dissatisfaction women have with their bodies,” Albright notes, pointing out that women were led to believe that surgically enhanced bodies would make them more attractive to men and happier in general.
We've all seen these types of shows: The Swan, Extreme Makeover, and my least favorite show of all time, Ten Years Younger, to name a few. Though Ten Years Younger often doesn't involve serious plastic surgery, it's a show that thrives on humiliating women, taking people with already low self-esteem and placing them in a glass box on a busy street, where onlookers can criticize every single part of them. The women are then shown the tapes, and every nasty comment on them, as a faux-sympathetic host holds their hand and tells them everything will be okay with a little microdermabrasion and some new, hip clothes.
The entire show is a horrible joke, in that the women being "made over" are only made over on the outside; the self-esteem issues that have plagued them might be temporarily fixed by a day of beauty and a few new articles of clothing, but the reality is that even the most gorgeous people in the universe can hate themselves, want surgery, and feel down. As long as these shows continue to air, promising women happiness via hair products and plastic faces, it's fairly safe to say that young women will continue to see surgery and makeovers as a solution to much deeper problems. We all love a great swan story, but beauty, as we all know, fades, and perhaps instead of pushing women into boxes and picking out all of their flaws so that they can be "fixed," we should instead concentrate on teaching young women to love themselves for who they are. No amount of surgery, fancy makeup, or hair dye is worth as much as a sense of self-worth and happiness. And though these things may provide a temporary fix, the real makeover needs to start in the mind, so that a glance in the mirror doesn't point out everything that's wrong, but everything that is beautiful.
Makeover Shows Correspond With Increased Body Anxiety [ScienceDaily]