One thing I had completely lost touch with and that I rediscover coming back to North-America also involves meeting again with reality shows. Shunned, yet a growing movement, reality shows are taking over tv everywhere, be it in France, Quebec, the States or the UK. Some are horrifying : remember "THE SWAN" ?
This horrifying series combines the physical makeover aspect of "Extreme Makeover", the lifestyle makeover concept of "Starting Over", and the "beauty pageant" aspect of ABC's embarrassing "Are You Hot"?
Here is the text designed to attract potential contestants :
"Do you have a dream that you haven't achieved because of how you look? Do you believe that if you got the looks you always wanted, you could then go on to achieve your deepest desires -- including winning a beauty pageant?
If so, producers of The Swan might be interested in hearing from you. In the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, an ugly duckling awakened one day to discover that she had been transformed into a beautiful swan. In the real world, life is a bit more complicated that that -- and that's where The Swan comes on.
The Swan goes beyond where other makeover shows end, offering women the opportunity to undergo complete life transformations, and then follows their journey afterwards as they accomplish their goals and bring their dreams to fruition. The Swan's team of Life Specialists – plastic surgeons, hair stylists, makeup artists, style consultants, speech therapists, and other life coaches – will work on each woman from the outside in so that she can accomplish what she always wanted to achieve but couldn't due to limitations, perceived or otherwise."
Ouach ! In reality, the contestants went through a painful 3 months that involved extensive plastic surgery, diet and training and "therapy sessions." They went through this whole make-over boot-camp process without ever being allowed to see themselves. When unveiled, little of their original physical identity remains, which, if you ask me, might send quite a few right back in therapy.
At the end of the process, they are evalutated and get to move on (or not) to the next level of the pageant. Criteria invoked ? INTERIOR BEAUTY ! Isn't that ludicrous ?
Some contestants even loose privacy and In december 2004, the SWAN winner, Delisa Stiles, got divorced from her husband throughout the process, the moment where she receives the divorce paper direct on camera. A nice bonus for Fox.
I always looked at reality shows thinking that if one is eager for fame to the point of shedding all pudor, then they someone deserve a bit of pain, ridicule or humiliation. What the SWAN contestants are exposed to, however, is far more disturbing.