I admit to an addiction to home improvement television, if only to ridicule the victims when the makeover is revealed to resemble an LSD hallucination bummer. However, shows demonstrating how our mean little lives could be transformed by surgery, wardrobe revisions, and habitat rehab are a staple of cable TV. Now, a study by a USC professor has found what I long suspected; the 'nip and tuck' shows are causing us to be unhappy with our bodies, and fueling the plastic surgery industry.
According to the American Society for Plastic Surgery, in a single year (2002-3) the number of 18-year-olds getting boob jobs tripled, and in the past 10 year the number of plastic surgery procedures has more than quadrupled. Professor Julie Albright's study, which appears in Configurations Journal from Johns Hopkins U. Press, found that the more women watched makeover shows, the less satisfied they were with their own bodies. She concludes that the shows set unrealistic standards for appearances, and oversell the monetary value of beauty.
At the same time, shows like Extreme Makeover provide a blueprint for how plain Janes and Joes can transform themselves. Ironically, men who took part in the study did not agree with the notion that a surgically enhanced woman was more attractive to them.
I extrapolate a bit here in suggesting that the same mechanism works for home and garden improvement shows, wardrobe shows, and the like. Establishing aspirations that drive us to spend more (which is, of course, the purpose of these shows) starts first with making us dissatisfied with our current circumstances.
Given this, the best way to save money on your home, wardrobe, and appearance is to switch channels. You'll never catch up to the latest trends, because those trends exist only to keep you returning to the mall. Try being happy with who you are and where you are, for a change. Unfortunately, that doesn't make for good TV, but it does make for a good life.
See also Plastic surgeon writes children's book to teach kids about Mommy's boob job
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