Posts Tagged ‘How To Look Good Naked’

Miss Naked Beauty

November 3, 2008

I’ve written a few times before about the short shrift and unfair attitude towards women on television today. I don’t mean the blatant tits and arse variety, nor even the stereotyping in advertising – I mean the rampant anti-feminism, the hidden objectification, the cultish health programming and obsession with body image.

It was because of all this that Gok Wan was a refreshing face when How to Look Good Naked cropped up on Channel 4 in 2006. For those of you who watch the fashionista shows, and for those of us who watch them because our girlfriends watch them, he was a welcome diversion from the pointed surgery endorsing of Nicky Hambleton-Jones and fraudulent credentials of the shit-nailing Gillian McKeith.

Gok tried to convey a very simple point; that self esteem was the key to looking and feeling good and with a few fashion tips and confidence-boosting exercises anyone could learn to have style. Yes it was wrapped up in lots of fast cuts and faster talk, but when you saw how he was able to transform a mastectomy patient who despised the body that had ‘betrayed her’ or a sobbing forty-year-old who could only look in the mirror and repeat ‘this isn’t how I’m meant to look’, few could deny he had the right message.

It’s a shame that since How to Look Good Naked, though, he’s returned with a succession of bad concepts that seem to imply he’s forgotten the empowering nature of his style is what makes him appealing and instead regressed back into a promoter of all he previously stood against. We’ll ignore Gok’s Fashion Fix because that’s the shit cousin that nobody talks about and instead move onto Miss Naked Beauty, which is currently showing on Channel 4.

It’s a nice idea – find a collection of body-conscious, ‘real’ women and whittle them down until you have a spokesperson for the movement who embodies all that is beautiful and natural about the female sex.

They come in all shapes and sizers – the bum haters, the small-boob apologists, the post-surgeried, the child-sized, the vein-leggers (and one who thinks the curve at the bottom of her spine is ugly, but no-one really knows what she’s talking about). All of them naturally attractive, and most misled about their faults.

Unfortunately they’ve shoe-horned in a needless teams-and-judges element to choose a winner which means that, in-keeping with the current trend for ‘honesty television’, the women go through 50 minutes of self-empowering life lessons only to be ridiculed and insulted by a panel of celebrites for the last 10 – and go home feeling worse than they did before.

The episode last Tuesday started with a task where the women stripped off and had photos taken of their most despised body parts and ended with James Brown of Loaded fame telling two that they were smug, fake and fundamentally unlikable. You know what? If I was a 36 year old cancer survivor who’d had a breast reduction and a hysterectomy and still had the gumption to stand there topless on television, I’d be pretty fucking smug too, you judgemental, teat-suckling wanker.

By the end of the show, very little had been achieved. The women had been built up and knocked down, two had been sent home crying and Debenhams had agreed to put one mannequin in their window as part of a highly patronising and quite clearly nominal war on the highstreet.

The valuable point about self-emancipation that Gok had previously fought for had been streamlined into a pecking order. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to be normal and happy but be aware that you could be better at being normal and happy.

So basically Gok Wan used to be really good, then he went and made a show which stole the concept and the brutality from the Apprentice and applied it to vunerable women instead of thick-skinned businessfolk. Where he used to be a charming and trustworthy host, he is now another beauty-myth peddling pundit claiming self empowering tactics and being as inadvertently offensive as those he once set out to destroy.

Basically, he’s turning into Ben Elton.

Olay Regenerist

July 2, 2008

Olay Regenerist - Alternative to Injections

For years I laboured under the misguided belief that the poor standing of women in todays society was the fault of men; that the glass ceilings of business, the abject sexism of language and the body fascism of the media were all the result of a patriarchal world which imposed impossible standards upon them at the request of men.

For a while it looked like things were improving, but somewhere along the way it went wrong. We reached a point where being allowed to get as shitfaced as men meant equality, and where masturbating with a wine bottle on Big Brother equalled personal freedom and we suddenly went on our way again, thinking that everything was alright, and pushing the sexes even further apart in the process.

Advertising is the main culprit here – a slow socialization of roles that has become an all out war on the female image, grinding them further and further down until their behavour is a commodity and their self esteem is purchasable.

The poor standing of women in society is no longer because of men, and it’s not because of women either – it’s because of money. It’s because self-loathing is more profitable than self-empowerment and because a happy woman does not make a handful of very powerful people very rich.

I know what you’re thinking – this isn’t the normal sardonic critique usually enjoyed on Watch With Mothers, this is the nigh on communist rantings of newboy Quincy Phd. Watch the advert for Olay Regenerist above, though, and tell me that there’s not something very sinister about the whole thing.

It’s just a little advert – one in a million of the same ilk, and in many ways as innocuous as them all, but within it lays the seeds of all that is wrong with the advertising industry. It defies all sense of decency, of moral purpose – it’s cold, callous and calculated to further deflate the self-respect of half of the population.

Turn over to More4 and there’s a repeat of How To Look Good Naked; a woman is sobbing, actually breaking down in front of a mirror – holding her slightly aged stomach and spluttering that this isn’t how she’s meant to look, how she’s meant to be “slim, and young, and beautiful…”

The connection isn’t hard to see. We live in a culture where an advert with two kissing men is pulled in its first week, but this shit goes on and on and on without a single complaint. It’s state sanctioned bullying, drip-feed demoralisation and the beginnings of Olay’s move into wholesale cosmetic surgery products.

The male targeted adverts of this ilk are easy to laugh at – Pierce Brosnan saving the environment, Ewan McGregor on his bike – but when Andi McDowell talks of erasing her life-story lines it’s almost conspiratory. Before, the voiceover would say “in your early thirties” – now it’s “in your late twenties.”

Mainly, though, it bothers me that Eve Cameron, beauty journalist, would hawk this shit. I know everyone has a price, but in my ideal world she’d have a flash of conscience and realise that all she’s really doing is perpetuating an impossible and unrealistic beauty myth and further ruining the societal advancement of her own gender.