My mind is mush this morning. Why, you ask? Nope, it's not the lack of sleep and over indulgence of party-times from last week. It's that I forced myself to watch ABC's new reality show True Beauty last night.
Now I'm a smart gal right? So I should have known that any show following the two-hour season premier of The Bachelor- Season 13! (13 seasons!?) could not be a good show (look, I only had The Bachelor as background noise while I waited for the premiere of True Beauty I swear. I will not get sucked into another season of The Bachelor. I will not get sucked into another season of The Bachelor. I will not sucked into another season of The Bachelor.) My brain was already mildly melted after watching twenty-five newly desperate women swoon over a total stranger. (When the new bachelor Jason announced to the group of husband-hunting robots "I know my future wife is here tonight" I swear to you I almost hopped in my bathtub with a toaster. I am not a suicidal person, but the business of made-for-TV-marriages makes me wonder "am I too intelligent to live on this planet?")
But as someone who believes that art and entertainment has the power to do good, I braved the storm and waited for True Beauty to air because, well these promos fooled me into thinking this show may indeed have a positive impact on society.
Alrighty executive producers Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher, I'll give your hopefully "feel good" show a chance.
At least I think it's suppose to be a "feel good show" right? Exposing the dark side of beauty and celebrating inner gorgeousness and heart?
According to the show description. True Beauty follows a group of good-looking guys and girls who think they're competing only in a beauty contest. THE WACKY TWIST? What they don't know is that the challenges are also testing them on their inner beauty. They'll be judged on everything from photo shoots to how well they respect their elders. The three judges Vanessa Minnillo (former host of TRL and Entertainment Tonight), Cheryl Tiegs (America's first supermodel, currently designer and author) and Nol Marin (America's Next Top Model and fashion expert for E!, TV Guide, The Tyra Banks Show), will observe and critique the contestants' behavior and eliminate one person each week. Only after someone is eliminated will the truth about the show be revealed to him/her, as they watch a video montage of their behavior captured by a hidden camera during the shoot. At the end of eight episodes, one winner will be declared, a person who is truly beautiful inside and out. That person will receive a cash prize and a spot in People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People issue.
So I watched. And what I saw was not beautiful. The first episode edited together tidbits of these beautiful people saying superficial statement after then next. There was an endearing exchange between contestants Chelsea Bush and CJ MIller in which CJ was convientnetly writing in his journal about how hard it was to be a fat kid and then shared his feelings with a sympatetic Chelsea. For a second I thought "perhaps this show is going to be about genuine emotions" but that's not reality TV. We need drama! So producers sent the contestants on a "beauty evaluation" ( cue the dramatic music) in which "expert scientists" scored contestants with a rating of how attractive they were according to formulas and equations. While each contestant waited to be examined, producers purposely left opposing contestants files in the room to see who would snoop.
So I guess, if you snoop you are ugly.
After rolling the tape, the judges decided contestant Hadiyyah-lah Sa'id was that nights big ol' loser. Not only did she snoop but she didn't hold the door open for a guy carrying lots of coffee cups ( okay, rude but not the end of the world). Oh and Hadiyyah-lah Sa'id had the nerve to cry when the "scientists" gave her a low score on the attractiveness scale. Apparently if you get sad when someone calls you unattractive that means you are indeed unattractive?
Hadiyyah-lah Sa'id was understandably upset when she was leaving the show because she felt she didn't like being accused of not having "true inner beauty." I think most people would agree that it's hard to showcase true inner beauty when your "truth" is being spliced together by TV execs in an editing room.
Sooooo in a nutshell, what I learned last night is "true beauty" is based on tricking people into compromising situations and then shaming them for not being a perfect human being. Oh and it's not cool to get sad when your feelings are hurt. Oh and "true beauty" is something to compete for and something that can win you a cash prize.
Put a not-so-typically attractive person in People magazines 100 Most Beautiful People issue because they have done something amazing to change the world. and then maybe I'll believe in this whole "beauty is only skin deep" shenanigans. In the meantime, let's just call a spade a spade, ABC's True Beauty is just another mindless hour of parading pretty objects. And hey if that's your cup of tea, thats totes fine. I can't promise I won't sneak in another episode when I'm hungry for mindless entertainment on a bored, lonely Monday night. But I will not watch expecting this show to be a "feel good" series.Unless of course, feeling good equates to cat fights, caddiness, and destroying peoples self-esteem.
Who knows, maybe episode two will have that warm fuzzy touch. Maybe...
(This piece was originally published on http://www.takepart.com)