Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why *What Note to Wear* is Starting to Bug Me

On Sundays, I love to have a marathon of something running on TV in the background. America's Next Top Model was running every weekend for a while there. And Travel Channel often shows Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern. For the last couple of weekends, I've caught episodes of What Not to Wear.

I really used to love the show. But I was getting annoyed these past couple of weekends. Maybe it's just the episodes I've been watching or the mood I've been in. But I started to feel bad for these people who get ambushed on national television for dressing badly. Yes, they end up with $5000 of new clothes, which is the part we focus on. But they do get ambushed. Last week, there was the episode I've seen before of the woman who starts crying and runs to hide when they ambush her, and that got me thinking about this.

Sometimes, the motivation of friends is their belief that the chosen person needs to start believing in themselves, believing that they deserve better. But sometimes, the motivation is that they think their friends are something of a joke. On one episode, a husband said, "I want a wife I can show off." And no one called him on it.

Stacy's and Clinton's comments don't help. I know they are going for laughs, but some of the things they say do seem to be at the expense of the person they are supposed to be helping.

Like I said, it might be the mood I've been in or episodes I've seen. The makeovers are always amazing, and some people really do undergo a positive, welcome transformation. But here and there...eek.


  1. I love WNTW. But, I understand how some might be a little pissed off about being ambushed.

    I think much of the crying is part of the emotional process of letting go, not just of the clothes but of their comfort zone. For some people, they are comfortable being in a rut. Letting go is very hard.

    But the clothing advice is great

  2. I have long disliked this show for the reasons you mention. I understand the need to feel better about oneself, to get out of a rut, and to have a more positive outlook. However, the Eliza Doolittle quality of the show bugs me. "Yes, you too can be transformed into a real woman with the help of a haircut and a new wardrobe." And yes, Stacy's and Clinton's thinly-veiled contempt doesn't seem to me any different than that of Henry Higgins.

  3. With all due respect,, I don't think that is the premise of the show. I do believe that for many women changing their clothing and appearance can be a confidence boost. That is not to say that Clinton and Stacey are fairy godmothers who wave a magic wand and people magically become a success. But I do believe it helps a little.

    Besides, I have seen many women in my former profession as an attorney and my current profession as a professor need serious help in the wardrobe department. Sorry, but it's is true.

  4. I definitely see both sides of this one. It is, of course, in the nature of reality tv to create these magical story arcs where everything gets resolved in mere days. And, of course, the heteronormativity that runs rampant through this program is problematic. Or, as the GF said in disgust, "Why they want everyone to wear skirts?!"

  5. Hetero-thin-femalenormativity.