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Extreme makeover programmes: how a glorified account of transformation legitimises the use of cosmetic surgery

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  • Medicine


This dissertation examines the popularity of the extreme makeover format, and its ability to legitimise cosmetic surgery. Through an analysis of '10 Years Younger' (Silk, 2006) and 'The Swan' (Galan, 2004), I suggest that makeover shows create and encourage the desire for cosmetic surgery, and promote beauty industry ideologies that produce a sense of dissatisfaction with the body. I have placed my analysis within a post-modern society that suggests that the body is inextricably linked with identity. I explore how specific elements of the format have made these programmes both popular and influential. They use ordinary participants, and a narrative structure culminating in the reveal. The literature that I use to frame my analysis reflects a number of key media theories surrounding cosmetic surgery and women's agency. I use Hall's theory of 'dominant' and 'negotiated' readings of texts (2001, p.166-176) to examine the various meanings that can be interpreted from extreme makeover programmes. My interpretations of the 'dominant' readings of these programmes demonstrate the formats ability to promote cosmetic surgery as an accessible tool for the individual in their quest to self-transformation. The 'negotiated' readings of the texts allow me to discuss issues of authenticity and the misrepresentation of procedures on these shows. I demonstrate that whilst extreme makeover programmes purport to provide information and advice on cosmetic surgery, producers are more inclined to publicise its benefits. These programmes do not offer an even-handed view of cosmetic surgery. Commercial pressure necessitates a glorified account of transformation.

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