Can Makeovers Go More Than Skin Deep?

I had an experience in the past year that propelled me out of my comfort zone, and has me thinking about relationships, acceptance, and yet again – the way society sets us up.

Here is me: I stay at home, and have, for the past… oh, almost forty years that I’ve been married and had kids.

You might call me insulated…. parochial… any number of limiting adjectives; because that is how people tend to categorize and pigeon-hole each other. It is also a function of how our brains manage to work with limited information and infinite unknowns.

Increasingly over the past decade the mold has broken and I’ve been traveling, so far to Hungary, Denmark, Brazil, and across the States on a roadtrip west. I had moved into a type of intellectual travel, too, with the internet, forums, and blogging, but in 2012 I ended up briefly visiting the reality TV world.

That was stretching me beyond a number of comfort levels, into a world that is truly alien for me.

That experience can be seen in the brief scenes in the latest episode of Making Mr. Right.
(this episode is no longer available to watch for free, but you can get it on Amazon for $1.99).

Making Mr. Right | Mother Knows Best

When you know the premise of this dating show, immediately some of the most obvious questions come up, like “Could/Should people try to makeover their mates?” (Potential or otherwise) And the equally obvious questions about whether people have soul mates, or is “finding the right person” the key to happiness? Those last questions, oddly enough, revolve around the idea that we don’t “make” our happiness or the object of it, but that people are somehow static and finding the “right match” is the important part.

How much of our happiness resides in the power of another person, how much within our own making?

Actually there are all sorts of questions that swirl around in our culture, along with some of the preconceptions attached to them.

Which is what makes the idea of creating a dating show one that promises interest and entertainment for viewers.

And either way, we are led to objectify our significant others in ways that cause us to forget they are people who change and are influenced, and who have the power to make their own choices, to mold their own world, and to turn the tables on us! We might want to inject some humility, respectfulness, and freedom into this process.

Makeovers

Makeovers are such a big part of American myth. American girls are practically raised on that idea, from magazine articles to whole books to the beauty industry to the business world. If we just get the look right, or make the superficial changes, we unlock approval and success, and get to have our dreams come true.

Fortunes are made on such beliefs.

Lies I Was Told

Kind of like the “Working Girl” movie with Melanie Griffith, made in the 80’s when the importance of image reinvented itself and became the top priority for our society. Makes the old adage “can’t tell a book by its cover” meaningless.

This idea has too many remakes to count, just take a look at a list of this year’s movies, TV shows, music videos, and other pop culture venues… I bet you can find more than a few that follow the pattern and sell the concept.

It is all about the image, the branding, the packaging. We just have to reinvent, and we will get what we want.

And it works. Glitz and glitter works in the short run.

In all this, some of the outdated deceptions reemerge.

Within those beloved makeovers, I wonder, can the changes go more than skin deep, can we really resolve the way we interact with people in our lives by changing the details and the surface conditions of our lives?

My Bias

Let’s go back to ideas of changing our world, our society. Does a little Newspeak work on the macro scale? Is it working on the smaller scale of our jobs, relationships, and approval ratings of the people around us? Or more importantly for the questions brought out by Making Mr. Right, can we find and create our perfect life? Or a perfect mate, Or a perfect “other”? We certainly spend a lot of time trying.

Things I Am Convinced Of

Realities that I woke up to …along the way.

  • Mass movements, politics, and propaganda do not truly change the world, only temporarily rearrange the status quo. I learned this from my participation in the Moratorium Movement during the Vietnam war era.
  • You don’t mold or change your children. You find out who they are and encourage and direct their development. And the parenting is not even the lion-share of that. Many influences, many choices, many circumstances go into the formation of who a person is and becomes.
  • You can control very little, of anything. Your job in life is not about “control”
  • You don’t change other people, because you can’t. And vice versa

So what do makeovers accomplish, really? For all our love affair with the idea, does it change anything? Surprisingly I do think that makeovers produce some changes, just not the ones we expect.

We think of the makeover as changing the outward appearance. Sometimes that is a reflection of what inward changes have already taken place, and improves the way others perceive us. We are not islands, and the acceptance, approval, and support of others is vital. The makeover can certainly be a type of catalyst.

A makeover can align the clues we give to society of who we are with who we actually are. We can more clearly represent ourselves by adding the objectivity of the others helping us with a makeover (or those we model ourselves after). Perhaps, dispelling the false messages we accepted from others about who we are. We don’t always know ourselves as well as we believe we do.

It can also connect us better with what others need. A makeover in etiquette, in how we express thoughts and opinions, in listening skills or emotional intelligence. This is gaining a toolset in relationships.

But changing the core of a person, their struggles with life, or personal direction? Those are the ways we misuse the makeover, and the end of such manipulations is going to end in conflict and disappointment.

What Can A TV Reality Show Tell Us?

I love Francis Schaeffer, and his thought. One of the things that I picked up from reading his books is to look at the culture, especially its art and expression, to find out truths about who we are as a society. Beyond the shallow judgements of like or unlike, or slots of good or evil, what do our ideas of marriage, family, gender, man and woman, parent and child, divorce, dating tell us about our larger society and its direction? What kind of blind spots do we have, and what will give us insight and a pathway to follow on this convoluted road of life?

A few hypotheses from my perspective

I think we still believe we can control more than we have the ability to control. Maybe as a society, that belief is more underlined and accepted than ever.

We see things through the filter of our hopes, and tend to edit out even obvious barriers. We believe romantic love conquers all obstacles. Romantic love is pretty wimpy, and that isn’t the type of love that faces and overcomes real challenges. Although it has a powerful kick as a firestarter to desire.

Our ideas of divorce are sacred cows roaming our streets and leaving us starving for strong relational bonds.

We laugh at how silly someone else may be while remaining blind to our own foibles.

Humanity is humanity and no amount of makeover changes that.

What Do I think Of All This?

There was a time I wouldn’t watch reality TV. Then I started watching the occasional show. I never ever imagined being on one, even for a brief appearance. I am not really TV material, to say the least. But it was a great experience and I’m glad to have had the chance to connect with people in a whole new way, including with my son. If you look closely at my body language in some of the glimpses, I feel protective of my children, even one who is fully grown… and that is what I see in many moms. We want the best for our children and makeover or no makeover, we desire that they be loved, and learn to love. We want our stories to have happy endings, or at least make heroic efforts toward that end.

I learned that we continue to see new perspectives of the world through our children, just as when they were little.

I wish I had spent less time trying to be a makeover artist with my children, and more time just being with them and finding out who they were.

Finding out who someone actually is, and helping to be the best representative of who that is… I think that is the important lesson, the valuable takeaway from this experience. Get that from a TV show and your time watching was well spent.

Photo credit: clarita

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