Feminist Theory and the Misguided Shows of the E! Network
Bridal Plasty. Dr. 90210. What’s Eating You? Girls Next Door. Sunset Tan. Sound familiar? The common feature uniting all of these television shows is the E! Network, owned in its entirety by media conglomerate NBC Universal and plaguing the minds of over 600 million viewers worldwide, including an incredible 88 million US viewers. The E! Network holds its claim to fame as the original “Entertainment Television” channel, with few competitors in its midst even today. But hey, with quality programming such as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Married to Rock” at the touch of your $200 universal remote, who needs to have competition? Unfortunately, even for those minds that have managed to thwart a swift plunge into the reality TV quicksand, there is still quite a battle to be fought against this type of exploitative programming, as illustrated by its high viewership. The misguided shows of the E! Network combines nearly all of the pitfalls of reality television with a distinct emphasis on dysfunctional body image, gender essentialism, and the contemptible voyeurism and objectification of women.
One of the main issues with dysfunctional body image on the E! Network is that it is forecast as the prime source of “entertainment” on multiple programs. “Bridal Plasty” was pioneered as the first American reality show to have contestants actually compete for plastic surgery. According to theories presented by Jenifer Pozner in “Reality Bites Back,” Pozner would reference the idea that this kind of “prize” is exactly what has attributed to the skewed perception that the most important thing a woman has is her body and appearance. The premise of the show reinforces the idea that “perfection” is attainable and should be sought after if you have the means necessary to do so. The show also brings up questions concerning medical ethics and pushing the boundaries of so much unnecessary surgery in relation to possible body dysmorphia disorders. Another key television example that also exploits the issue of dysfunctional body image is Dr. 90210. Not only does this show emphasize an unhealthy and unrealistic attitude towards what is considered on-air to be “perfect” and “normal,” but the two patriarchal surgeons of the show, Dr. Rey and Dr. Diamond, have their own misogynist attitudes to work out. According to “Vulva Goldmine: The New Culture of Vaginal Reconstruction,” author Julia Scheeres notes the trend of genital surgery has its epicenter in Southern California, where the quest is to be forever young and meet the same standards of beauty that would compel a woman to willingly shove needles in her face to lose a couple wrinkles. Scheeres’ interviews of Southern California gynecologists involved questioning the intent of such unnecessary and expensive surgery. At up to $10,000 a surgery, the doctors she spoke with had reasoning similar to those from Dr. 90210: they insist that the surgery is “specifically for female pleasure and not very often for their partners.” (Scheeres) On the show, Dr. Rey asserts that he is providing women with higher self-esteem and boosted confidence. It must be nice that he is able to do that for so many women, apart from his own wife. Aside from having a purely misogynist perception about the necessity of vaginal reconstruction, Dr. Rey doubles as the poster child for the typical patriarchal, controlling, and dominating husband. His married life on the show acts as somewhat of a space filler at times and interaction with his wife is usually limited to discussion about her genetically gifted frame and figure. The irony of this is interface is that she is 1. thin as a rail, and 2. loves receiving his attention and praise. This reiterates the misguided notion of what the “average woman” looks like, and should look like, as well as feed into the idea that women need praise from men to feel confidence and self-worth. Another noteworthy topic is the...
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