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June 10, 2004


Quick: Which Reality Show contestant is this?

If you guessed Jen Schefft, from season 2 of The Bachelor, you’re right. Not that it really matters – you could just as easily have guessed Darla or Stacey from The Bachelor 3, or Sarah from Joe Millionaire, or Trista (The Bachelorette), or Brooke (The Bachelor), or Katie Couric. And you’d still be right. Is it an accident that the bachelorette photo gallery on ABC’s website features a pop-up ad for The Stepford Wives?

Catherine Orenstein (author of Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked) doesn’t think so. In this op-ed piece, she looks at our increasingly Stepford society, asking of shows like Extreme Makeover and The Swan, “Why do we wish to reinvent ourselves so badly – and so blandly?”

It's a good question. For me, the offensiveness of these shows is not in the implied premise that life can be made happier by radically changing your physical appearance. It’s that life can be made happier by becoming a Midwestern office manager with a blow-out. These shows, encouraged by the success of television’s brides to be, turn out a production line of highlighted, plucked, thin-nosed soccer moms who weep and wail and claim that they are finally their “true selves.”

No wonder they feel so desperate. It goes without saying that no woman of color has ever been a finalist on a reality dating show – but even more alarming, no curly-haired woman has either.

We should heed Orenstein’s warning that “in our quest to be Cinderellas, we are risking becoming her imposter stepsisters – eagerly slicing off toe and heel….to fit into a false shoe.”

categories: Culture, TV
posted by Emily at 12:31 PM | #