TV 101: Carson Kressley's new show (or "No, actually, you DON'T look good naked")
This introduction, however, was easy to write. That's because my wife wrote it for me. She read the column and then turned to me and said, "Wow, you're gonna get crucified for this." I asked her, "Worse than my Simpsons essay?" She said, "The reaction to this will make the Simpsons essay look like a fawning Office review. I agree with it, and I'm sure a lot of other people will as well, but the ones that don't... Wow, they are just gonna hate you!" So, uh, thanks honey. Now, on to the crucifying...
Before we get to the (ahem) meat of this matter, let me get a few disclaimers out of the way. I am not remotely in shape. I'm 6'3" and 235 pounds. None of that, other than the minimum necessary to survive, is muscle. On top of that, I'm hairy. Not like Alec Baldwin or David Hasslehoff manly hairy, but like Chuy, The Wolf Boy hairy. As I say in my comedy act, I'm so droopy and hairy, when I take my shirt off my chest looks like a werewolf frowning.
I come from a family of large-sized people. My grandmother was Lithuanian. Judging from the way she treated both my father and me, it seems that the words for "love" and "pork" are the same in Lithuanian. Seriously, when my brother and I would spend the night at her house, we'd be greeted the next morning with a pound of bacon for us to split. It's my theory that the Lithuanians spent so long under the thumb of Soviet oppression because they were too busy digesting to offer resistance.
Assuming things are the same for me as they were for my father, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, if I don't get control of my propensity for late-night eating (I make the bad Mogwais look positively Gizmo by comparison), I'm headed for a middle-age burdened under the weight of Type II diabetes. My original plan of eating whatever I want and hoping for a cure for the disease seems to be backfiring. It doesn't seem to matter how many fat kids show up on Maury, scientists are no closer to a cure.
I'm saying all this so you know that what I'm about to do isn't coming from the popular kids' table. I don't sit around polishing my genetically perfect abs and wondering why fat people just can't get it together. I'm not a beautiful person looking down at all the Morlocks, I'm a Morlock looking down at all the Morlocks.
Here's what I want to say to Lifetime and Carson Kressley: you can't teach people look good naked. They either do or they don't.
If you haven't seen the ads for Lifetime's new show (How to Look Good Naked, With Carson Kressley), essentially it's this: Carson Kressley, the blond guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, helps women with their esteem issues. The show takes the unfair stereotype that overweight women with self-esteem problems tend to gravitate towards gay men and, uh, solidifies it into a new reality genre.
Even though the show hasn't premiered yet (you can catch the first episode Friday, January 4th at 9:00 PM, EST.) it's already getting rave reviews from ordinary people on the Lifetime website. Just like it did for me, the premise of the show alone is enough to move people to write:
I wish I had Carson with me to make me feel brave and love my body.
I'm sitting here in a pool of tears! I wish that was ME on TV with Carson.
All women big and small will be able to relate to this show.
I am 28, 5'2" and weigh 175... I am a full-figured woman and every day I tell myself how beautiful I am. All women are beautiful!
Women should commit to this show instead of the latest diet fad.
The romantic in me reads these comments and says, you go girl! No one defines you but you!
The part of me who reads the Life and Health section of USA Today, however, begs to differ.
For instance, the 28 year old woman who tells herself every day that she's beautiful? Well, she should also tell herself every day that she's obese, because she is. Her body mass indicator (BMI) is 32, which puts her well into the obese category. So, along with her brightly positive self-esteem, she can look forward to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, gout, and a whole array of breathing problems! Yay!
The comment that worries me the most is the last one, that women should commit to this show instead of the latest diet fad. Yeah, because what a severely overweight person needs is a gay man to tell her she's beautiful, not, uh, you know, diet and exercise. If only we all had our own, personal gay man!
Why does TV constantly need to tell me that I should love myself no matter what? If I have a problem, shouldn't I try to fix the problem, rather than pretending I don't have one?
I'm going to assume that a lot of you have reached this part in the article and are already angry at me. It's okay. As Dr. Maguire once told Will Hunting (link NSFW): it's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's. Not. Your. Fault.
It's not your fault because you've been brainwashed repeatedly by feel-good modern TV that people should have high self-esteem no matter what. On Lifetime, for instance, the only person who receives any kind of criticism at all is Tori Spelling's boyfriend from Mother May I Sleep with Danger?
But before you go crazy writing to me that I'm obviously a self-hating fat person with severe women issues, consider this: what if the show promoted other kinds of unhealthy lifestyles? Would you consider it a life-affirming nod to the way we should all feel about ourselves? Or would you call it irresponsible? To illustrate, I've put together a few pitches:
1) How to Drive without a Seatbelt, With Carson Kressley. Each week, Carson finds a new candidate for a mental makeover! Meet Sarah. She grew up poor in rural Arkansas. The only car their family had was a pre-Nader pick-up truck that didn't have seatbelts. When she moved to the big city, she thought that her life was looking up. That's until she started going on dates and not fastening her seatbelt. "The men were so judgmental", a crying Sarah tells Carson. "Didn't they know about my childhood!" Carson then surprises her with a facial and the two of them travel to the Australian outback, where few of the jeeps have seatbelts. "Finally," Sarah sighs at the end of the episode, "a place where I can just be me!"
2) How to Not Wash Your Hands after Using a Public Restroom, With Carson Kressley. Meet Tommy. He grew up in a Christian Scientist household that didn't believe in the germ theory of medicine. Because of that, he never picked up the habit of washing his hands after using a public restroom. "I just figure I'll pray the germs away," Tommy tells an understanding Carson. "But, gosh, when women find out that I just number-twoed and didn't bother to wash my hands, they don't want me to touch them! It's like I'm a monster!" Carson then teaches Tommy that true basic personal hygiene comes from inside.
3) How to Allow Lead Based Products to Ship to America, With Carson Kressley. Look out, China, you're about to get a lesson in Carsonology!
Being fat isn't a moral failing, but it is a failing. It's just like not fastening your seatbelt or not washing your hands. It's just like being disorganized or chronically late. It's okay to say it. TV constantly bombards us with care packages when what we need is, in the words of Tracey Jordan, truth bombs.
Is it irresponsible to tell people it's okay to be fat? Probably not. I mean, it keeps the comfort-foods industry humming along. But I do think the sum-total of all this self-esteem hooey is taking its toll. Remember when this country went to the moon? Now we get excited when someone picks the right case on Deal or No Deal. I don't think we got dumber in one generation, we just lowered the bar as to what an accomplishment is.
So, here's my advice: if you're an overweight person (like me) and you've got a real hankering for a reality show, don't watch How to Look Good Naked, watch The Biggest Loser. The latter is premised on the idea that self-esteem comes from hard work and accomplishment. The former thinks it comes from a magic gay man.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to show this article to my good friend George Takei, so he can tell me it's good (even if it's not).
|Jay's right! Self-esteem is good, but only when it comes from accomplishments. This show itself isn't dangerous, but it's reflective of a dangerous trend in American thinking.||290 (56.9%)|
|Jay is wrong. Being fat isn't a fault! It's something that should be celebrated. You go Carson!||86 (16.9%)|
|What do I care? I'm skinny. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go look at myself in a mirror.||37 (7.3%)|
|In my heart, I know Jay is right. But I'm still angry because of all the truth bombs he just dropped.||31 (6.1%)|
|Jay was right. That George Takei link was hilarious.||66 (12.9%)|