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Fairy tales and funhouse mirrors: Frameworks of assimilation and conformity in Extreme Makeover, The Swan and What Not To Wear

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Numerous researchers have commented unfavourably on the classist, sexist and assimilationist nature of contemporary American makeover programs; this article examines Extreme Makeover, The Swan, and What Not To Wear in order to identify the narrative paradigms most commonly used to cloak such conformist pressures in more socially acceptable guises. A close analysis demonstrates how frameworks such as initiation rituals, aesthetic ideals, market values, self-empowerment, and fairy tales ultimately overlap to deflect attention from feminist concerns about larger social issues and serve to demonstrate how these pervasive cultural ideas have been reworked to serve political and commercial ends.

Keywords: cosmetic surgery; fashion; feminism; makeover; narrative; reality television

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Red Deer College

Publication date: 2013-06-01

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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