My fellow Coots, I have a question for you.
How come only rich people get free stuff on TV?
When reading Jenn’s post about being unable to relate to motivators who are nothing like you, I got to thinking. This is kind of out in left field from what her post says, but the sentiment is similar.
Have you ever noticed that, on most home decorating or fashion-based shows, the people featured on the shows are well-off? They may not be rich, but they always look to me like someone who doesn’t really “need” the help on a financial level. As someone who grew up so poor that I’m embarrassed to even talk about it, this really pisses me off.
On What Not To Wear, people with poor fashion sense are surprised by the show and then have their personal style mocked by the show’s hosts. It’s bitchy, but hey – that’s fashion. Usually the person being featured on that episode of the show has plenty of clothing – a nice full closet and maybe a few dressers’ worth of items. Not only do the hosts throw out the bulk of a person’s wardrobe, but they then turn around and hand the “fashion victim” a few thousand dollars to go replace those clothes. The castoff clothing gets thrown in a large garbage can, which I’m sure is partially for dramatic effect. I know those clothes are usually what I’d call “pig ugly”, but I still cringe a little every time I see it.
I’ve never seen or heard it mentioned, however, whether those clothes wind up being recycled or donated to people in need. Even if they’re deemed too hideous or damaged for people to wear in public, surely those clothes can be used for other things. They could easily become blankets, jacket linings or pillow stuffing – and those aren’t even really creative ideas. I also take some offense at the fact that, when seeing these people’s homes during the “throwing out” portion of the show, they don’t look like they’re poor. Financing a new wardrobe is expensive for everyone but the incredibly wealthy, and I get that. But just once, I’d like to see some poor unfortunate soul get the big fancy makeover and after-party instead of someone who doesn’t necessarily need it. Imagine how much further that new haircut and shopping spree could go for some recovering welfare mom, or minimum-wage worker trying to improve their lot in life.
One particular What Not to Wear makeover sticks out in my mind – I’m pretty sure the “fashion victim” that episode was a college professor. If someone with an advanced degree dresses like crap, let them hire a personal shopper for a day. Save the money and the airtime for someone who needs it. Never mind the fact that teachers classically don’t get paid that well, no matter what advanced degrees they have. That professor had a job, and a good one at that – let her replace her spandex bike shorts on her own dime.
Fashion shows aren’t the only ones that fall into this trap. With the exception of Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, most of the home decorating or renovation shows operate under the same premise. On Trading Spaces, I remember the people always had nice single homes – and from the looks of their neighborhoods, probably did well enough to be able to afford home renovations. Same with Design on a Dime, Clean House, and so on. I understand that the premise is more about the educational tips, but just once I’d like to see those shows head into a less-well-off area.
With the millions of Americans living in poor or impoverished conditions – especially now that so many people can’t afford to buy a new home or finance big-ticket repairs – those TV dollars would go so much further helping out people in need. Instead of the show’s hosts/helpers complaining about having to build a piece of furniture to hold that fancy new TV – how about you go to someone’s house where they need something repaired? Instead of painting a mural on someone’s bedroom ceiling, help a poor family fix their leaky roof.
Maybe people don’t want to see the hard-luck human interest stories all the time, and I understand that. TV is supposed to be entertainment, and an escape. You don’t want to sit there on your comfy couch marveling at how some poverty-line family gets by and feeling like a jerk for not donating more to charity every year. But damn, people. There could be a little something for those people. Once in a while. Failing that, just once.