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Building better self-esteem artificially

I've got to get something off my chest.

The other night I saw "Extreme Makeover" on TV for the first time. For those of you who don't know the show's premise, allow me to explain.

NBC invites some seriously down-and-out people to be taped as they receive plastic surgery, hair transplants, dentures or whatever floats their boat, all in the name of giving them a fresh start on life.

Sounds simple enough right?

Wrong. Most of the time (according to my wife) these people have severe self-esteem issues. In the episode I saw, a man wanted desperately to have his extreme makeover because his wife said she wished he was more handsome.

And she said this on camera.

I think the show promotes all the wrong ideas -- that what's on the outside is the sole determinant of happiness, and that problems on the outside, when corrected, also fix problems on the inside.

Unfortunately, this is how most of these people think. They feel that their self-esteem issues can be solved with a nip there and a tuck here.

Isn't this sending the wrong message? Are we supposed to think that our marriages are suddenly at risk if we gain a little weight, or that we shouldn't need to wear sunscreen on our face because we can always get a shot of Botox when we're older?

In some ways, this seems like another product of our ADD society. Attention spans everywhere are dwindling at a rapid rate, so much so that we think we can rely on a few short medical procedures to sidestep the fact that we don't exercise and don't eat right. It doesn't add up, and despite the show's entertainment value, I don't think the country's better off sitting through stuff like this.

On a more humorous note, a moment from the most recent Extreme Makeover episode (the one I actually watched) ranked second on the pantheon of Hardest-to-watch-TV-moments-ever. We had a guy weeping after looking in the mirror for the first time after his plastic surgery, saying, "I really am a handsome guy. Maybe my wife will love me again." Ok, so the last part there I made up, but it was definitely implied. For those of you wondering, the most painful TV moment ever was during 2003's Married by America when we saw contestant Billie Jeanne weeping in a closet after being left at the altar.

In other news, Mirror employees have started a just-for-fun NCAA tournament office pool, and I have a feeling this is my year. In the past, I would play it safe, with always at least three number one seeds in the Final Four. One year it dawned on me that this method never worked out. So, in recent years I've been picking more upsets. Unfortunately, I must admit my luck hasn't changed one bit. In fact, I usually pick the wrong Cinderella teams, which makes for a fairly hefty bracket explosion.

Still, this could be my year.

I can't wait.

Web posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004

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