Oh. My actual word.
Having picked up a copy of The i Paper this morning I was more than a little gobsmacked to discover that an awful, shaming and shallow programme was making a return.
“Your Face or Mine?” a throw pack to a pre social media age when, in the original version, contestants would choose who was the most attractive out of a group of random people, celebrities and eventually themselves, in the hope of winning money. But, as the world has moved on, Managing Director of Comedy Central UK, Jill Hoffman said this,
Your Face or Mine is a great lens through which to take a not-so-serious look at our image-obsessed culture in the age of Tinder and non-stop selfies. We’re delighted Jimmy has agreed to hook up with Comedy Central. We know our audience will ‘super-like’ his return with this classic gameshow format.
Jimmy himself says of the show,
In an age when people are forever judging individuals on how they look, placing attractiveness on a pedestal above intelligence, and forcing others to fit societal norms of beauty, why not make them do all of those things, to their loved ones, on national television and for money?
I can’t quite believe the lack of awareness – Jess Barrett (writing in The i Paper) talks of the original being an “odious precursor to Tinder” – and this is the problem. We do have a culture absolutely saturated with people taking selfies, competing for “likes”, haemorrhaging integrity for the sake of a few more smiles, thumbs or hearts. Working with young people and supporting those who work with them – I want to take a moment to highlight some of the damaging impact of comparison and the media created narrow definition of “beauty”.
Let’s begin with Dove’s research, which they carried out across the world . . .
beauty-related pressure increases whilst body confidence decreases as girls and women grow older – stopping young girls from seeing their real beauty. Here are some key findings from our recent study The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited :
Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful
Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’
72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty
More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
Dove, The Real Truth about Beauty
Just in October, GirlGuiding published it’s annual Girls Attitude survey,
Girls experience intense pressures around their appearance and have told us that fear of people criticising their bodies holds them back from doing everyday things. For example, playing sports, speaking up in class, and having their photo taken. In fact, 61% of girls (11-21) have experienced people criticising their bodies.
It’s very sad that one third of girls (seven to 10) said that other people make them believe that their value is based on their appearance. The media is a major force in shaping the culture that girls live in and some parts of it are communicating this negative message to girls: their worth and value is dependent on how they conform to a very narrow ideal of beauty. From a very young age, the toxic mix of consumerism and liberal capitalism teaches girls that their bodies are projects to be improved upon. On the other hand, boys are taught that their bodies are vehicles to navigate the world in. Dr Steve Biddulph, psychologist and author of Raising Girls argues, ‘Today’s advertising actively creates anxieties. This amounts to nothing less than a war on girlhood… Every aspect of a girl’s appearance now presents an opportunity to fail.’ Girls are taught that their physical appearance is never, ever good enough. As one girl shared in the report: ‘Girls are growing up hating their bodies because of the pictures that are shown in the media.’
From the GirlGuiding Survey, 2016
According to “Mirror Mirror” a summary of research findings from the Social Issues Research Centre,
The current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population.
Social Issues Research Centre website
To address some of these issues, the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, launched a self esteem campaign – you can read about that here [see Church Times article about the campaign]. The Campaign, #liedentity, aims to encourage young people to value their worth beyond physical appearances,
The only thing we have the power to change is ourselves
But if this campaign changes the way we speak about, compliment, and appreciate one another, it might have a ripple-on effect.
Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek
The Children’s Society produced their latest “Good Childhood” Report earlier this year, and just a few of the findings highlight the challenges young people face in our prevailing culture,
Girls feel pressured by boys to look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self-esteem and makes girls feel ugly or worthless.’
As girls get older they become increasingly unhappy with their appearance.
Older girls are also more likely to experience emotional health problems such as anxiety and depression.
There is an association between emotional problems and happiness with appearance.
A third of girls are unhappy with their appearance.
Good Children Report, 2016
While charities, the church and others who work with children and young people are up against it in communicating the damage that so much of what – especially young people – are encouraged to aspire to in terms of looks, popularity and comparisons with others – there has been a pretty constant stream of warnings, challenges and outcry about the disregard the media has had in tackling some of the awful stuff it produces and then encourages us to watch and consume. Back in 2012 there was an All Part Parliamentary Group looking at body image. In particular, the upshot of that was this website : www.berealcampaign.co.uk (take a look).
I like that.
Exactly the opposite of the content I am anticipating for “Your Face or Mine?“. Or, to put it another way – you can be as “real” as you like, but “we will make decisions about your worth simply by looking at your outward appearance, have an audience (or baying mob) assess you and judge whether or not your are attractive or ugly for the entertainment of the viewing public and, most probably laugh at you while we do it”.
On the Be Real website they have this as an aim,
We know that low body confidence is damaging people’s lives. It affects everyone – all ages, both sexes – and starts young. It impacts people’s physical and mental health and holds them back in life, stopping them from achieving all that they could.
Our campaign focuses on three areas where we’ll bring about real change.
Real education: We want to give children and young people a body confident start to life. We’re calling for parents to set a positive example, schools to adopt a whole-school approach and young people to support each other to be body confident.
Real health: We want healthy living and general wellbeing to be prioritised over just appearance and weight. We’re calling for the healthcare sector and those in the diet, health and fitness industries to promote long-term healthy living and wellbeing ahead of short-term quick fixes. We want individuals to celebrate feeling good and being healthy.
Real diversity: We want the media, businesses and advertisers to positively reflect what we really look like. We’re calling for businesses, publishers, editors and advertisers to act responsibly by positively promoting different body shapes and sizes, people with and without disabilities, and all ages, genders and ethnicities. We want the public to choose brands that promote body confidence and challenge those that don’t.
That last one, “real diversity”. Hmm, I’m struggling to see how – in any way shape or form – “Your Face or Mine?” will demonstrate that it is doing any of those. In the light of stats shared in this blog post and the overwhelming evidence elsewhere of the damage being done to people as they live their lives comparing and worrying and stressing about not looking “good enough” the return of this show is an odious reminder that the media (in this case Comedy Central) just doesn’t care.
The thing is, media diversity as addressed by the “Be Real Campaign” seems to be focused on the fashion industry and advertising whereas television programmes like “Your Face or Mine?” – which are a significant part of the problem (fuelling as they do self loathing, the warped view that I need to “look good on the outside” by some narrow media defined standard, and that this is more desirable than “loving who you are!”) are throwing money, damaging comparison and “comedy” in to the mix. Reminding us of how vacuous, sad and parasitic television can be.
This TV programme should not be aired.
I’m opposing it and asking for it not to be aired with every fibre of my being.
I can see it just adding to the damage already being done to a generation who do not love themselves for who they are as they are constantly reminded they need to be something else, someone else . . . someone more “attractive”.
Let me just finish with a quote from Jessie J,
So many girls struggle fitting in but should never feel ugly or worthless due to pressures of looks. It’s an awful way to feel. It has to change.
Jessie is right. It does have to change.
It won’t while television programmes like this continue to get made.
Maybe if you read this, share it – add your own comments below – we can pass this round and build some noise that says, “Tinder Trash for TV? No Thanks.”