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A Price Too High

As is the case with the gossip blog I love to hate, I Don’t Like You In That Way, I have a tendency to try to at least consider the opposition to many of Todd’s vitriolic posts. This is mostly the result of the fact that some of the people he likes to verbally degrade are also some of my favorite people – women in particular, who he skewers in grossly misogynistic ways – and yet I keep reading. Mostly because he posts pictures of hot girls. *shrugs* I’m a simple creature.

So when the site made a post on Jessica Simpson’s latest reality series, The Price of Beauty, mocking her for her miserable ratings, I thought myself obliged to give the show a chance. It did seem vaguely interesting after all, and the only reason why I didn’t watch it was because I hadn’t known when it would premiere – I don’t watch VH1 nearly enough to stay up to date on these things – so last night I started watching it off the VH1 website. Unfortunately for my pride and Jessica’s, I turned it off halfway through.

The premiere follows Simpson and her two close friends, CaCee and Ken, as they venture to Thailand to learn about what “beautiful” means to the Thai. The idea of traveling the world investigating the different and universal body image issues humans as a species and a culture have is certainly interesting, however the first ten minutes of this episode indicate to me that its too big of a task for Jessica and Co.

After wandering the Thai market place, we meet a woman literally scarred by the Thai standard of beauty, left with patchy discolored skin by poor beauty products in the effort to appear fairer. After the woman tells her story, Simpson is visibly flabbergasted as to how to respond, and eventually resorts to an awkward side-hug, nuzzling her big blond head on this little Asian woman’s shoulder. Simpson is clearly not charismatic enough to navigate such moments of emotional depth.  As much as I hate to say it, someone like Tyra Banks probably has the chops and audacity to at least pretend she knows what to do, and considering the fact that she assesses the physical attributes of nubile young things as well as offer slightly less than awkward nuzzles on a regular basis, she has much better credentials on the matter.

Its not that Simpson is too air-headed or ignorant to handle the job, as many – such as Todd – would like to claim. The fact that she giggled in the middle of meditation in front of Buddhist monk didn’t mean much to me. The simple matter is the issue of beauty is a big freaking deal. Of course, this is why Simpson decided to do such a show, why a network picked it up, and why me and at least a few other people were interested in watching. Yes, it’ll be nice to be aware that the Western beauty standard is not the only one, that in fact some people’s perception of beauty is drastically different. But its not just that 13-year-old American girls thin they’re fat, or that Asian girls lighten their hair. Its that beauty standards all over distort cultures, prey on relationships, and destroy lives. Women and men all through time and all over the world have deformed their bodies and faces in the pursuit of their mutable idea of physical perfection. Maybe there is a pop star and with two clever and stylish friends out there who are capable of hunting down the root of these issues and documenting them. But its not this one.

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