Nicole Mailhoit / Gavel Media

Reality TV Just Became a Lot More Fake. Literally.

The most twisted “reality” TV show is expected to air in 2020 from Channel 4. Caroline Flack, the recognized ringleader of the popular program Love Island, will extend her love for exploiting people as host of The Surjury.

This reality television program forces voluntary contestants to stand in front of a jury of 12 strangers to “compete” or “beg” for plastic surgery. Participants can win a free procedure if the jury approves with a 75% vote. However, if the contestant is denied the surgery, they leave the episode with more shame than they came with. Imagine being accepted to a television show with the intent of having a service you are embarrassed about paid for in full because you otherwise can't afford it, but ultimately getting rejected. Probably not very fun.

As an audience, we take the media and often perceive it to be reality. With a show like this, we are normalizing body modification, and actively seeking affirmation from others on our personal body images. In a digital world where there is already a lot of competition among younger generations to have the best online image or figure, this show is fueling an already dangerous fire. The producers of the show are trying to paint it in a positive light as being a “public service." Channel 4 believes that this show will boost the confidence of contestants, whether it be because they receive the surgery or for the possibility that the jury convinces them that they do not need one. I hope that this show is not forcing the body images that can be found on shows like Love Island, but I would not be surprised, since those are the body types so highly sought after.

It has been said to “never judge a book by its cover,” but The Surjury reduces people to just their image. It is reinforcing the idea that cosmetic fixes will change the quality of life for contestants. Mental health often feeds into negative body image, or even dysmorphia. There is something to be said for making a case for surgery and explaining the rationale behind the procedure, but for the decision to lie in the hands of strangers instead of doctors or mental health professionals seems dangerous. Cosmetic surgery should be a personal choice and I am not sure if a group vote against a contestant having the procedure will stop them from wanting it. Seriously, they came onto national TV to persuade the audience for the free surgery.

We need to embrace our bodies the way they are. We need a show that teaches people to love their bodies for how it is, or to help boost their confidence through a non-permanent "fix." Unless this show is focused on helping those who are disabled or very negatively impacted by their “deficit,” then there is no reason for the show. I absolutely support a television program helping a trans person transition to their gender identity. I support a program that assists participants live a higher quality of life without pain, such as having an abscess removed. I do not support someone coming onto the show to persuade a jury for a boob job because they’re unhappy with the size of their current breasts and they want to fit the ideal body image. In a few months we will know exactly how the show will play out, but as of right now the marketing of the program is poor and I do not see it having a positive impact on audiences, especially younger generations.

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