Is your teenager watching reality shows where the participants plastic surgery is openly discussed? A husband/wife team of academics recently published a paper in the journal Body Image arguing that viewing such programming makes the younger members of the at-home audience more likely to consider such work for themselves.
Charlotte Markey, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers-Camden, along with spouse Patrick Markey of Villanova University, surveyed just under 200 teenage and 20something viewers of either an extreme makeover or a home renovation program. The Markeys found that those who watched the makeover program were more likely to say after viewing the show that they would consider cosmetic surgery for themselves than those they assigned to watch the home re-do.
The Markeys say that young female viewers seem to think they are watching someone achieve their dreams when they see plastic surgery presented in a positive light, writing on comment cards that they viewed these shows as “inspirational.” In this light, Teresa Giudice’s decision to publicly investigate breast augmentation surgery while the cameras were rolling on Real Housewives of New Jersey might well have resulted in some increased business for plastic surgeons since that was presented as an empowering fulfilment of a dream.
Unfortunately, Charlotte and Patrick Markey did not look at the impact of simply viewing a program such as “Kate Plus Eight,” where lead doyenne Kate Gosselin has done everything from changing her hair color and adding extensions to a going under the knife for a tummy tuck, but all off camera. Nor did they examine whether on-air negative reaction to a lead protagonist’s plastic surgery could change how the audience at home feels about undertaking a procedure herself. That’s exactly what happened on The Hills, where star Heidi Montag’s mother and sister joined together to tell her to handle her “insecurity on a psychological level” after her tenth body altering plastic surgery this spring.
I confess this study makes a certain amount of sad sense to me. When we see folks on reality and makeover shows undergo cosmetic procedures, whether on or off camera, I imagine it normalizes the behavior, making something seem reasonable and obtainable that otherwise would have been viewed as a bit of a stretch, especially for a teen or young adult. What do you think?