Trying to make a Self-Centred and Superficial Country go beyond looks: True Beauty, the reality show

Something interesting found its way into my inbox today. A lovely Sahar’s blog reader saw a preview to a show called ‘True Beauty’ and knew I’d find it interesting, so he sent it to me (thank you honey).

Here is an excerpt of the official press release from ABC, taken from The Futon Critic:

Executive producers Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher are looking for someone truly beautiful, from the outside in, on “True Beauty”, a new series premiering Monday, January 5, 2009 on ABC.

What makes a person truly beautiful? Executive producers Tyra Banks (…) and Ashton Kutcher (…) re-define the concept of beauty in a wildly revealing new ABC series, “True Beauty” (…).

…the series will determine the “True Beauty” of six stunning females and four handsome males who will live together in a spectacular Los Angeles mansion as they undergo a series of challenges to determine who is truly the most beautiful

The gorgeous contestants assume they’re being judged solely on their outer appearance. They’re only half right; outer beauty is one component the judges are looking for, but contestants are also being evaluated — unbeknownst to them — for their INNER beauty as well when they’re put through scenarios and situations that require them to make moral decisions.

Each episode will showcase an outer beauty and an inner beauty challenge, during which contestants will be judged on everything from how well they perform in photo shoots to how well they respect their elders. The three judges will observe and critique the contestants’ behavior and eliminate one person each week. Only after someone is eliminated will the truth about the show be revealed to him/her, as they watch a video montage of their behavior captured by a hidden camera during the shoot.

At the end of eight episodes, one winner will be declared, a person who is truly beautiful inside and out. That person will receive a cash prize and a spot in PEOPLE magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People issue.

Just like America’s Next Top Model, one of the great things about this show is that we get to see models in their ‘natural’ state; this allows for astute viewers to realise the extent to which pictures are retouched, and just how much make-up does to attenuate less attractive features or enhance the more attractive ones.

However, one might be tempted to argue that the producers are looking yet again for a superficial definition of beauty, i.e. someone physically good looking who happens to have a little something extra. But isn’t that comment in itself prejudiced? Can’t it be said that, just like there are prejudices against people of different ethnic backgrounds, there are also prejudices existing about people who are judged as being more physically attractive?

So maybe this show is promoting real beauty as a combination of physical and non-physical factors, as well as helping shatter some of the prejudices that less attractive people have, as a defence mechanism perhaps, heaped on good looking people for centuries.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for January to see what happens on the various fan forums! Until then, here is the promo of the show (sorry about the bad quality, I couldn’t find anything better).

Forbes Commentary: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

American industry is doing just fine outside of Detroit.

We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies–once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations–fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkably resiliency.

These include a series of small and mid-sized firms–in fields as diverse as garments and agricultural machinery, steel and energy equipment–that have managed to thrive in recent years. It also includes a growing contingent of foreign-owned firms, notably in the automobile industry, that have found that “Made in America” is not necessarily uncompetitive, unprofitable or impossible.

Indeed, until the globalization of the financial crisis, American manufacturing exports were reaching record levels. Overall, U.S. industry has become among the most productive in the world–output has doubled over the past 25 years, and productivity has grown at a rate twice that of the rest of the economy. Far from dead, our manufacturing sector is the world’s largest, with 5% of the world’s population producing five times their share in industrial goods.

So what is the problem then? If it is not the effort and ingenuity of American workers or our infrastructure, Detroit’s problems must lie somewhere else, largely with almost insanely bad management.

Read the rest of this really interesting post here.

Stephen King: Who Says Real Men Don’t Read?

In the eternal debate of what is chick lit is, it would be interesting to take a look at the other side of the coin, i.e. at what Stephen King calls “Manfiction”.

If you catch publishing types in a ”don’t quote me” mood, they’ll tell you the male audience for fiction is disappearing. Agents and editors are constantly on the lookout for the next hot female writer, and why not? At the end of August, 7 of the 10 New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellers were by women, and that doesn’t even include Stephenie Meyer’s mega-selling Breaking Dawn (which the Times considers kid lit, thus not meriting a place on the adult list).

But, to misquote Mark Twain, reports of the male reader’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Women have chick lit; guys have what my son Joe (as in Joe Hill) calls ”manfiction.” And publishers sell it by the ton. Here’s a concept so simple it’s easy to miss: What men want from an Elmore Leonard novel is exactly what women want from a Nora Roberts novel — escape and entertainment. And while it’s true that manfiction can be guilty of objectifying women, chick lit often does the same thing to men. Reading Sandra Brown or Jodi Picoult, I’m sometimes reminded of an old Julie Brown song, ”I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid.” One memorable couplet goes, ”My father’s out of Harvard, my brother’s out of Yale/Well, the guy I took home last night just got out of jail.”

Is this a bad thing? From an entertainment standpoint, I’d say not. Women like stories in which a gal meets a handsome (and possibly dangerous) hunk on a tropic isle; men like to imagine going to war against an army of bad guys with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun (grenades hung on the belt optional).

And current manfiction certainly gives women a better deal than they got in the pulps of yesteryear, when most were presented as barracuda debs in frilly negligees. Robert B. Parker, who chronicles the hard-bitten exploits of that manfiction avatar Spenser (no first name), is also the creator of Sunny Randall, a PI who has had her own hard-bitten exploits. And while it’s easy to become exasperated with Spenser’s longtime partner, Susan Silverman, sooner or later Spenser and his pal Hawk always spring into action. Often with a .38 or a .12-gauge shotgun.

Alex Delaware, Jonathan Kellerman’s entry in the manfiction sweeps, also has a longtime female companion. Robin Castagna is less annoying than the navel-gazing Ms. Silverman, but both need rescuing from time to time, and saving the damsel in distress has been a satisfying part of good manfiction since the days of old when knights were bold and ladies fair went without their underwear. Also, Alex has a gay sidekick, Milo Sturgis. If that doesn’t make him a 21st-century dude, what does?

Read the rest of the post here.