The Makeover: Reality Television and Reflexive Audiences

By Katherine Sender | Go to book overview

3
Not Like Paris Hilton
Instruction and Consumption in Makeover Shows

I watch [What Not to Wear] with my elementary-aged daughter.
She is picking up cues about appropriate clothing and dressing to
be attractive but not, as she says, like Paris Hilton.

What Not to Wear survey respondent

The previous chapter offered a critique of makeover television that focused on how gender, class, and race norms are worked through contemporary demands to be more flexible workers and enthusiastic consumers. The rest of this book looks at how the audiences we talked to engaged with the project of self-making represented in these shows. People who watch the shows used them to guide their own and their loved ones’ personal presentation within shared ideas of what it means to be attractive—but not like Paris Hilton. Yet their reflexive orientations to the texts, as well as to their own selves as projects that may be worked on through the messages of the texts, meant that these audiences negotiated the shows’ instruction and consumer appeals. In this chapter I address the related themes of instruction and consumption. The shows all rest on the premise that experts offer advice about how to work on the self, and that much of that advice comes in the form of how to shop. There are two primary

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