The Politics of Reality Television: Global Perspectives

By Marwan M. Kraidy; Katherine Sender | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Globalizing lifestyles?
Makeover television in Singapore

Tania Lewis1

The past decade has seen an explosion of lifestyle makeover television shows with audiences being urged to “renovate” everything from their homes, bodies, and children to their pets, a process that has seen the emergence of an army of lifestyle gurus on television advising us on what not to eat and what not to wear. While critical academic attention has largely focused on blockbuster reality television formats like Big Brother and Survivor, more recently a growing body of scholarship has started to focus on the “lifestyle turn” on television and the rise of the makeover format.2 To date much of the work on makeover television has focused on its role in the US and UK. However, in the past couple of years the lifestyle makeover show has become an increasingly global phenomenon with audiences around the world embracing everything from home renovation to plastic surgery makeover shows. This essay is concerned with examining the implications of the global dissemination of such modes of programming, associated as they are with ideologies of neoliberal individualism, self-surveillance and self-promotion, and with a strongly consumption-oriented aesthetic.3 It emerges out of a pilot study I have been conducting with Dr Fran Martin at the University of Melbourne as a preliminary step in a larger transnational comparative study of lifestyle programming in Asia in which we seek to examine the role of lifestyle television in both shaping and reflecting broader shifts in social and cultural identity accompanying the rise of consumer-based modes of modernity.4

Although some significant work has been done on Western television as a pedagogical tool for teaching modernity,5 extant studies explicitly discussing modernities outside “the West” have to date seldom approached television as an arena for the elaboration of hybridized forms of modern culture, citizenship and selfhood.6 Lifestyle television, concerned as it is with instructing audiences in modern consumer and lifestyle practices, offers a privileged vantage point from which to survey current configurations and transformations of consumer culture and modernity in the Asia-Pacific region. While it can be seen on the one hand as a carrier of global ideologies around consumerist and neoliberal modes of selfhood, the genre also offers potential insights into local modernities as it tends to be particularly marked by its ties to the “national ordinary” through its focus

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