Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Exhaustion of Home Makeover Porn

2004-2012
So, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is dead, but how long will we live with its influence?

At the moment, I am thinking of how that show's "money shot" has migrated into other shows.

You know the shot -- the moment in which the once-struggling family has revealed to them to their monstrosity of a home filled with every appliance and gadget the show can wring out of product-placement hungry companies.  A home that the receiving family at times cannot maintain and must sell once the tools, trucks, and klieg lights are gone.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!
The show's climax is when the curtain is dropped and the family members scream, jump, or gasp silently in amazement at their new home, which has been so radically altered from its original state, if not outright demolished and replaced.  The parents frequently cry in amazement and, we imagine, gratitude, but the teenagers and children scream and run about in orgasmic seizures of materialistic lust.


Jenna Jameson, porn queen
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was to home decorating what Jenna Jameson was to gentle romance.

I thought about this while watching a very modestly scaled makeover show, George to the Rescue.  In the episode I happened to see, the host had remodeled someone's garage so that it was useful as storage and office space for the small non-profit operation she operated from her home.  The whole affair was tasteful and completely within the means of the recipient to maintain.  (You can watch it here.)

When the new garage is revealed to the former teacher, she stands there silent, mouth open, gasping.  It was not nearly as over the top as those on other makeover shows.  While her reaction could have been entirely spontaneous and authentic, I couldn't help wondering what was going through her head.  On what past experiences was she drawing to shape her expression?  Or, at some level, was she imitating the revelation moments -- the money shots -- from other television shows, such as Extreme Makeover?

She knew a big reaction was expected of her.  She didn't want to disappoint the nice people who were doing this wonderful thing for her.  And, perhaps importantly, she knew she was on camera.  These "big surprise" moments are common enough now on Extreme Makeover and other shows that she would have known how to react.  Was it an example of life imitating art?

Queen for a Day on NBC
I cannot pretend that Extreme Makeover invented this television moment.  I grew up seeing something similar on Let's Make a Deal and The Price is Right, when contestants realized they had won a car or a European vacation.  We could even go back to This is Your Life or Queen for a Day for similar moments of surprise and delight captured on camera.  But few shows became as manipulative and cloying about that big moment as did Extreme Makeover.  Few shows made it as artificial and grandiose.  And so it is not randomly that I compare the aesthetics of Extreme Makeover to those of the video porn industry, with its unrealistic extremes of expression and material excess -- I'm thinking of body shapes and surgical enhancements.

In one sense, we can see Extreme Makeover and the video porn industry as examples of hyper-reality, which I have written about before (in relation to Heidi Montag).

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate
But now that Extreme Makeover has exhausted itself and us with its manufactured intensity, I am waiting for a new breed of makeover shows.  How about a makeover for the ironic hipsters?  I would love to see one last episode of Extreme Makeover.  It would be a visit to Pawnee, Indiana, and it would feature April Ludgate from Parks & Recreation.  Her new home, in all of its excessive flourishes, would be revealed, and she would stare with those eyes of hers, not jumping, not gasping, perhaps only sipping from a Starbucks cup.  "It's OK. I guess."

1 comment:

  1. Dude! You wrote, "A home that the receiving family at times cannot maintain and must sell once the tools, trucks, and klieg lights are gone." You totally nailed "klieg lights"! I love the post, but that line just... it's outSTANDing! Made my day. Carry on, my son!

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