Fashioning Our Selves: Power, Gender and Normalization in Personal Makeover Television Shows Open Access

Sherman, Yael D (2008)

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Makeover shows reflect and rearticulate classed and gendered ideals of self, promoting self-improvement through classed gender projects. As normalization primers, makeover shows incite our desire to fashion ourselves and teach us how to shape our selves according to classed gender ideals. In this dissertation, I analyze the workings of gender, normalization and power in four personal makeover shows, What Not To Wear (WNTW), 10 Years Younger (10YY), The Swan (TS), and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (QE). I argue that the forms of power used to transform participants are tied to both gender and class. With regard to class, I argue that on QE and WNTW, middle-class participants are transformed into self-enterprising subjects under a neoliberal regime, while on 10YY and TS, working-class participants submit to a fixed feminine ideal under an authoritarian regime. With regard to gender and power, the female-oriented makeover shows target the body and the self through objectification, while QE does not. That is, while female-oriented makeover shows define women's self through their appearance, QE works on men's actions, promoting self-improvement through caring for the self across a range of traditionally feminine domains. However, while female oriented makeover shows all make appearance the measure of femininity, they idealize different constructions of the body and articulate femininity differently. The meaning of femininity is defined through agency and ambition in WNTW, self-respect and respectability in 10YY, and as being (and finding satisfaction in being) a beautiful object to-be-looked-at in TS. Makeover shows teach us how to fashion ourselves, but the selves we are to work on are always already defined through gender and class. In these "postfeminist" times, women are still defined through the body, while men are defined through performance. As makeover shows repetitively normalize participants according to classed and gendered ideals, they attempt to shape the desire, knowledge, and agency of spectators.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1
Neoliberal Femininity: (Re)Fashioning the Self in What Not to Wear -- 57

Chapter 2
Caring for the Self in 10 Years Younger -- 108

Chapter 3
Beautiful Submission: Authoritarian Normalization in The Swan -- 156

Chapter 4
Learning to be a Man in Queer Eye -- 204

Conclusion -- 248

References-- 258

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