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Thread: The Swan, or, Beauty is More than Skin Deep

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    Post The Swan, or, Beauty is More than Skin Deep

    THE SWAN
    Or, Beauty is more than skin deep


    by Mark Neufeldt


    I am not a big fan of television. For most of my life, my family owned only one, semi-working television, and my father and mother only permitted my watching it when the household chores were completed and my homework was done, and then only for a predetermined period of time, usually not more than an hour. As a consequence I did not develop much of an appetite for it, and I suppose I can thank my folks for my habit of reading which was a substitute for all that television viewing most of my friends were doing. Still, when I pass a television, there is a strange magnetism that occurs and I cannot help but look toward that glowing screen. Even though I know better, I own a television, and I do watch it from time to time. That is how I discovered the Fox network program, "The Swan." It attracted me in the same way a flaming car on the side of the road attracts the gaze of a passing motorist.

    I suppose my initial interest had something to do with the title. My grandmother first read me the story of the 'Ugly Duckling' as a child and I remember relating it to the beautiful swans I had seen on a pond the summer before. I suppose I wanted to see what my 'friends' in Hollywood would do with the concept of the story I remembered as a child.

    For those of you who don't remember the story of the 'Ugly Duckling' it goes something like this: there was a mother who gave birth to several young ducks in the spring . The ducks discovered that one duck, was bigger and 'uglier' than all the rest. The ugly duck endures the insults and taunts not only of his brothers and sisters but of all the other barnyard animals too. Eventually, the ugly duckling can't stand it any longer and runs away. Instead of finding peace, he discovers more torment in a farmhouse where he is chided about his swimming abilities and chastened for not being able to lay eggs. Finally, on the point of wishing death, he hurls himself on the mercy of some passing Swans on a nearby lake, thinking to himself, it will be more merciful to be pecked to death and drowned by these elegant creatures than to endure a life of insults and ridicule. Much to his surprise, he gazes down into the reflective waters and sees a beautiful swan, floating gracefully across the water.

    In contrast to the fairytale, I discovered that the television show takes women who are decidedly ugly, real-world ugly, and attempts to uncover their hidden beauty. Contestants between the ages of 18 and 49 are selected to undergo a physical and mental transformation paid for by the hosts of the show, culminating in a beauty pageant to be held at the end of each show, and between winners at the end of the season.The contestants are selected by FremantileMedia and Galan Entertainment from auditions held in six cities across the U.S. According to The Swan's producer, Nely Galen, 500,000 women have auditioned for the show's second season. Not a big believer in hidden beauty myself, I watched to see what would become of the first contestant.

    To my surprise, the first image to cross the screen was quite a disturbing one. An oral surgeon had placed a pair of instruments resembling a carpenter's sea clamp inside the mouth of a woman, exposing a completely toothless gum-line. The seemingly middle-aged woman was in reality twenty-five, possibly the oldest twenty-five year-old I have ever seen. The dentist poked and pried at her before explaining the series, that's right the series, of operations that would be necessary to introduce the dental implants that would replace the teeth she no longer had.

    Following the dentists were a team of personal trainers and exercise and diet consultants. They worked with the Swan day and night to undo a lifetime of poor eating habits and physical neglect. These professionals would watch her day and night, train and work her over in every conceivable way.

    Next up was a team of surgeons. They plotted a series of dashes on her flanks, stomach, and chest the way a butcher's diagram divides up sections of a steer into prime-rib, New York, and round steak. They set up a calendar of surgeries that stretched out for months and explained each of the procedures to the Swan. Ten surgeries were needed in all. That's nine more than my 72-year-old mother has endured, and she suffered a massive heart attack.

    After the surgeons came the psychologists. It was their job to rebuild the fractured psyche of this young woman. Part of the unveiling of the Swan, it seems, was to delve deeply into the many disappointing events that had characterized her life. I found myself feeling embarrassed for the young woman when hearing all the revelations, but apparently these are the types of things television producers and their audiences enjoy in 'reality television.'

    The most shocking and unbelievable part of the show came when the host announced that the young woman would not view, not even once, her transformed visage until the night of her beauty pageant -- a nod, I suppose, to the original fairytale in which the Swan doesn't see his image until he has embarked on the glassy surface of the pond, where he expects to be killed by the beautiful swans.

    Much to my surprise, the young woman did actually become beautiful by show's end. She was indeed transformed, but the more I thought about this the more disturbed I became. It seemed to me that I had witnessed some sort of trick and I was insulted that I had fallen for it. The more I thought about the implications of the show, the stronger my impression that the illusion produced by the end of the show was in fact an illusion and not the reality that the producers of the show had hoped to introduce.

    I began to think again about the original fairytale and compare its version of events with those that I had witnessed on the television and discovered the source of my disappointment in the television version of events. Unlike the fairytale swan, the beauty of the young woman was ultimately false, and that bothered me.

    I was still thinking about the show later that day in the doctor's office when I picked up a 'People' magazine article titled, 'Drugs Can Make Short Kids Grow But Is It Right to Prescribe Them?' A middle-school boy, Andrew Menas, had 'become used to the short jokes'. He complained to his parents about the big kids getting more respect, and they took him to a doctor who prescribed human growth hormones. Andrew grew an amazing 19 inches, going from 4'4" at 14, when he began treatment to 5'11" at 18. Here it was again -- the illusion in place of the reality.

    Then there was the girl down the street whose mother had paid for her breast implants at age 16, years before she would completely mature physically. They were all engaged in an elaborate charade. I didn't like all this hiding, and I started to wonder just what was being hidden. I began to take the long view of things. I realized that none of these people were thinking of their actions in any ultimate sense. They were simply doing what felt good or looked good to them. When we start thinking selfishly, we aren't really doing what nature intended because we are social creatures that are part of a community, a White community, not isolated and irresponsible agents acting on our own whims. At least we should be thinking of ourselves and our actions as part of a community, though obviously many of us are not doing that.

    Unfortunately for the human 'Swan,' deep in her genetic patterns she is still an ugly duckling, and if she found a suitable mate with her new illusionary looks, her offspring would still carry the genetic markers of ugliness (and poor character that leads to even more problems). Her ugliness, far from disappearing as the illusion makers had intended us to believe, was really hidden -- and remained in place to subvert and damage another life in a pattern that could never be cut away by a surgeon's knife. To get at the real ugliness of the woman, a different, more permanent alteration was needed, one that would outlast her lifetime. One that is at this time unavailable to us. It is at this level -- as of yet out of reach -- that we should perfect our Swan.

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    Post Re: The Swan

    exactly
    all this trash reality TV and massive plastic surgery shows us why we need a revival of the american eugenics program of the 20's or was it the 30's I'm not sure it was sometime around those decades

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    Post Re: The Swan

    Quote Originally Posted by JoyceSS
    exactly
    all this trash reality TV and massive plastic surgery shows us why we need a revival of the american eugenics program of the 20's or was it the 30's I'm not sure it was sometime around those decades
    Not sure. Sweden's eugenics program survived into the 70s.

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    Post Re: The Swan

    Excellent post. I used to watch those reality shows. I got tired of them quickly.
    In what reality do a bunch of 20something strangers all live in one house, get stranded somewhere, or have to travel the world?
    When they decide to show actual reality on reality tv, instead of fabricated BS, then I'll think about watching.
    Until then, I'll stick to my scripted programs.

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