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Dr. 90210

I watched an hour of E!’s Dr. 90210, which focuses on plastic surgeons working in the Los Angeles area. The opening title sequence shows images of a doctor in surgery garb then it cuts to a camera and a woman stepping out of a car and onto a red carpet. We then see pieces of a woman’s body, focusing on the “beautiful? parts; lips, hips, small of her back and tip of her butt, and her neck and shoulders and her body is covered in drops of water. We then see images of palm trees to remind us, as if the title weren’t enough, that the show takes place in California. The graphic for the show replaces the "1" with lipstick to further symbolize patriarchal views of beauty (the idea that women need to alter their appearance in some way to be desireable and attract a mate). While the show is categorized as “reality TV,? the fact that all of the people on the show are “beautiful? and that it is based in a city that is notorious for producing a fake and unrealistic culture (i.e. films, Hollywood, the Beach Boys song, “California Girls,? etc.) leaves the viewer with a skewed idea of what reality really is.

In her article Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV, Myra Mendible states, “RTV contestants generally understand that moral weaknesses, body flaws, and intimate betrayals offer the most thrilling evidence of ‘reality’ in the genre,? the second of those being the focus of Dr. 90210. The article also focuses on the fact that persons participating in "reality" television shows know that there is going to be a fairly substantial element of humiliation on their part, and that humiliation may either come from the person or from clever editing by the producers. There were two women featured in this episode: Bea, a competitive body builder, and Jacki, a girl who had all of her breast tissue removed to avoid breast cancer and needs breast reconstruction surgery. These "body flaw" issues are a form of humiliation for the two women because they are embarrassed to be seen with them. They feel the need to correct what they see as problems before they can live fulfilling lives.

Bea has only 5% body fat and therefore her chest is mostly muscle. She wanted to get the surgery to “enhance her professional image? and “enhance her on stage.? She believed that getting breast implants would help her win more competitions, however just before her surgery she won a regional competition. Basically she has found that no matter how much bodybuilding she does, she can’t create the perfect body and will need to pay for one.

Jacki had previous breast surgeries and wanted one more to correct mistakes made in the past. This problem has caused self-esteem issues for her and affects every aspect of her life. She works at a restaurant where her outfit consists of a lingerie top that barely covers her bra and shows most of her chest (I find myself asking, if she has a problem with the way her breasts look, why does she have this job?). She can’t get into a relationship because she doesn’t like the way she looks. She said, “what’s the point of getting in a relationship when I know it won’t get intimate?? She also says that after her surgery, she will fall in love, get married, and have babies. It seems that getting the surgery will make all of her dreams come true and end all of her problems.

Both of these young women are quite attractive before their surgeries and it seems that the show is presenting the idea that you cannot naturally have the perfect body, you have to get plastic surgery to achieve what you want.