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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Swan Curriculum

My first introduction to the TV show The Swan came last winter when I watched one of the closing episodes of it. I was absolutely horrified. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the show takes women who feel terrible about themselves and supposedly look terrible, and it gives them a regimine of starvation (aka dieting), plastic surgery, psychological renovation, working out, etc and transforms them from ugly ducklings to the most beautiful women on TV (incidentally, they ALL LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME! -- we're talking cheek implants, breast implants, nose jobs, chin implants, and they're all blondes).

This show goes beyond nodding its head to the standard of female beauty that most women in this country struggle with; it actually promises happiness to these women (regardless of what they've been through and what kind of life they're going back to) almost exclusively based on their appearance. What a gross deception. If I believed that lie, I would have such a hopeless outlook. What good does beauty do you if your friends betray you, if you suffer from physical illness, or any other of the manifold things that happen in life sneak up on your beautiful self. Which I guarantee will happen. The winner of the first season (I think there have been two seasons) received divorce papers from her husband while she was on the show ... now tell me that being beautiful makes up for all that!

While on a studying excursion recently at Barnes & Noble, it came to my attention that the woman who brainstormed The Swan had written a book telling other women how THEY could undergo this transformation, too (she lightly brushed over the fact that your average woman can't take three months off of her life to have every kind of plastic surgery under the sun). So cynical me read part of the introduction, and what struck me the most was that one of the most heinously materialistic promises of the "American Dream" couldn't escape religious language.

Without drawing this out too much, I just want to challenge you as you read her words to think about what Christian said earlier in his Hole in My Soul post. These women have genuinely desperate situations; they are hurting souls. And yet because they don't grasp a concept of grace that amply supplies all that they need, they are forced to trust in a counterfeit that will inevitably disappoint.

“A few years ago, I reread Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Duckling story with my son. I was amazed at how well it captured this experience of being flawed in a world obsessed with perfection. Of course, we women don’t just wake up one day to find that we have become what we always dreamed; like the ugly duckling, we sometimes need assistance. That is why I created the television show The Swan – to help other women who are stuck. The show follows eighteen ‘ugly ducklings’ throughout their four month commitment to self-transformation. During this time, they receive therapy, life coaching, fitness training, diet counseling and, yes, plastic surgery. Their transformations are amazing, but don’t think that what you’re about to embark on is any less powerful. You have in front of you the very workbook I developed for my own transformation – the original Swan.

“Becoming a Swan requires faith. And I don’t mean religion. I mean the faith that you’ll be taken care of in the universe if you do your work.

“Welcome to The Swan Curriculum.”

Nely Galán, The Swan Curriculum: Create a Spectacular New You with 12 Life-Changing Steps in 12 Amazing Weeks (New York: Regan Books, 2004).

If Nely's faith is not religious faith, what kind of faith could she be talking about?

1 Comments:

At 5:45 PM, March 08, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

I have to admit that I have watched this show a few times. It has been on, and I have sat down and watched it. I think that the best way to describe it is a ten-car pile up with heads flying all over the road. You don’t seek out such things, but if you are driving by, you kind of have to rubberneck. This show is totally repulsive and sad, but for some reason, people watch it. When I do choice to rubberneck, I feel sick and leave the room.

 

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