Mark Palermo

Extreme Makeover for Airheads

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives

My wife watches a TV program called Extreme Makeover. Perhaps you have seen it. They take unattractive people and improve their looks, sometimes dramatically. Most contestants are not really bad looking to start with, but they usually lack fashion sense, or they need a diet or new hairstyle- but that would be too easy. Instead, the program strives to evoke a certain pathos and involves the contestant in a process of ameliorating the ancient problem of a flawed, unwanted self. The makeover team builds the drama by first showing the participants in unfulfilled, somewhat empty lives. All of which drives the process toward its culmination: the nervously anticipated presentation of the contestant to an exuberant crowd of approving family and friends, a ritual initiation of inclusion into the waiting world of "beautiful people." (Another myth; Look at the next ten people you see on the street and chances are that at least nine will be palin, old or plug ugly.) My wife reminds me that there is nothing wrong with people aspiring to look their best. She is right of course. But given the American proclivity for excess and commercial exploitation, this quest exhibits its own quirks and peculiarities; Personally, I find the program strange.

Each time I watch it, I hear an inner voice ask, "What if..." What if people redirected part of that energy to developing their minds? What if the audience applauded her emotional growth, her spiritual advancement, or even her newfound political consciousness?

My version of Extreme Makeover unfolds this way: Instead of the contestant starting out as a wallflower, later to become beautiful, she is beautiful before she becomes a contestant, but she is dumb, unconscious and superficial.

In my pilot show, a young woman named "Jane Doe" transforms herself through rigorous study, discipline and self reflection. After the months-long process, the day arrives for her presentation. Her family and friends are in the studio audience anticipating the unveiling of Jane's new "self." A nervous buzz pervades the air. Finally, the stage is set, the curtain opens for all to behold the transformation.

On a stage, dressed in jeans and a black turtle neck sweater, Jane is seated at a conference table surrounded by Bulgarian art students, anarchists and homosexual poets. She is shapely, slightly plump; but somehow more attractive than the skinny, tense person she had once been. Her face is relaxed, shows more character and- can this be said in America?- she is more womanly, radiating a mature, but earthy feminine essence. She looks up, faces the camera. "Just think, I used to be a slave, oriented toward mindless consumption of fashion and beauty products; preoccupied with my looks and status. It's no wonder I needed antidepressants. And of course the only guys I attracted were either cruel, self-absorbed, or both. And I blamed all men for my malaise because it was easier that way. The crowd applauds politely. It is clear that so far, they approve.

The camera moves in closer: "I have read 41 books in the past year and developed my intellect, my world view, and my political consciousness! She presses on. "I used to blow hundreds of dollars on clothes each month trying to fill my existential emptiness. I affected an attitude of cool detachment, while being eaten up by feelings of inadequacy. I wore the mask of false confidence, but I was an impostor. Never seeing the suffering in the world, I actually thought that old age, sickness, loss and death were not my lot in life; that these only happened to others. And that they deserved it- unlike the beautiful people I was a part of." The audience is applauding, this time more loudly. She has touched them. Her parents are weeping with happiness.

Now the MC is interviewing Jane's Mom. "We were always worried that our Janey would become just another mindless pyramid builder in the New World Order. But now that she is emerging as an autonomus, self reflective person that shows solidarity for the proletariat... Well, my husband Ted and I are just so pleased..."She dabs a tear from her cheek.

The camera returns to Jane, who is smoking an unfiltered French cigarette. "Now that I am self reflective, I'm reading Spengler's Decline of the West; next month I am tackling Proust and Genet. I am questioning my teachers, my government, and most of all, myself. I am even planning a trip to Cancun, not just to lie on the beach, have anonymous sex, and drink in clubs, but to immerse myself in the folklore and culture of Mexico, where I'll actually stay sober and visit the pyramids!

The studio audience rises from their seats. Some men whoop and stamp their feet. Women swoon. Other men stare in amazement - as if in the presence of the sacred or profane. The resounding applause shakes the very rafters.

What a makeover. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! A young soul has bloomed: and a provincial girl has become a self reflective woman... Homeland Security has already been notified.

December 2008