Snog, Marry, Avoid?, BBC3

Did we like it?
We had hoped this might valiantly take a stand against the facile inducements for women to go out and spend more money in the high street on beauty products they don’t need. It didn’t. It was merely yet another facet of this global con as it sought to humiliate its victims into abandoning their debauched existence for another controlled, but no less adherent to the Ten Commandments of Cosmo, lifestyle.

What was good about it?
• The use of a computer (called POD, the Personal Overhaul Device) to make the fashion ‘decisions’ reminded us of sporadically amusing celebrity 80s quiz show Star Test.
• Anyone who wants to instigate a campaign to get BBC3 axed as part of the BBC cuts instead of News need merely distribute this programme about the country to provoke the most incensed mob since the Timisoara uprising in 1989 to march on BBC headquarters.
• The central theme of the show – to stop some women looking awful because they read too many celebrity magazines – should actually be lauded, but to stay true to this it would need the women to actually think for themselves. And sadly, autonomous thought and BBC3 mix like oil and water.

What was bad about it?
• Jenny Frost (remember Atomic Kitten?) didn’t really offend in her role of ‘host’ – certainly not as much as Ladies’ Night offended the sensibilities of music – but perhaps if she had done she might have stamped her impression on the show instead of having all the corporeal identity of caterpillar snot.
• “Welcome to the world’s first, and only, makeunder show,” proclaimed Frost. Given that ‘makeover’ is the most despicable addition to the English language in the past 20 years – other than ‘meh’ and ‘smirting’ – substituting the anticipated refreshing rejuvenation with dogmatic dictation, ‘makeunder’ must recognise and therefore validate ‘makeover’ as a concept and as a consequence act as a sorry extension to its lies.
• And anyhow, the ‘makeunder’ works with the same insidious coercion of Nicky Hambleton-Jones’ lipglossed witchcraft on 10 Years Younger. First the victim, often an insecure, obnoxious, over/underdressed young woman plastered with so much make up it could be used to cement the Great Wall of China, is brought ‘face-to-face’ with POD, a ‘computer’ character that, through a mask of robotic impunity, allows baseless rudeness to appear as clinical pseudo-objectivity.
• POD then ritually degrades each victim by asking male members of the public to say whether they’d, for instance, take them to dinner, the pub or greyhound racing, or whether they’d snog, marry or avoid, and initially the overwhelming answer is always the most insulting (and as only about five men are shown, there’s no proof this is a true and fair test).
• As in 10 Years Younger, this weakens the previously hyped-up resistance to change, so Levi – “I’d rather give up my house than fake tan” – soon is impelled to wipe away her make-up and Tamsin – “Less is more, I wear less and get more attention” – wrenches out her hair extensions and slips into a flowing dress, before each is ‘made under’ with new hair and different make-up. Sure, they look much better than they did, but a bombsite would look better if adorned with elephant spunk.
• And it’s the manner in which each ‘makeunder’ is conducted that is perhaps the worst element of the show. Rather than emancipate them from the harmful pinion of celebrity culture, POD merely demands that Levi switch her idolatry aspirations from Jodie Marsh to one of Alexa Chung, Cat Deeley, Kate Bosworth or Scarlett Johansson, three of whom are just different facets of the same senseless corporate fashion culture as Jodie Marsh (we don’t actually know, or care, who Kate Bosworth is, but we imagine she’s a teen actress from America with about three thousand make-up contracts and on the adverts sensually swishes around on a white satin bed exuding all the alluring sexuality of a pick-up truck).
• Whereas say, Gok Wan strives to liberate women from the enslavement to Cosmo and Marie Claire (but even he isn’t totally pure), Snog, Marry, Avoid? simply attempts to guide them down the right hole like a hunt master crooking his hounds down the right part of a sett to flush out badgers.
• Instead of simply encouraging each victim to have some independence and think about how they would prefer to look (perhaps impossible under the avalanche of women’s celebrity/beauty magazines), they are told to choose from a narrow selection of styles, each of them in turn caked with as much hyperbole as the make-up they have just scraped from their faces. For example, Tamsin is given a hair colour choice of dark chocolate, deep gold, velvet plum and mahogany brown, and once she has been dressed up she is told that the “moss green” dress she is wearing “flatters olive skin tones”. Utter bollocks.
• Once the ‘makeunder’ is complete, there follows the predictable transformation in the public’s perceptions of the victim, as they now mostly either want to ‘snog’ or ‘marry’ her.
• The ‘madeundered’ Tamsin rushed into her boyfriend’s arms to Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.
• But neither of the ‘makeunders’ seemed to do much good. Levi returned three months later with just as much make-up as before, the same, old long hair and her skin a darker shade of tree bark with only her hair a different colour. And while Tamsin retained more of the changes forced on her, she failed to become “a natural beauty” in her original ‘makeunder’ because between being selected for the show and her ‘makeunder’ she had mutilated herself by enlarging her breasts (kindly paid for by her dad), and so any changes she kept were always going to be undermined by this gravest submission to contemporary ‘beauty’ trends.
• A man was also chosen to undergo a ‘makeunder’, Eshan, 20, declared that he didn’t want to lose his ‘crown’ – his hair was moulded into six or seven vertical spikes – and so was let off because “POD loves your independent style”. We’re not sure why this was even broadcast.
• Frost was eager to hear the opinions of both Levi and Tamsin, but what intrigue is there from the mouths of two people who can’t think for themselves, while anything they feel is also as irrelevant as how is it possible to feel emotion in such a numbing environment?

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