What Khloe Kardashian’s Toe-Curling Makeover Show Tells Us About Body Image

Remember makeover shows? I do, because the late 90’s and early 2000’s were my peak years of watching TV. You know, that time when you feel grown up, but aren’t quite old enough to drink in parks with your friends. TV is king for those precious years.

Whether it was Trinny and Susanna’s What Not To Wear or Gillian McKeeth sifting through people’s poo on You Are What You Eat, we couldn’t get enough of people improving themselves. In the UK these shows tended to have a fashion or weight-loss focus, but across the pond things went one step further to include full-body surgery on shows like Extreme Makeover and The Swan. In retrospect, the only explanation for our obsession can be that these shows fell into the ‘so bad it’s good’ bracket.

Enter Khloe Kardashian, whose family have achieved superstardom off the back of a popular reality show that represents our current definition of ‘so bad it’s good’ television. The self-described “former fat sister” has gone through her own personal transformation of late, overhauling her life and losing 30 pounds amid some serious personal heartache. Khloe returns to our screens without her sisters in Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian, a makeover show designed to help people change their ways and gain revenge on people who have wronged them by achieving a killer physique.

It’s no secret that Kardashian doesn’t have the best track record with her solo TV projects. She was roundly mocked for her shambolic performance as a presenter on Simon Cowell’s X Factor USA, and her last show Kocktails With Khloe was ‘kancelled’ after just 14 episodes. Still, I’ve watched virtually every episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, so I was looking forward to seeing Khloe front a new and interesting type of makeover show. I mean, apart from marry someone vaguely sane, the Kardashians can do anything, right?

Unfortunately the program that I ended up having to endure did not live up to expectations. The show is essentially The Biggest Loser for die-hard Kardashian fans. Participants are shown freaking out before meeting Khloé, and their heart-to-hearts with her are a core component of their screen-time on the show. The first participants, Stephanie and Will, work out seven days a week, twice a day, for twelve weeks, which is obviously a very realistic schedule for the average person to follow.

This is the first integral flaw with Revenge Body. Makeover shows have two functions: to entertain and to inspire. Throughout the show, participants have access to personal trainers, dieticians, dermatologists, as well as professional hair and make-up artists. Even Kardashian herself admits that having “access to the best” is a big part of why she looks so great. This isn’t a particularly inspiring message to your average person.

Secondly, and perhaps most obviously, is the entire concept of a “revenge body”. There’s absolutely nothing empowering about turning your whole life around just to prove something to someone who has wronged you. If anything it’s the opposite. The first participant is a guy called Will, who wants to transform into a “muscle cub” to win his ex-boyfriend back after he broke up with him for gaining weight. As sad as this is, I’m not sure how getting back with a shallow ex counts as getting revenge on them, or how encouraging this behaviour is responsible or empowering. The episode ends with Will throwing a cocktail party to reveal his transformation, which Khloé invites Kyle to in the form of a voicemail, hoping he’ll walk in and see the error of his ways. Kyle doesn’t show up, and instead the most shocking moment is when Will’s mum walks in. The segment ends on will saying that he’s now “completely obsessed” with his appearance, which doesn’t sound very healthy.

The other participant, Stephanie, describes herself as the ‘DUFF’ of her friend group. (‘DUFF’ meaning ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’.) Stephanie doesn’t seem to consider the “ex-best friend” who wronged her particularly valuable, but is still desperate to get revenge on her by losing weight. Perhaps Kardashian should be encouraging Stephanie to make friends who support and uplift her?

The confused message of the show isn’t helped by the fact that neither of the show’s participants were what I would consider drastically overweight. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they are definitely a little on the heavy side, but neither have the dangerously unhealthy physique that you would typically associate with makeover shows. Only in LA would these people be considered morbidly obese.

But aside from all this ridiculousness, the biggest disappointment with Revenge Body is Kardashian herself. The interview scenes, which make up large parts of the beginning of the show, come across as extremely self-congratulatory. Poor Will and Stephanie could barely get a word in edgewise between Khloe going on (and on and on) about how she was “the fat sister”, “the ugly sister” and “the sister with bad skin”. The way that she talks about the fact that she’s lost weight and got slightly better hair, you’d think that she’d cured Malaria and defeated ISIS singlehandedly. On top of this, she didn’t even attend Will or Stephanie’s reveal parties, despite the fact that most of their guests had clearly only attended to grab a glimpse of her. Both events were also held in LA where the Kardashians live.

All in all, Revenge Body is a car crash of over-the-top production and damaging contradictory messages. It’s great that Khloe has turned her own life around, but when it comes to helping others, I suggest she sticks to her day job, although I’m still trying to figure our exactly what that is.

Follow Louis on Twitter @LouisStaples

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