Arizona Daily Wildcat Online
Front Page
· Basketball
· Columnists
Live Culture
Police Beat
Photo Spreads
Special Sections
The Wildcat
Letter to the Editor
Wildcat staff
Job Openings
Advertising Info
Student Media
Arizona Student Media info
UATV - student TV
KAMP - student radio
The Desert Yearbook
Daily Wildcat staff alumni

Bleed American: Transformation to the Dark Ages

Jennifer Kursman
By Jennifer Kursman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, April 16, 2004
Print this

Let me come right out and say it: I don't own a TV. Neither do my roommates.

Even more shocking: If we did have a television, I would probably ignore it. I believe that with the exception of a few shows ("The Simpsons" and Jon Stewart come to mind), most of what passes for "programming" is crap.

Sometimes, when people discover this, they are incredulous. "You mean you really ... don't ... watch ... TV? Well, the other day I read an article that gave me fresh ammunition to use while arguing.

It seems that FOX began airing a reality show last week called "The Swan." Here's the premise: There are two contestants, both of them female. Throughout each episode, these so-called "ugly ducklings" battle for a chance to attend a ... beauty pageant. Throughout each episode, stylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists dictate the changes that must be made, stripping the women of their freedom to express themselves as individuals. For the finale (drumroll please), the "winners" from each episode compete in a beauty pageant, a contest to determine the Ultimate Swan.

Oh, please, please, FOX, pick me! I want a makeover! If only I were gorgeous, then my life would be complete!

"The Swan" isn't the first competition revolving around women's looks. Beauty contests have long been degrading females by relegating their worth to mere physical attributes. But by now, Americans have broken out of those silly boxes; we've realized that women are to be judged by their actions and the strength of their minds, rather than by their appearance. Right?

Somebody pinch me ... I thought it was 2004.

There will be those who say, "It's only a stupid show; if you don't like it, don't watch it!" But what's bothersome about "The Swan" is what it says about our culture. Underlying "The Swan" is the assumption that every girl's dream should center on the concept of physical metamorphosis.

Sadly, many women still believe that if their physical "flaws" - aka the traits that make them unique - were "corrected," their lives would change dramatically. For example, a potential "Swan" contestant recently said, "These women who were chosen are blessed. I hope that one day, I too will be blessed in such a way. My husband says that we can't afford any surgeries, so I'm just going to ... pray that one day, I too will be given the opportunity to be a swan."

If only that was a joke. Unfortunately, this woman has already been joined by many others lined up and waiting in the hopes of elevating their low self-esteem with a little mascara and a haircut.

The American dream was originally defined as the remarkable ability to reinvent oneself. But advertisers today spend billions of dollars trying to morph the American woman's dream into a quest for physical self-improvement, with the unattainable goal of perfection always lying just out of reach. If you would just buy this $50 bottle of foundation, the commercials say, all your problems will disappear! Forget about what's inside, they urge. For women, self-satisfaction can come solely from others' approval of their outer shells.

I can only imagine the makeup companies salivating for a coveted spot during the show's commercial breaks.

As the journalist Holly Gail recently noted, the original swan fairy tale didn't even establish the gender of the ugly duckling. But all of the contestants on "The Swan" have been women.

At the end of the day, happiness and self-worth won't be found at the bottom of the dye bottle. Perfection is, of course, impossible. Faced with the reality of life, "The Swan" lies exposed, built upon nothing more than a hollow, empty pipe dream.

The modern American woman's aspirations should center on an action. Yet "The Swan" continues to perpetrate the perversion of the American dream into a physical ideal.

Watch out! Jennifer Kursman likes to throw bricks at TVs ... and she has good aim. If you are in need of her services, write to

Write a Letter to the Editor
Fully In Tact: Union should've settled for 'pretty big'
Bleed American: Transformation to the Dark Ages
Editorial: Bombs away
Housing Guide
University of Arizona Visitor's Guide
Restaurant and Bar guide
Search for:
advanced search Archives

Webmaster -
© Copyright 2003 - The Arizona Daily Wildcat - Arizona Student Media