I have never understood the apparent fascination of my fellow countrymen with watching people on the TV being ritually humiliated before undergoing an experience that involves being hacked on an operating table.
On Channel Four in the UK there is a programme called “Ten Years Younger” where people are made to look, as the name suggests, ten years younger. When Mrs PM (who incidentally loves the programme) first brought this to my attention I sat down to watch it, more out of a morbid curiosity than a real desire to watch a fascinating piece of televisual excellence.
The host of the show is Nicky Hambleton-Jones, a South African dietician. The victim, sorry, contestant, is a person, usually a woman, who appears to be at least ten years older than she is.
We are introduced to the victim at the start of the show. Nicky basically smiles sweetly at the woman and then verbally rips her to shreds, with all the sympathy of a starving lion standing over a plump gazelle. She savages the victim’s hair, colour and texture, before moving onto the face, usually showing the audience every single wrinkle and every blemish. Next the victim is forced to show her yellow or rotting teeth in close up for all to see. The final kick in teeth involves the victim’s dress sense being condemned with the ferocity of a hungry shark.
If that’s not enough, just as she thinks that the savaging is complete, the now dejected contestant is paraded on a local high street like a mutated freak. Nicky demands that every single passer by gives his or her opinion on age and appearance.
Now at her lowest ebb, the victim is led back to the studio where Nicky confirms the dreaded news; the victim looks like a decrepit old geriatric and has the style and grace of an orang-utan cat-walking at a fashion show.
Nicky herself is not a bad-looking woman and boy does she rub it in. “Look at me! I’m beautiful; I dress like a model; I am an expert in all things fashionable and nutritional. You are the complete opposite!!”
Nicky isn’t totally heartless. She is here to help after all and her audience, perched on their settees, are then subjected to the remedy to cure the victim’s problems. With a smile on her pretty face Nicky tells the victim that she will have her face sliced open and vast swathes of facial skin peeled off before having major dental surgery and a thorough makeover.
I cringed throughout the entire show.
I hated the fact that the victim was paraded in public as some kind of aged mutant creature in a zoo. I hated the condescending way in which Nicky talked down to the victim, treating her like a naughty child and acting as if she herself were an omnipotent fashion guru.
And being a squeamish wimp, I couldn’t bear watching the victim being attacked by a mad cosmetic surgeon with a scalpel and marker pen.
I left at that point and returned at the end of the show.
Thankfully, the victim was transformed; her hair was sculpted by a celebrity hairdresser; her teeth were perfected by a dental surgeon; her face was peeled, sliced and every wrinkle and blemish exterminated; her wardrobe was replaced by clothes selected by style gurus to the rich and famous.
The final chapter involved Nicky once more parading the victim in the high street, this time as a youthful, dashing, gorgeous nymphette who could melt any man’s heart at one hundred paces.
It worked. The victim, no longer a victim, did indeed look like a completely different person with at least ten years surgically removed. And the audience agreed.
But, for me the whole thing was very distressing. I saw a sad old woman humiliated to within an inch of total despair only to be sliced and diced and resurrected as a youthful phoenix. I felt a wave of sorrow followed by relief - I hated it.
That’s why I question the programme and other programmes like it. Is it right to watch a person destroyed and then recreated all in the name of entertainment? What if the surgery had gone wrong? What if the makeover hadn’t worked? Do we know about the failures, if there are any?
I am so grateful that I have managed to retain my youthful looks. I am forty five years old but almost always mistaken for somebody ten years younger. Why? Well the main reason is that I do not smoke and I do not spend hours in the sun. If I expose my skin to bright sunshine for more than an hour, it turns a luminous purpley-red colour. Any longer and I get sunstroke, which means that I end up in bed ill, but unable to get comfortable because my skin has been cooked. And two days later I look like an extra from a zombie film as the fried skin peels off - I don't need cosmetic surgery to remove my facial skin.
I have no intention of ever subjecting myself to a traumatic experience such as “Ten Years Younger”. I’m there already thankfully.
See you in two weeks. I’m off to South Africa tomorrow to tell Nicky what I think of her show (if I bump into her on my travels).