The big and booby questions of reality TV

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Conversation /
January 14, 2013 /

Click here to view original /

Last week on Lifetime – a cable channel in the US – a reality TV show called Double Divas premiered.

The trailer gives a useful overview: a couple of best friends fit amply bosomed women for new bras. Ta daa!

Anyone familiar with women’s magazines will know the “truism” about most women wearing the wrong size bra. Whether this is actually true or merely folklore perpetuated by Bendon and La Perla, it’s a story often told.

The undercurrent of this tale – and the central theme of Double Divas – is that getting a well-fitted over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder will completely overhaul a life: change your bra, change your life as the Double Divas tagline goes.

The sense in getting a decently fitting bra isn’t something I care to contest: be it a new bra/hair cut/lipstick, if you feel less hideous or depressed following a new purchase, what’s the real harm?

What I want to question however, is why anyone would join the audience. I don’t ask this in a who-would-ever-watch-that-crap way – I try not to judge the malarkey some people tune into – but I am genuinely curious about the appeal. Is it just about the boobs? Is there nothing boobs can’t do? Can’t sell?

First things first: in a world where dating shows about “ugly” people and folks who take couponing a little too seriously go into second and third series, evidently no topic is off limits in the reality TV genre. No topic is too offensive, too boring, too stupid. Such shows get made because there are audiences for them. And I want to know why. In the case of Double Divas, why is anyone tuning in to watch women get new bras?

Is it the freak show factor? Are we watching these gigantically breasted women in voyeuristic horror just to mock their grotesquery and feel smugly better about our own imperfections?

Is it about titillation? Is there something arousing – made more respectable by watching it via Lifetime rather than, say, the Playboy channel – in watching all those bountiful boobs bounce up and down?

Is it about characters? About watching the the quirky, the over-the-top, the quite possibly criminally insane in the same way we’d consume any fiction?

It’s just about the boobs, isn’t it?

It’s just about the boobs. A show about women getting fitted for shoes wouldn’t work. A show about men getting new shirts wouldn’t work. Double Divas got made because it’s got boobs at the helm.

So what’s my problem with it?

If I’ve got scarce problems with the sex industry – be it strip clubs or porn – what is my concern with Double Divas?

If I wear a padded bra myself every single day, surely I “get” the boob thing?

I’m thinking it’s authenticity. The sex industry is selling a very specific product: tune in to porn and you know what you’re going to get; enter a strip club or brothel and you know what’s on offer.

For me and there’s something vaguely irksome about a show purporting to be about all about self-help, transformation and female empowerment actually just being a vehicle for more boobs on to TV.

I’m picking on authenticity here – or lack thereof – but there are equally substantial concerns about class and race.

That refined women, that educated women, aren’t getting their bras fitted on TV, for example. Concerns for another post of course.

Double Divas will no doubt make its way onto Australian screens – the appeal of boobs is evidently universal – but personally I find the why of it all so much more interesting than the what. But then, boobs never have done it for me.

© Lauren Rosewarne