Screenshot: Surprise! I don't hate “What I hate about myself”

So the Style network rolled out a show that seems to package low self-esteem for every else's delectation, I got shirty about it, and now the show is on. And for you all, sweet readers, I watched. Is this show really another iteration in the genre of mainstream women's "service" entertainment, where "service" is defined as "we will have a lot of contempt for you unless you conform to these commercial norms?"

Surprisingly ... no. The first person who tackles the ten things she "hates" about herself -- and more on the use of the word "hate" later -- is prone to some anxiety about how others perceive her, so some of her "hates" are really just cosmetic issues that can be solved with a little time and cash.

Ambar is a statuesque 6'1", willowy, lovely mother who is, alas, beset with undereye circles, keratosis pilaris, a slight mustache and no grasp of interior decorating, shopping-fu or assertiveness at work. None of these are the kinds of fatal flaws that really deserve the word hate -- reserve that severity for character traits like irrational jealousy, or reflexive prejudice against anyone who is not like you, I say -- but they are the kinds of things that, on a bad day, can pile up and make you feel like you're doing a lousy job of day-to-day living.

Or, as Ambar tearfully asks, "Everybody looks at this face and sees somebody to love. Why can't I?"

So, over the course of an hour, Ambar is whisked along from specialist to specialist, each of whom introduces her to an easy and often-not-very-expensive solution to her woes. The show started off wobbly, as a wax wand-wielding lady started off her makeover with "Give me your personal account, your emotional relationship with your mustache hair."

But the show does throw in easy-to-follow, surprisingly good advice, like using painter's tape to tack things to the wall if your landlord won't permit anything like painting or hanging things. And they come out against crash dieting, and focus on incremental changes to your diet to incorporate more healthful, yet still pleasurable foods.

Sure, the enterprising soul could sit down and make a list of ten things to change about herself, then hunt down all this advice on the Internet, thereby sparing herself the indignity of appearing like she lacks all perspective with statements like "I hate that I don't know how to write thank-you notes."

But what this show's offering is someone to hold your hand and walk you through every step needed to solve your problem. It's essentially an empowering lifestyle-makeover fantasy. And what is nice about this show is that instead of the classic "experts come in and tell you what they think is wrong with you," at least the makeover subject is dictating what problems she wants to solve.

Now if we could just change the title, the show would be harmless.

by Lisa Schmeiser
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