Here’s the latest snippet of news sure to push the “Doomsday Clock” forward faster: Mama June, aka June Shannon, will star in a new reality makeover series that follows the transformation of her body through harsh workouts and elective surgeries. The alarming name? Mama June: From Not to Hot.
It’s just the latest variation on the theme of weight-loss and makeover shows — the most recent to hit the airwaves being Khloé Kardashian’s misguided Revenge Body — but this one feels particularly dangerous because of the loud-and-clear messages it’s sure to send to viewers.
We TV, which will launch the seven-part series on Feb. 24, describes the journey of Shannon — first thrust into the spotlight as the mom on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo — as “a physical and emotional metamorphosis that will leave one of America’s most recognizable personalities virtually unrecognizable.” Indeed, Shannon exclaims in a voiceover on a sneak peek for the show, “When I’m done, I’m not even gonna recognize my own self in the mirror.”
That idea, which is touted as one to strive for, along with the entire premise of the show offers up a sexist and risky message, experts say.
“The message that the way to go from ‘not to hot’ is to go under the knife is a dangerous one for young girls to hear,” Robyn Silverman, body-image expert, parenting coach, and author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, tells Yahoo Beauty. “At a time when self-esteem can waver and the words of our mothers rule supreme, we want to convey to young people that beauty comes from the inside and that we don’t need to put ourselves at risk in order to ‘become’ beautiful.”
While bariatric surgery has been shown to have some health benefits, she adds, “it is risky, and should be taken as a serious operation that requires a significant change in lifestyle and a shift in mindset. It was never meant to be a makeover solution.”
In the trailer, it seems the show is positioning Mama June’s motivation for slimming down as a way to take back her life after being disrespected by her cheating ex, Sugar Bear. The show’s premiere, called “Thin-Tervension,” has Shannon hopping to it after discovering that he’s getting married. The motivation is not unlike Kardashian’s series, which “helps” the subjects get “revenge bodies” to spite everyone from a disinterested ex-lover to a cruel and fat-shaming frenemy.
“I dislike the whole idea of referring to one’s body as a ‘revenge body,’” Connecticut-based teen and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Beauty. “Bodies are not only for looking the way you want but for functioning well and being healthy, and this is all about appearance.”
The message to young girls is, “Rather than developing your skills, focus on your looks and focus on your body — go to any extreme, even if it might kill you,” she says, adding that the show “trivializes surgery that can potentially be dangerous — you can still die and have terrible complications” with cosmetic surgeries.
“It’s a terrible message. Then [some young girls] will be sitting and watching with their mothers, and their moms will be into it too, so they get a double message here,” Greenberg cautions. “One of the biggest factors in who develops anorexia is how the mother feels about her body. I always ask [my young patients with eating disorders] how their mothers feel about their bodies, and inevitably they tell me about their mother’s body issues.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, numerous studies have linked exposure to the “thin ideal” in mass media to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among women — particularly in young adults. “This may suggest that long-term exposure during childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for the negative effects of media during early adulthood,” the website notes, pointing out that 80 percent of Americans watch TV daily, on an average of more than three hours a day.
The points made in nutritionist Rebecca Clyde’s recent critique on KSL of Revenge Body can easily be applied to the new Mama June series. “There is no body positivity anywhere,” the story noted, before busting three common myths perpetuated on extreme dieting shows: that you’ll love yourself after you change your body, that shame is an effective weight-loss tool, and that if you lose the weight fast, “you’ll be good.”
Because extreme weight loss can be dangerous and often results in regaining of the weight, which is hard on the body, Greenberg notes that shows like these have a harsh bottom-line message: “Do anything I can — even if it means going under the knife — because I am a better person if I can look better.”
As for Shannon’s show, Greenberg says the takeaway will be that no matter what else has transpired in Mama June’s life, including dating a convicted child molester, none of it matters, since “she’s going to be a good and OK person because she’s hot.”