In the context of a purported shift from humiliation to the benign exemplified by the marked contrast between How to Look Good Naked and What Not to Wear, this article examines the cultural work performed by the ‘space of the benign’. We identify three main mechanisms – body appreciation, synthetic friendship and suspended sexuality – which manipulate existing constructions of female friendship and homosexuality to produce the host as the ‘gay best friend’. As such, the host sidesteps the heterosexual scopic economy while seeking to re-place women within it, and avoids the censure frequently directed at female presenters. At the same time, by coaxing women towards an acceptance of their body as is, the show provides a ‘feel-good’ sense of empowerment while preserving individualistic framings of body problems and solutions. We conclude that the show ehabilitates women within the heteronormative scopic economy, and reinscribes them as neo-liberal consumers.
- reality television
- scopic economy