Brand New You: Makeover Television & the American Dream

What do popular television makeover programs like What Not to Wear, The Biggest Loser, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and The Swan tell us about how to look and feel? What do they tell us about what a good life looks like in contemporary America? This new film based on Katherine Sender's book The Makeover explores these questions against the backdrop of American ideals of self-invention and upward mobility. Asking what it means to be an authentic self in an increasingly mediated world -- to be both ordinary and special, to be happy with who we are while always wanting something better -- Brand New You shows how the interventions featured in makeover shows, from weight loss to cosmetic surgery, reproduce conventional norms of physical attractiveness and success. Taking a wider social and cultural view, it also shows how these programs have become models of self-transformation at precisely the same time jobs have become harder to find and keep, and women and men have been forced to remake themselves to compete in a rapidly changing labor marketplace.