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I guess I just like liking things

“Snog Marry Avoid” works on a sound premise – a natural look is better. The show claims to target people who are too reliant on fakery – fake tans, fake eyelashes etc. They also target “fashion disasters” and as a fashion disaster myself, I’m interested to see where they take that. They can have my cardigans when they prise them from my cold dead hands!

An alarmingly perky woman is striding down a street in England, shouting at the camera. Originally, this was a studio show, but now they’re out in the streets with “Pod” – a large shiny shipping container which has a sarcastic computer inside to belittle and deride those selected for make overs. Sorry, make unders – the idea is to tone people down, not shine them up. The “on the road” episode has landed in Nottingham, a fact Ellie the host tells Pod in a high pitched screech. Pod sends Ellie out to find people who are rich in fakery.

But as we know, it was Jem who was truly outrageous

But as we know, it was Jem who was truly outrageous

There’s a bit of a vox pop where people explain that Nottingham is full of low cut dresses, white lipstick and people not wearing undies. Now we meet one of the lucky ladies who are up for a make over. Johanna introduces herself as “The most outrageous girl.” She dares us, as a group, to do something about it. As proof of her outrageousness, she dons a pair of bunny ears. Her look is “crazy,” if by crazy you mean “tee-shirts and shorts.” Which, personally, I don’t. If she came to me with a small chicken on her head and wearing a dress woven from bus tickets, then we could discuss crazy. Mostly, from the clips of her walking around town, her look appears to be “cold.” She says she’s mostly fake, including tan, hair extensions, eyelashes and make up.

Johanna’s boyfriend, Mike, is kind of over the whole “Taking 3 hours to get ready” and also having to do everything around the house because Johanna needs the time to fake tan and make up. She uses fake tan daily, and makes all of Mike’s clothes and furniture orange as a result. Lorna, Johanna’s sister, likens Johanna to a wanna be porn star and is looking forward to seeing Johanna as herself, rather than under three coats of foundation (it is actually three coats of foundation).

Ellie turns up to meet Johanna, who is standing in a spray tan booth. Ellie thinks Johanna looks like a gingerbread man, and Johanna is pleased. Johanna is explaining that she feels it’s time she really looked at who she is, and perhaps gain some sophistication. I am distracted by Ellie’s wide eyed open mouthed smile. I … I’m worried she’s an alien sent to devour women with fake tans. Run Johanna! Run!

Johanna goes in to see Pod (which apparently stands for “Personal Overhaul Device”). “I’m Johanna”, says Johanna. “Johanna the fake tanner?” says Pod in a strident computerised voice. Someone spent ages writing that. “Why aren’t you dressed?” Pod demands while the camera pans up Johanna’s outfit, which, admittedly, is basically underwear.

Now we get down to the nitty gritty. The “general public” have been asked, having been shown a photo of Johanna, would they like to snog, marry or avoid her? The ultimate goal is “marry,” because it indicates that the person in question looks nice enough to marry (I’ll ignore the part about personalities for now, it’ll be in my wrap up – predictably!). Johanna is shown clips of various men saying how unattractive she is, and the verdict is “avoid.”

No fakery accepted! (Hair dye is okay though - loopholes!)

No fakery accepted! (Hair dye is okay though – loopholes!)

Phase two is “Deep Cleanse.” Johanna removes all her jewelry, hair extensions and fake lashes and is given a bunch of make up wipes to clean off her face with. After a make under, which includes a nice frock, a hair colouring and some light make up, Johanna does look much better. She seems pleased with the make under, but it’s time to ask random men in the street what they think. The first guy says “I would marry her because she’s got great hair.” Wow. I can’t even begin to think about that. The next chap just says “Yeah snog her!” I’d just swoon.

Time for the reveal, Johanna is sent to a bar to walk down the catwalk. The voice over wants to know what her boyfriend will think of his new “top totty” girlfriend. Mike is delighted, and the crowd goes wild. Ellie wants to know if Johanna will still get the attention she loved so much, and Mike jumps in with “Course she will!” 10 boyfriend points to that man please. With Johanna vowing to never fake tan again, we move on to the next part of the show.

Apparently, Nottingham people like to wear camouflage and it appears in jackets, pants and even hand bags as a sort of city wide fashion. Pod calls for Ellie, because this trend is “ridiculous” although I’m not entirely sure how. To show them how silly they look, Ellie goes out in full camo. She rolls around in the street a bit and letches on some men and asks some ladies about their pants. After this fairly pointless interlude, we meet Claire.

Confession: I like her make up

Confession: I like her make up

Claire, dressed in a skin tight full body shiny blue catsuit, explains her look is a mix of everything she loves – cupcakes, drag queens, clouds and crystals. Claire’s boyfriend, Louis, looks slightly dazzled by the whole concept of Claire, but does manage to say he thinks she looks weird. Claire’s mother, Kate, says Claire’s look isn’t really her taste, but she does admire Claire’s confidence.

While doing her make up, Claire points out that there’s gaps on her face, so she holds up an offcut of lace and paints make up over it, stenciling the lace pattern onto her forehead and cheek. I like it.

Inside Pod, Claire says she bought her outfit from a figure skater and thinks Pod can’t make her look better anyway. Time for the clips of people talking about Claire. One chap says “I would avoid her because she looks like she’s just come off an ice skating rink.” Claire laughs and wants to know what’s wrong with ice skating. I feel this is a fair question.

Sad Claire is sad

Sad Claire is sad

Deep cleanse time. After losing her eyelashes and earrings, we get the make under. Claire is given plain dark hair, and an okay dress, but she’s unhappy. Claiming she looks like a celery stick, she also fusses with her newly boring hair. She quite likes the make up. The new vox pop result is “Snog.”

Back at the pub, Claire says again how much she hates the new look, but her mum is delighted. Her boyfriend isn’t there for some reason. Claire says she’s off home to pop some glitter on and get rid of the hideous dress.

Before the show ends, we meet with Claire and Johanna again to see if they kept their new looks. Johanna did, Claire (colour me shocked) did not. The day after her make under she dyed her hair blue. She’s wearing less make up though. Johanna is still enjoying her new look and has landed a job, and is overall happier to be less orange.

I’m going to start with “Pod.” As a concept, it’s probably okay – a computer that scans people and explains why they’re so hideously dressed. The “witty remarks” are terrible and clumsy though. In trying to be really catty, it comes off obnoxious and grating.

Now I’m going to move on to the whole concept of the Snogging, Marrying or Avoiding. These are the three options. There isn’t a “She looks nice” or “She looks like fun.” You either want to snog her, marry her, or avoid her (to be fair, there are other episodes where one of the make under people is a chap, so it’s not entirely based on the decorative aspect of women, just mostly). It’s bad enough that these are the three categories in the first place, couple that with the idea that it’s somehow a good thing that 70% of people asked would cheerfully snog you without knowing you and I just don’t know where we’re going as a species.  I suppose it comes down to “Is this person attractive?” which is a less snappy title for a TV show but also less creepy. It’s very creepy to have random strangers rating anyone by how “snoggable” they are.

On being told that 90% of people asked would “avoid” her, Claire said “Whatever, we’re not supposed to care what other people think are we?” and she’s right. Johanna did end up happier in herself I think after scraping off some of the fake tan, but Claire wasn’t happy. She thought she looked boring, and she wants to look fun and have fun with her appearance. Also she’s seventeen, and I promise you that by the time she’s 20 she’ll probably have a whole new look anyway.

Which is kind of another issue I have with the show. Claire is 17, Johanna is 19 and it’s just kind of sad to have two young people hauled up onto national TV for mocking, regardless of how they dress.  That this sort of thing is “entertainment” is pretty sad really.


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