Turn on the TV any given night and you’re bound to find some program that deals with some sort of makeover.
It might be ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Grab the remote and move along the dial to TLC (The Learning Channel), and you’ll find Stacy and Clinton of What Not to Wear fame trying desperately to take their subjects from frumpy to fabulous. NBC’s The Biggest Loser is an effort to help the weight-challenged change their eating habits and lifestyles.
Last but not least, one of the most bizarre makeover-type shows out there has to do with the addiction to stuff: hoarding. TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive is an attempt to make over the lives of folks who are literally putting themselves in jeopardy because they can’t bare to part with anything and end up, well, as the show’s title indicates, just about burying themselves alive.
None of these so-called “reality TV” programs are all that bad, content-wise. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is actually on the Parents TV Council’s family-friendly list, and the show is dedicated to helping families facing serious challenges, usually of a financial nature.
What Not to Wear does a great job of helping people put their best foot — or should I say “shoes” — forward fashion-wise. There is nothing wrong with dressing nicely and in a professional manner. And helping people lose weight and get back on track physically is also a fine effort, as is helping a relative or friend come out from under their mountain of clutter.
But do you notice a pattern here? All these makeover shows only deal with externals: the home, the wardrobe, the scale and piles and pile of junk.
I have yet to see even one episode of any of these programs address what’s on the inside.
What we really need is Extreme Makeover: Catholic Edition. After all, given the long list of social ills that seems to keep getting worse, thanks to the very toxic and slippery slope we’ve been on, who couldn’t use a spiritual makeover?
That said, don’t hold your breath. It’s highly doubtful that one of the major broadcast networks or cable channels would spend the time, money and effort to develop a program that deals with issues that go well beyond the surface.
First of all, it’s not “sexy” enough or bizarre enough for prime time. Secondly, and even more importantly, in my humble opinion, as someone who came back into the Church kicking and screaming along the way, real self-examination, real change is very hard work.
It’s painful to take a good, long look at your life. In today’s instant-gratification-and-all-about-me culture, not too many of us want to go deeper. Instead, we often opt for the quick fix. It’s very challenging, after all, to admit your mistakes and humble yourself before God and ask forgiveness. Your first inclination is to stay right where you’re at and maybe just do a few minor “makeovers” that you hope will get you far enough in the Lord’s eyes to land that ticket into heaven. Again, I am speaking from personal experience.
The old saying “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” is very true when it comes to the idea of total abandonment to God, and especially within the Catholic Church.
For years I had one foot in the secular world and one foot in the Christian world, trying to convince myself that as long as I became a little better at living up to the minimum requirements of my faith then everything would be just fine — and, for the most part, I could still do things my way.
Like so many others out there in TV fantasy land, I was looking for a quick fix. A little sprucing up spiritually, or so I thought, would be just fine, thank you. Boy, was I wrong.
If we can learn anything from any or all of the current extreme-makeover shows, it’s that we are continually in need of our own extreme spiritual makeover. Even if we are practicing our faith to the best of our ability, as long as we are alive God is not through with us. He doesn’t just come into our lives with a paint brush or a treadmill and temporarily “make over” our situation. He’s in it with us for the long haul. Once we come to accept and embrace this reality, we find true fulfillment that lasts much longer than the new clothes or remodeled home. That’s because we worship the ultimate makeover artist.
Teresa Tomeo is an author, journalist and radio and TV host.
Her latest book is Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.
She co-hosts The Catholic View for Women on EWTN.