Sunday, December 25, 2005

What Not to Watch

One of my favorite TV programs is the British version of “What Not to Wear”. Its premise is that two fashion journalists critically advise a typical British woman on how to look presentable. The show really is not about fashion but achieving a certain style for the person. The two presenters are critical but also helpful. There are often hidden issues of self-worth and self-image involved. The contestant is typically a middle-class woman with oblivious a lack of dress-sense. The show gives the contestant 2000 British pounds to shop. The contestant shops at stores that most British women could afford to shop at. The results of the fashion/style makeover can be achieved by most viewers wishing to recreate the looks presented by the show. The program is not really about fashion but more importantly about style and self image.

There is a Russian version of the program, in most critical ways, is the exact opposite of the British one. The Russian version features two presenters who could best be described as fashion victims. The Russian contestants are well-dressed, upper-middle-class women who really do not need the help provided by the program. The stores and fashions featured on the Russian version are very “elitety” and far out of the range of most Russian shoppers. Actually, the stores and fashion featured on the Russian “What Not to Wear” would be beyond the price range of most British or American shoppers. The main thesis of the program is not creating a positive self-image but showing methods for over-the-top consumption. The program is apparently sponsored by Coke-Lite. In every possible moment in the program, Coke-Lite is being consumed. I have never seen such overwhelming product placement. Such product overload actually hurts the product. When marketing is so oblivious and heavy-handed, it is hard to take anything the presenters or TV program says seriously.

One final note, the Russian version of “What Not to Wear” is targeted at the Russian middle class, as is the British version. While British version’s aims to help women to obtain some clothes sense and perhaps create a better self-image; the Russian version’s aim is to create a barrier between the middle-class Russian and fashion. In no way could a typical Russian consumer could afford the clothes nor could she even locate the stores the show features.


At 12:34 AM, Anonymous krim said...

Then again, Russians (actually Moscovites) are very proud of the fact that Moscow places almost at the top for trendy luxury spending ($20K cell phones) among major European cities. A common trait of many modern Russians is not to live, eat, or look good but to do so better than their neighbor... A show promoting a better self-image would be misunderstood by many "middle-class" russians, yet a show telling them how they can become "more European" then their peers by wearing something expensive is just a hit.


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