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What Message Does "Extreme Makeovers" Send?
Aired May 14, 2003 - 19:49 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, everyone has something about themselves they'd like to change or improve. With me it's the gray hair. What can I do? And at top-rated reality TV show is capitalizing on that fascination.
"Extreme Makeovers" take us through the process as people get all their so-called flaws fixed. Over a six-week period a select few get a head to toe make every involving everything from nose jobs, to liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants, whatever. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery.
And as you can see in the before and after photographs, the results can be quite dramatic. But the question is is this sending the right message or the wrong one? Sara Austin is the senior features editor of "Self" magazine which focuses on women's health and beauty. Thanks for being with us, Sara.
SARA AUSTIN, SENIOR FEATURES EDITOR, "SELF" MAGAZINE: My pleasure.
And Dr. William Dorfman, a Beverly Hills dentist a fellow in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, joins us from Los Angeles. Dr. Dorfman, thanks for being with us as well.
Sara, let me start off with you. Your thoughts on watching this program. It's not your favorite.
AUSTIN: Well, there's no denying that it's great TV, but the message it's sending is kind of frightening.
COOPER: What do you think the message is?
AUSTIN: This is a show that tells us that we are broken. And that the best way, and sometimes the only way to fix ourselves is through extreme and also extremely expensive plastic surgery. This is a show that tells us our kids will love us more if we look younger. It tells you that your sister will have a better relationship with you if only you were prettier.
COOPER: Well, Dr. Dorfman, what about it? You've seen the show. What do you think?
DR. WILLIAM DORFMAN, COSMETIC DENTIST: You know, I'm a cosmetic dentist. I've been doing cosmetic dentistry for 20 years now. And I can tell you I have had patients come into my office that never smiled, that kind of hid their face when they smiled. They aren't happy with their smile. They're not confident about their smile.
They come in, we do porcelain veneers, or we use our zoom lam. And we just bleach their teeth and give them a beautiful smile. And it gives them confidence. It changes their life. It makes them excited and it makes them happy and makes them feel good about themselves.
It doesn't fix anything, but what it does is it helps a lot of people get over a hurdle and kind of move to the next level in their life.
COOPER: Well, Sara, what about that? I mean if some people want to get their teeth colored or whatever it is, why not?
AUSTIN: Well I think the show really promotes a quick fix solution to what seem sometimes some serious health problems and even mental health problems.
COOPER: Do you think some of the issues are...
AUSTIN: ... way to solve social anxiety? I'm not sure about that.
COOPER: What about it? Dr. Dorfman, just medically, I mean the ethics of it? You know it's a lot of surgeries in a very short period of time. Is there some risk -- I mean I would assume there's risk associated with that.
DORFMAN: There is absolutely no risk associated. We have a very strong and solid team of professional doctors and dentists that are involved in this program. And everything that we've done on the show is ethical. It's safe. There is nothing that's been done that can endanger anybody.
And you know, these people that are on "Extreme Makeover" don't have the means to have any of these procedures done. And this gives them an opportunity to just kind of be the best that they can be.
AUSTIN: Yes, but at the same time it's also an infomercial for the plastic surgery industry.
COOPER: Let me show you a little clip that we just want to show and get your take on it. Let's show this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Zack (ph) had a little bit of a strong reaction to the whole thing. He was crying because he was so happy. You know, he knew his mom of looking a certain way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I guess the little boy who wasn't quite pleased with the way his mom looked or just kind of freaked out by the whole fact that she had changed so much.
COOPER: Dr. Dorfman, does the show give a sense of the pain -- the procedures, some of them can be very painful. Do you think it gives a fair portrayal of sort of the recovery period, the painful recovery period, often?
DORFMAN: I think the show has really gone out of their way to try and make this as accurate a portrayal of what happens. These procedures are not that painful. I mean there's a little bit of discomfort after plastic surgery, after cosmetic dentistry your teeth may be a little bit sensitive.
But if you look at the reaction of the people on the show, Amy (ph) last week, I was watching the show. I sat there in my living room and cried when she cried. Her smile has been something that's been bothering her ever since she was a child. She was so reluctant to even be around people or be in public. And just having a new smile has given this woman so much confidence and made her so happy that it just radiates from her.
COOPER: All right, Sara?
AUSTIN: But at the same time, the show completely underplays, I think, the danger of plastic surgery and how painful it is.
One particular concern is that they do so many surgeries in a really concentrated amount of time. I spoke to a very prominent dermatologist today who told me he was offered a spot on the show and turned it down specifically because of that issue.
Your body needs time to recover from every individual procedure. So if you must undergo multiple plastic surgeries, you know the capillaries in your skin need time to heal. If you do them all at once, your plastic surgeon makes more money, but it's dangerous for you.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Dr. Dorfman, appreciate you joining us. And Sara Austin, appreciate you joining us as well.
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