Sunday, May 20, 2012


John and I have become big fans of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. We started watching her television program Til Debt Do Us Part (rebroadcast from the Canadian station Slice) on CNBC several years ago and have followed her spin-off series Til Debt Do Us Part: Home Edition, Til Debt Do Us Part: Baby Edition, and her most recent series, Princess. On Princess, Gail tackles the entitled mindsets, non-existent money management skills, and predatory relationship skills of young women in their 20’s and thirties who have learned to let family, friends, and in some cases male partners pay their way. Gail exposes them to the reality of how much money they do make, how much they would need to make in order to support their pampered lifestyles, and how much they would need to live their lifestyles and pay off their debts. She makes their families, friends, and lovers promise not to hand over any more money as her princesses are exposed to a reality check challenge, a budget making challenge, a goal setting challenge, and a give-back challenge. If they do well, they get a check for $5,000 to pay towards their debt. Some of the princesses get all the money, some get only part, and one that we can remember got none at all, because she did not seem to have learned anything. 

Halfway through the first season, I noticed something startling. All of the princesses, in true princess fashion, are extremely good looking, even beautiful. Granted, these are women who get their hair and nails done at least once a week, dress only in designer clothes, buy the most expensive makeup, and in one case have even resorted to Botox, but still. I was a reasonably attractive woman at their age, but there wasn’t enough Botox, silicone, or Dolce and Gabbana in the world to get me to that level. Fortunately, I knew better than to bankrupt myself trying.

One might think that because this is television, they are simply selecting the best looking candidates, but that’s not true of the rest of the Til Debt Do Us Part franchise. The couples featured on the other shows cover a normal range of attractiveness from better than average to worse. It could be that the producers of Princess thought the show would work better with more attractive participants, but they still need a pool of those to draw from.

If our princesses were all being supported by sugar daddies, their attractiveness would not be surprising, either. One may not like the fact that women can exchange beauty for goodies, but it’s not exactly front page news. Most of our princesses, however, are being spoiled by daddy daddies, and mommies, and sisters and brothers  and grandmas. Their families are the ones who spoiled them. One mother even admitted that she had a hard time saying no to her daughter as a child, “because she was so cute”.

I live in this fantasy world where your family loves you for who you are, and sees you as a prince or princess and the fairest of them all no matter what you look like. Watching Princess, I get the disturbing feeling that the truth is not so comforting, that even among family beauty gets you privileges that plainer looks do not. There is even research on the subject. I don’t know how valid the research is, but it is sobering. In more ways than one, Princess shows us that life is not a fairy tale.

ETA 5/31 - A small problem with my hypothesis. Last Saturday we watched two episodes of Princess, and in each one, the princess was not beautiful. They were attractive, especially with the hairdos, makeup, and clothes on which they squandered the money they didn't have, but closer to the norm for women their age. In fact, one of them was even less attractive than her more prudent sister. So maybe I was generalizing from too small a sample size. The grocery store research is still interesting, though.

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