Extreme Makeover designed to sell products, not truly help peopleOct 5th, 2009 | By Zach | Category: Columns, Featured Articles, Opinions
by Zach Becker
Like a lot of people in Springfield, I watched last night’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The episode featured the total destruction of a local family’s run-down 800 square-foot home and the construction of a brand new 3,300 square-foot home. The eight-person Hampton family seemed worthy and appreciative of the very generous gift and I am happy for them.
However, I still have the same problems with this show that I always have. Extreme Makeover is one of those feelgood programs that demonstrate, in true American fashion, that if you are a good person eventually you will be rewarded by winning the lottery and getting lots and lots of stuff (and be famous for it). Of course, you don’t have to buy tickets to this lottery. Instead, ABC execs select the biggest sob-stories out of a large bag of tears. Winner gets a new house filled with expensive stuff and sometimes even a free car.
Extreme Makeover makes itself out to be this ultimate charity designed to help the masses of misfortunate struggling people. However, while it tugs at the heartstrings, its real aim are the purse strings. This show has more product placement than the movie Mac and Me. These companies are not trying to help people; they are just trying to pad their bottom line. Granted, I don’t blame them for it, as I’m sure it is effective. I bet the local builder from the latest episode sees a boom in business. Still, the show works hard to be a tear-jerker and make ABC, host Ty Pennington, and the sponsors look like philanthropists, which they are not.
Once the whirl-wind of publicity goes by and the dust settles on these families, how much better off are they? ABC certainly doesn’t help the parents get a better education or learn new job skills. These people are usually low wage earners and are now stuck paying the utility bills and maintenance costs on a home triple the size they had before. Obviously, taxes go up on the property big time, too. (In fairness, according to reports, the show helps families with some of this expense by either outright donation or by helping the family exploit tax loopholes to avoid some of the taxes on their remodeled property).
The bottom line is, though, that you are taking a family and creating a living environment that is well beyond their means. While good at first, unforeseen consequences can arise and families may be left in a lurch and possibly lose that fancy new home. And what about the neighbors? These poor folks now have a mansion in the middle of their rundown neighborhood. The mansion among shacks distorts the property values for everyone in the area.
With all the money ABC spends on these fancy mansions, they could instead easily spend the same amount and create livable conditions for a whole neighborhood of people. Maybe they could create homes for homeless people, building small, one room apartments that could house hundreds who don’t have a place to live.
The show is just wasteful, too. The old Hampton house they dynamited last night, while far from luxurious, certainly would have made a decent home for a family of two or three. I’ve seen homes in Springfield in much worse conditions than that one.
Extreme Makeover shows us the true American dream. If you wait around and hope enough, eventually some all-powerful entity will bail you out and give you lots and lots of stuff and maybe a big house.
Stuff equals happiness, right? Judging by the euphoric and tear-filled reaction of most Extreme Makeover winners, I guess the answer is a resounding, “OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!! YES!!”