TV

How to Look Good Naked: Shedding Clothes, Gaining a BFF

The value of How to Look Good Naked is not in its attempt at a populist therapeutic cure to negative self-perception or a quick ‘before and after’ transformation.

How to Look Good Naked

Airtime: Wednesdays, 8pm
Cast: Gok Wan
Subtitle: Season 6
Network: Channel 4
Air date: 2010-09-01
Amazon

Gok Wan knows good body shapers and isn’t afraid to share. As the host of the UK version of How to Look Good Naked, Wan uses both fashion consultations and mini therapy sessions to teach women how to love what nature gave them. The series, which recently finished its sixth season on Channel 4, is a makeover show but wants to be a life-changing therapy session. This identity crisis reflects reality television’s love affair with therapeutic discourse, but does a disservice to why this show really works. It’s not Wan’s body image counseling that makes his guest feel great at the end of the hour. Rather, it’s his role as best friend.

The premise of the series is that the featured woman has low self-esteem because she hates her thighs or her hips or her flabby stomach. In fact, she feels so low about herself that she refuses to be seen undressed so her intimate relationships suffer or she prevents herself from having intimate relationships at all.

Wan begins the show with a street poll, asking strangers to comment on the best body part they see in a billboard-sized picture of his client in nothing but her underwear. The photo is cropped at her neck so that her face is missing. It’s real and untouched—the equivalent of a body mug shot. Later, Wan’s client watches the tape as the people on the street note her slim waist or great calves. She is usually quietly surprised and almost pleased but not entirely convinced.

Another of Wan’s strategies is to ask his client to place herself among a line-up of women who are arranged according to size. The idea is that the woman will always place herself above someone who is bigger than her thereby revealing her distorted self-perception. During these sessions, Wan listens, empathizes and encourages.

Wan’s therapeutic confrontations are juxtaposed with retail therapy where he teaches his client how to choose clothes to emphasize her best features and camouflage her worst ones. In these scenes, he is both expert and cheerleader. Flabby becomes fabulous. The previously despised thighs and hips are now celebrated as sexy. After a mandatory consultation on the benefits of spandex and its relationship to underwear that sucks and tucks, Wan whisks his happy client off to the climactic part of the show—her naked photo shoot.

The photo shoot is the final step of the cure. With a spray tan and professional make-up and hair, Wan’s protégé is ready for her close-up. The shot is artfully modest but alluring. The reveal is a projection of the photo on the side of a central London building. It’s a birthday suit version of shock and awe. The woman is sheepishly proud and leaves Wan seemingly cured of her self-hatred.

Yet, the value of How to Look Good Naked is not in its attempt at a populist therapeutic cure to negative self-perception or a quick ‘before and after’ transformation. Wan’s makeover, like all makeovers in reality shows, is about surface change. Showing a woman how to hide her lumps and bumps doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Control top underwear is not a revolutionary idea. While the show claims a deeper, psychological transformation in its participants, I question the long-term success of Wan’s confrontational body line-ups and nude photo shoots. A few days of positive affirmation is not likely to erase years of body issues while having to undress for the camera will not instantly conquer long-held fears. A woman may leave Wan armed with good fashion advice and a more positive outlook, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be stressing about how she looks on her next night out or still hating her hips the next time she looks in the mirror.

What’s more enduring is Wan’s ability to be a BFF—only better. Unlike that well-meaning friend who is afraid to hurt your feelings when she chirps: “That skirt looks great on you!” even though you both know it doesn’t, Wan would make sure you didn’t try it on in the first place. He’s each woman’s biggest fan and as a professional stylist, he has a trustworthy authority that’s believable. In this way, he makes fashion inclusive and conveys a sense of worth to every woman who momentarily sheds her vulnerability and her clothes. In the end, the triumph of How To Look Good Naked is not in fighting a battle against unhealthy body image. It’s in the idea of a great friend who pays attention to you after you’ve stopped paying attention to yourself.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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