Ideology and American Television: Analysis of Nip/Tuck

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Anything Goes as Long as the System Never Changes


The best form of fantasy is a depiction of what we covet and cannot attain, as mere viewers. As a result, most television series will depict fantasy as a form of entertainment, and it is usually labeled the “American Dream.” Achieving the American Dream without sacrifice, however, is unrealistic and suggests an ideal in itself. There is always a price to pay to become self-made and successful, and this type of sacrifice becomes be the grounds for a familiar subtext, much like the subtext in the series Nip/Tuck. Incorporating satirical comedic content and ethical dilemmas, the two surgeons around whom the series revolves, each represent their own ideological delivery systems. The two characters often collide, and question the values and importance of the American dream, and of success. Dr.’s Troy and McNamara each represent polar opposites who use questionable means to an end, and end up representing both a modern approach to television, which involves nihilism and disloyalty to only one ideology, and justifying flexible values as a representation of modern life. Additionally, the Dr.’s question what the viewer may see as positive, or negative, by corrupting values and ideologies otherwise commonly accepted, such as family, ethical practice, greed and fidelity. Ultimately, however, the plot does not stray far from the norm, no matter how much superficial distraction is incorporated. Blood and gore equal success – the satirical content behind the thirst for glamour and success One of the most shocking, yet consistent themes in Nip/Tuck is the unforgiving visuals of surgical procedures. Although it is plastic surgery, the depth in which Nip/Tuck creators go to depict every aspect of these procedures seems to have an impact both on the meaning, and the ideological views the show portrays. Vanity being the most common motivation for plastic surgery, the question posed to the audience is–does this turkey-carving type of surgery really justify the means to becoming a better looking, better feeling person. I think that the reason behind depicting the horror-film style gore may not only be a critical view of plastic surgery, but also contributes to the satirical nature of the show. There is often an ironic musical score in the background as the surgeons begin to slice open faces and torsos, without any hesitation what so ever. This cold disconnect from performing invasive and grueling procedures to vain and vacuous clientele epitomizes the subconscious message of how we, as Americans, view the importance of achieving the dream. Although plastic surgery is seen as somewhat controversial, it is also a type of glamorous privilege associated with American culture. Perhaps rubbing all of the blood and gore in our faces is a way of conveying that message, without shame. We, as viewers, can watch it, and are almost desensitized to it, because it not only embodies what we have already accepted as a natural part of life, but it is also something appealing that symbolizes our consumerist nature. Nothing could be more blatant, in terms of consumerism, than actual physical mutilation, which also happens to be a privilege unattainable to most. This depiction of the shallowest parts of American culture feeds into the “deceptive notion of how the world works, an ideology favoring the rich and powerful while deluding the majority of the population” (Mittell 276). Surprisingly, however, both the ironic nature of this theme, and the fascination with glamour do not contradict one another. While watching Nip/Tuck, I had expected to find some sort of disgust with the two main characters and disdain for their practice, however, as much as I found some of the irony amusing, I still couldn’t help but be fascinated and even justify some of the surgical procedures being done. After all, plastic surgery and glamour do seem to go hand in hand, and both are directly liked to financial...
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