I’m going to say something. And that something is going to make some people very mad.
I’m obsessed with Embarrassing Bodies and I don’t even feel a little bit guilty about it.
My mother can’t watch it. My friends think it’s “disgusting”. Some of my colleagues believe it’s exploitative.
The British reality television program first graced our screens almost 10 years ago.
It deals with a variety of medical issues that are misunderstood or widely considered taboo. Patients visit Dr Christian Jensen, Dr Dawn Harper or Dr Pixie McKenna to seek diagnosis and treatment for anything from prolapsed rectums to psoriasis.
Listen to Laura Brodnik and Rosie Waterland battle it out over Embarrassing Bodies.
The irony is not lost on me.
The entire premise of the show is that an individual is too embarrassed to attend their local GP with a severe case of hemorrhoids, so instead they decide to go on international television – with an audience in excess of three million – to have a camera zoom in on their anus.
I often wonder if the patients are recognised. If when they walk into work the next day people say “I saw you on telly last night! Wow – that’s quite the yeast infection you have going on, how’s it going? Dr. Pixie said it had quite the odour, has that subsided? Oh, by the way, can I have an autograph?”
But I digress.
I’m fascinated with the idea of “taboo” and how it changes across time and place. It might be true that no one wants a fungal disease eating away at their armpit, but it isn’t innately ‘revolting’. We shy away from it because in our highly medicalised and sterile environment, such scenes are relegated to private hospital wards.
And although the show may evoke a visceral reaction in some, the numbers speak volumes. At it’s height, the program was averaging 3.5 million a night during it’s 9pm – 10pm time slot. People bloody love it.
They love it because humans have ubiquitously been fascinated by our bodies. They are complex. Weird. Faulty. And at times miraculously self-healing.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch it primarily because I find it incredibly entertaining. I love the insight it gives me into an unknown world. I’m enthralled by the narrative, and how someone can live with a debilitating illness for 10 years and never think to seek help. It’s sad but redemptive.