The term “reality television” is a bit of a misnomer. Or maybe it’s more like an oxymoron. Whatever the case, there is very little reality in any part of television. If we really wanted reality, we’d turn the television off.
Which brings me to my recent guest spot, or rather guest dot, on the reality show What Not To Wear. Here’s a link to the show, straight from the TLC website, but even if you watch it, there’s a good chance you’ll miss me. I believe my contribution was timed to be exactly long enough for the eyes and ears to tell the brain “I just saw and heard something (I think).”
In my five seconds of fame, I said something about Mayim Bialik not being a messed up child star and instead raising a family and getting a PhD. All the stuff I mentioned about modesty not having to equal frumpiness and how I (the Orthodox Jew) had been encouraging her (the celebrity) to put herself together and find the perfect balance of cute, confident, and covered, was missing. It’s like the old Yiddish expression goes “men tracht un gott lacht” (man plans and God laughs), although in this case, it was more like “Allison planned and the editors CUT.”
And speaking of editors – those are the guys responsible for shaping the actual reality into their own version of it. Their version was to show us a woman who mysteriously doesn’t wear pants without an explanation as to why (which is, of course, for Jewish reasons). They also made it seem like getting Mayim into a sleeveless dress was the ultimate success of the show because the hosts finally got their “sex” out of her, even though in reality, Mayim wasn’t happy showing that much skin, as she told People magazine. (Check out the eighteenth paragraph.)
During a different part of the episode, when Mayim mentioned that a dress she put on was shorter and tighter than she was used to, one of the hosts remarked “she’s so uncomfortable with her body a little bit.” But since the whole Jewish connection was left out, we, the viewers, were left to believe that Mayim was this poor woman who was uncomfortable in her own skin and just needed to “unleash her inner sex goddess” (as the other host instructed) in order to make things right.
Since Jewish perspectives are not edited out of this site, let’s explain what actually was going on! Mayim was not uncomfortable with her body just as no one should be. The idea behind modesty (tznius) in Judaism is not about shame, but rather about privacy. And as I told the producer when he came to my home for the interview: covering up allows for the possibility of un-covering, which creates mystery and excitement.
A woman can feel completely beautiful, cute, hip, confident, and attractive even if she makes the choice to keep certain parts of herself off limits to the larger world. In addition, Judaism is very pro-sex (within the context of Jewish law), so while we have no problem with the “unleashing of one’s inner-sex-goddesses” we don’t think that national television is the best place to be doing it!
At the end of the day, What Not To Wear had a right to edit their show the way they saw fit, but now that the show is over, Mayim will probably be wearing “mostly skirts past the knees” and not going sleeveless, since she “[doesn’t] like to.” And as for me — well, I will continue to edit my videos the way I see fit, which mean LOTS of Jewish content, skirts past the knee, and clips of me that exceed five seconds!