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Makeup Scandal on Frontier House

April 25, 2008



Blue eyeshadow, originally uploaded by myownmakeup.

I’m guessing the above picture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about watching a show like Frontier House. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it’s a PBS special chronicling three families spending five months living a 1883 homesteader’s life. When you think of watching this type of special where the families set up their homesteads in the Frontier Valley of Montana you probably envision something like this.








At least it is what I thought so imagine my surprise when the focus of the first episode seemed to be makeup or rather the lack there of in the 1883 frontier. Of all the things these families have been asked to sacrifice in order to live a true 1883 life you would think makeup wouldn’t even rate a passing mention. But it was drama we are talking tears, lies, and sneakery type drama. The families are given homesteading training before being sent into “the frontier” and they also get a formal 1883 portrait done. So begins the drama, one of the mothers and her daughter and niece are appalled by the fact and believe themselves to look horrendous without makeup. Despite the fact that no one else is going to see them on the frontier and the fact that the picture is taken in black and white without them smiling (in order for it to be authentic) they cannot get over the fact that they can’t wear makeup. Part of me is appalled at such insecurity but can you really blame the kids when this is the culture that they were raised iin. We are a society that says you must be perfect to be pretty. And their closest role model (the mother) is just as attached to her makeup as they are so what kind of example does it set? I realize that you can’t blame the mom entirely for the problem because the kids get just as much indoctrination from magazines and television. When “Ugly Betty” first came on TV it was this big deal that the shows major character was “ugly” but she’s really not. And she wears makeup. Not to mention the fact that when that actress is shown at any other event she looks “perfect.” It just makes me seriously question the messages our society sends to children about appearance and beauty. Whatever happened to it is what is inside that counts?

Personally I never bought into the use of makeup that much and it’s not because I would call myself a tomboy it was just never something my mother or close female relatives wore and come to think of it neither did most of my friends in high school. As I got older makeup just seemed like too much effort and I could never master the art of eyeliner anyway 🙂

I hope that we as a society can learn to value inner beauty over outer beauty and make sure we send that message to our kids. I hope we learn to value skills and abilites over visual impression because until we do we are going to continue to raise daughters that think they are “ugly” without a layer of artifice covering every percieved flaw be it real or not.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2008 1:26 pm

    Nicely put. I had the same reaction when I watched Frontier House a few months ago. It gets good, though. The last couple of episodes have scenes that still stay with me.

    Anyway, back to the makeup, I was astonished that it was such a big deal. I actually don’t wear any – mostly because I’m (1) lazy and (2) lame at applying it. It is amazing how tightly they clung to something that seems so inconsequential.

  2. April 26, 2008 5:36 pm

    There are lots of women who don’t leave the house without makeup. Ever. Not even to pick the kids up from school (even if they weren’t planning to leave their car) or buy some milk. It’s a pretty scary level of socially acceptable insecurity. So I don’t think it’s really fair to ‘blame the mother’, because she’s also a victim of the culture she lives in. Sure it would be good if having grown up she’d developed critical skills and applied them to the beauty industry, but obviously she hasn’t. At least not successfully enough to ditch the eyeliner.

    It’s quite confronting to find my own feelings about makeup changing over time. I still don’t wear it all the time, but I’m much more aware of it’s absence when I go out somewhere special. Not because I think I look particularly ugly, but I definitely look tired (with big dark shadows under my eyes) and I have lots of grey hair. It’s hard to get all frocked up without makeup. I used to look young and fresh faced so it was ok, now that I’m less young, I look a bit like I haven’t finished getting ready. Or I’ve ‘let myself go’. If it’s this hard for me, having spent my whole life describing myself as a feminist, then it must be agony for a lot of other women.

  3. April 27, 2008 6:33 pm

    My mother had to force me to wear makeup and she was one of those people who refused to leave the house without wearing alot of it. I find the whole thing tedious (especially the process of removing it when I am dog tired at night).

    The oddest thing is, I’m sure these women on the show are beautiful without the makeup. I have the show on my netflix queue but I won’t be watching it for a while.

  4. April 30, 2008 1:13 am

    That’ funny. I used to have friends who told me that they felt naked walking out of the house without makeup. I have not touched makeup for years, even before then I barely used lipstick on rare occasions. Yeah, I am lazy and I don’t know how to do it right. The other thing is that I am so used to my own naked face that makeup makes it look weird to me – completely opposite to the mom and daughters in the TV series. Perhaps it is what one is used to.

    More often than not, laziness pays dividends 🙂 Most makeup has a ton of chemicals, many of which have some level of negative health effects.

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