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Is It Embarrassing or Simply Important? You Decide

I’m not really sure why the male doc is wearing such an…odd…expression, but the other two look friendly enough.

So somehow I just now heard about this show called “Embarrassing Bodies.” I guess it has been a big hit in the U.K. and now has made its way stateside via Netflix.

When I first discovered the show, my initial reaction was an eagerness to see just how embarrassing we were talking about…as in, maybe I am way more (or way less) normal than I think I am.

My second reaction was to wonder if this was some kind of new body shaming tactic – like, showing perfectly normal bodies and dissecting their infinitesimal flaws and then “fixing” them to drive up cosmetic surgery sales.

My third reaction, after doing a bit of digging and viewing a selection of patient photos, was an odd kind of gratitude.

First of all, I discovered that the show is responsible for saving the life of a 9-year-old girl. Wow. That alone pretty much says it all.

On a less inspirational note, I admit I also feel very grateful I don’t have some of those issues I didn’t even have a name for….and grateful the people who do have them have been able to use their appearance on the show to get some medical care, even if it has meant ripping away their privacy international television to do it.

Sometimes, you have to do what it takes to get better. 

But then it also sort of made me sad, because some of the patients have clearly been suffering in silence and secrecy for a long, long time. They probably had to muster all their courage to come forward, realizing that this might be their one chance to get treated and they’d better not waste it.

In some articles I’ve read, the show is touted as a great equalizer, reminding us we are all essentially the same. There is a hope that, by revealing some of the body issues people are embarrassed about, we will all heal from this type of embarrassment.

That sounds like a great goal. But I’m not sure it is practical. Reason being, from what I’ve watched thus far, many of the medical issues are sufficiently life limiting or extreme to absolutely warrant professional care. So perhaps labeling the patients’ feelings about their body issues as “embarrassment,” while not the ideal response to a genuine medical malady, at least acts as a sufficient motivator for continuing to seek out medical care.

Also, it is easy for people like me, who can just call up a doctor and make a same-day appointment, to forget how many people around the world have to wait for months or even years on a waiting list in hopes of being seen and treated. For these people, a show like Embarrassing Bodies must seem like a prayer miraculously answered.

And in the meantime, their feelings of embarrassment, while again not ideal, keeps them motivated to look for other ways to get the help they need.

I don’t know, truly. In general, I don’t tend to admire this kind of television, where people have to trade in a portion of their privacy in exchange for necessary health or medical care. It is just not a mentoring model I can ever fully support. Ideally, just skip the show part (or at least don’t reveal the patients’ identities on camera) and be a human being and give them the treatment they need already.

But then there is money, and the advertisers, and film-making as a creative output, and folks who aspire to become television hosts or personalities, and perhaps even citizens who dream of their 15 minutes of on-screen fame, and it all gets very complicated from that point forward.

I think what it boils down to is this: would I personally go on television to get treatment for an embarrassing medical condition on the level of what I’ve been seeing on this show thus far?

And here again, I think it depends. If it was an eating disorder, then no. From what I have seen of how the media treats people who have eating disorders in treatment-focused talk shows and series, that would be a no-go for me.

But if I had some of the medical issues the Embarrassing Bodies show guests have revealed, however, then yes, I think I might.

At some point, a too-public life is still preferable to a too-limited life because there is something so serious going on with my body that I don’t even want to engage with the world around me and the other people in it.

Today’s Takeaway: What do you think about the show? Have you watched any of the episodes? Do you think it is too graphic, or educational (as the show’s producers claim), or exploitative of people’s pain and suffering? Would you go on a show like this if you had a medical issue and you couldn’t get treatment for it anywhere else?

Is It Embarrassing or Simply Important? You Decide

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2017). Is It Embarrassing or Simply Important? You Decide. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Jul 2017
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