BBC Documentary – Britain’s Secrets with Anne Robinson: Body Image

This is working towards objective 1.


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Programme Description:

First shown, 8pm, Thurs 20th October 2016.

“Anne Robinson looks good for a woman of 72, but she works hard at it. She’s been on a diet for most of her life, has had a facelift, goes on an expensive biannual detox, exercises nearly every day, has her hair done once a week and spends lots of money on her clothes.

But aren’t younger generations under even more pressure to look good than ever before? She meets the make-up addicts who spend more time getting ready for a night out than on the night itself, a couple of gym obsessives in pursuit of Instagram followers and a young man going under the knife in the hope that he will be ‘perfect’ one day.

Anne wants to know why we’re all so obsessed with our appearance and what’s wrong with being ugly anyway? As a counterpoint to those who are obsessed with their looks she meets some people who very definitely aren’t – from the naturists who let it all hang out, to the young comedian speaking out against body shaming, to outspoken actress Miriam Margolyes who tries to coax Anne to eat more than a lettuce leaf over lunch. Anne also dons a niquab for a day to experience the rare feeling of what it’s like to not be judged on her looks at all.

She also gives two men the chance to delve into each other’s grooming routines. Alex hides his insecurities by wearing up to ten beauty products at a time, while Danny’s idea of grooming is washing his face with water and brushing his teeth. What can they learn from their very different approaches to maintaining their appearance?”

My Notes:
Couple 1 (Lanon and Millie)



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  • Lanon, 22, Personal Trainer
  • Millie, 20, Aspiring Fitness Model
  • Below shows several short transcriptions which I found particularly interesting and resonated with in regards to the influence which social media has upon this particular couple. I found it very interesting also that it was more so the male, Lanon, whom seemed to care more about his image, highlighting a rise in male interests in their looks and self awareness. The amount of control involved in their diets, exercise routines and lifestyles is evidenced heavily the in the documentary, and shows the input required to gain ‘likes’ on Instagram.
  • Another point I took away from this was the denial in that what they are doing, particularly Lanon is ‘natural’. A topic which has raised several times throughout the documentary, and has also arisen both in my research and readings of ‘Barbie Culture’, by Mary F. Rogers, and conversations around the idea of a ‘controlled natural look’ whereby one uses makeup in a minimal manner and still denotes this as ‘natural’; whereby actually, natural would be wearing no makeup at all.
  • The desire and need to be deemed as attractive and ‘accepted’ also came into context during the dialogue below, whereby 10k followers allows you to be ‘rated’ better as a model, or whereby you have to gain your boyfriends approval of your in order to be happy with your body yourself.
  • I also found it interesting that Millie noted that since she has focused more on her body, she has become more critical, self-aware and conscious, stating she would ‘do anything to cover up’ parts of her body she didn’t like.
  • Social media has become a daily part of their life – using the Boomerang app to create loop videos for Instagram, and taking “hundreds” of selfies everyday.
  • Overall, the main key point I took from the conversation Anne had with this couple is that, social media has had a profound affect on what they think they need to achieve physically in order to achieve their career goals, be happy with their bodies and get noticed for magazine articles. Ultimately, both were aiming for fame, and quite clearly playing the game, manipulating their bodies and endorsing social media to their advantage.
03:17 – 04:58 mins
Anne: When you saw Millie in the restaurant what was the first thing about her that you noticed?
Lanon: Well, her looks. I didn’t know her personality then. I imagine she wasn’t wearing much.
A: Would it of mattered if she was slightly overweight?
L: I have a type. The size i am attracted to whether its from promotion and magazines but it’s something I have grown up with, so I don’t know. It’s just a slimmer build.
[Anne talking to Leonard about his figure – what he wants to achieve from the gym. He talks about his current shape]
L: 45inch chest, 27inch waist … which is very, very small
A: Who else would have a 27inch waist?
L: A 15 year old girl?
A: Can we have a look at your waist?
L: [goes shy after bragging and covers his stomach with his arms] oh, please, I mean you can follow me on Instagram, that way you’ll see. Follow my social media.
A: Why are you reluctant to show it to me?
L: People, people are desperate to critique.
[Anne talks about his 130k following on Instagram during VT]
05:59 – 07:00 mins
[Anne talks about how his Instagram following has recently landed him some modelling jobs in voiceover]
L: I’m currently in about 5 or 6 magazine articles a week at the moment. It’s all because of this [holds up phone]
A: And, taking your top off and posing for a shoot is that different from just an Instagram?
L: Very different. The diet you have to do up to the shoot is very, very tough.
A: Like what?
L: It’s very unhealthy but it er, it, it’s up your water to an unhealthy level, and then once you get close to dispute, you cut the water, your body keeps rejecting the water, so you get very, very dry. You’ll then have a lot of carbs and sugar, it will fill your muscles, all that together if you time it right, it, it’s amazing what your body can do.
A: Is it worth it, all that?
L: Yes, it is, because you’re representing an image. If, if –
Anne: – It’s a false image.
L: It’s it’s not, it is an image you have achieved naturally, and just altering my diet to get the image a bit better for the shoot.
07:01 – 08:40 mins
[Anne in Voiceover VT: Millie is equally desperate for a flawless physique that will allow her to be a fitness model]
Anne: How many photos do you take Millie?
Mille: I take hundreds. I want it to be like, perfect and I want to make sure that I like it, and that takes a very long time for me.
A: Because you’re striving for perfection?
M: Until i’m happy.
A: Yeah
M: Bikini photos, do get more, get more likes.
A: Is there a certain amount of Instagram followers that gets you a better rate as a model?
M: They say that 10k followers, your rate doubles.
A: What are you at the moment?
M: 2k followers.
A: So you have 8k to go?
M: Yes I ha-, I’ve got a lot of work to do.
A: The flip side is that, each time either of you put something on Instagram, it’s an opportunity for somebody to criticise you?
L: Absolutely.
A: Who is it to approve of what you’re doing? [to Millie]
M: Probably Lennon, yeah, I want him to be proud of me and to be attracted to me.
L: I’m visually honest.
M: Yeah, he’s very honest.
A: And, who’s important for you in terms of approving of your photographs? [to Lennon]
L: It is, me, I make the decision on what I like or not.
[whilst cooking]
A: [to Millie] are you happy to show off your body?
M: Now i’m paying more attention to my body being in the fitness industry, I feel like my confidence actually is less.
A: is it?
L: That’s, that’s –
M: Yeah. I’ll see something that I don’t like on myself still, I will do anything to try and cover it up.
09:10 – 09:21 mins
A: Would some people be right to say that you might be a bit obsessed?
L: If you put it like that than yes, but, it’s a lifestyle.
A: Would you mind being ugly?
L: i would rather be better looking.
A: [to Millie] would you mind being ugly?
M: Er, I, I’d work with what I’ve got.
A: Okay.


I decided not to carry on transcribing from the documentary as it was taking too long to content I would want to talk about, so from here on have paraphrased and included short quotes if needed.


Miriam Margolyes:

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  • 75, English Character Actress and Voice Artist.
  • The main point taken away from this conversation between Anne and Miriam was that, Anne said she is “always on a diet”, whilst Miriam notes that she isn’t, and enjoys food, however watches certain types of foods due to health concerns, but is not actually concerned with what she looks like in comparison to Anne, whom chooses to control this aspect by her food choices. This made me think about the prolonged effects of the media and influence, causing eating problems and therefore in some cases eating disorders – “The Costs of Eating Disorders – Social, Health and Economic Impacts report, commissioned by Beat and produced by PwC in February 2015, estimates that more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder “
  • Miriam notes that she feels she enjoys life more because she doesn’t have the constant worry about her body image. This I can relate to being a recovered Anorexic patient for 4 years, and know that now I feel freer without the constant pressure to conform to societies standards and ideals.
  • Anne notes that “we all have some sort of Barbie doll wish, somewhere, even the most intelligent of us have some sort of strange dream about looking differently”, again going back to the idea of ideals, standardisation, confirmation, perfection and the idea of success which Mary F. Rogers notes in ‘Barbie Culture’ and Naomi Wolf’s ideas of the ‘Beauty Myth’ and the undefying male gaze which perhaps subconsciously or consciously affects us as noted above in the conversation with Millie and Anne (Couple 1) about how she reaps acceptance.
  • I found Miriam’s approach to body image and self-perception interesting and refreshing, not wanting to conform with societies ideals and instead lives her life for herself, not for a curated Instagram stream or a ‘Barbie Doll figure’.

Three Ladies Getting Ready to Go Out in Liverpool:




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  • Anne introduces the new scene discussing how the content and covers of magazines filled with celebrities, footballers wives, etc, has had an effect on how we see ourselves and what we do to change how we look to feel good and to ‘fit in’.
  • “Liverpool is the Glam Capital of the UK … people in Liverpool will spend 3 times more on average, on looking ‘good’ than anywhere else in the country” – Anne
  • Three ladies are out shopping prior to getting ready, with rollers in their hair and state that before they even go out will spend around £100 each on makeup and clothes before they go out – getting their makeup done at a professional salon – showcasing alone how consumerism is feeding the beauty and fashion industries more and more due to social media and celebrity influences.
  • Ladies discuss their surgery endeavours – botox, lip liner tattoo, eyebrow tattoo, lip filler. The makeup artist, Eve, states that at one point of her life she was so self-conscious of her lips that she would cover them up when out on dates due to lack of confidence and not liking her appearance. This led on to Anne asking her about whom her influences are in regards to her lip shape, and eyebrow shape, this was her response which resonated with all of my research I have done so far in regards to influence from celebrities, in particular ambassadors of trends such as Kim Kardashian; “I think Kim Kardashian has definitely been a big influence in my life … I’d love to look like her” showcasing again how cultural icons and celebrity can have such influence on everyday peoples perceptions, lives, thoughts and actions.
  • In addition, when asked if any of the girls have had breast augmentations, one said she had, and the other said she hasn’t but, “would love too” and Eve expressed that living in a city with so many models, WAGS and celebrities, and where “fashion is such a big thing, it is all you are looking at. Image, and body image and you should look like this and that, it all gets on top of you, subconsciously I think more than anything else as well like, you’re just looking at it thinking my lips need to be bigger, and don’t think why they need to be bigger” evidencing the points made previously in my research regarding the influences of social media and the likes of cultural icons such as Kylie Jenner, almost enforcing rules and standardising women (and men to some extent) to become a representation of them and what they have become, in turn showcasing their power, status and iconography as a celebrity, or influencer. I found this response from Eve very honest, and found that it is the truth behind the research question I am currently undertaking – admitting the issues, undergoing, or undergone the changes needed to standardise oneself and idolising women such as Kim Kardashian as the modern day ‘ideal’.

Morta Helhah:


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  • 27, Luton, Dresses in Traditional Islamic Clothing
  • States that the garments are loose to cover the sacred parts of ones body which are for oneself and to be shared with family. States she thinks people who don’t cover their bodies are more likely to be more conscious, than those who do as allows for less judgements and allows for one to be judged on personality and intellect. This is an idea which I hadn’t thought about too much previously, however on a cross-cultural level it is interesting to see on the documentary how badly received this traditional, religious dress is in the UK even though by those whom wear it see it as a positive, empowering and ‘right’ by their cultural standards and ideals. I feel this highlights the ignorance of some in the UK, but perhaps this is due to lack of understanding, education and exposure in the media in a world and country specifically whereby we are now so multi-cultural. Perhaps if this changed, in the same was as a more diverse range of models were used in fashion campaigns, there would be less issues, mental health troubles, perceptions, negative connotations and ignorance.
  • It also stands out relative to Identity theories such as Social Identity noted by John Turner (1986), whereby, “a person’s sense of who they are depends on the groups to which they belong”. This also however, stands true to all of the above analysis and conversations noted from the documentary. Each person interviewed strived to change their looks and therefore their ‘identity’ to conform with a certain lifestyle.
  • Many argue the use of this conservative dress in debates surrounding feminism and female oppression, however this is down to personal interpretation and opinion, but to many is a positive in a highly demanding world.

Luisa Omielan:



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  • 34, Stand-up Comedienne
  • Discusses how her work allows her to be brave, bold and daring using humour as a way of sharing her ideas on how society has shaped itself – trends regarding ‘thigh gap’ fad, and how this is the ‘ideal’ look went viral online with 40m views. Luisa states you have to be brave enough to say, this is what my body is like, I am happy with it and so should you. Doing so through comedy allows this to be tackled in a light-hearted, yet honest way.
  • I found her approach refreshing and humorous and resonated with the satirical approach I have been using with my practical experiments, posters and Instagram posts to date.

BBC One and Anne Robinson. (2016). Britain’s Secrets with Anne Robinson: Body Image. Available: Last Accessed: 20th October 2016.
B-EAT. (2016). Statistics. Available: Last Accessed: 21st October 2016.
Turner, J. C., & Tajfel, H. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. Psychology of intergroup relations, 7-24.