On Monday, June 6, 2011, HGTV (Home and Garden Television) premiers its new series, “HGTV’d.” The network’s website says the show is for anyone who has ever wanted an HGTV makeover and that in each episode an HGTV designer “will arrive at the home of a viewer, surprising them with jaw-dropping makeovers and over-the-top transformations.”
Back in February, however, having read about this upcoming series (while still living in Port-au-Prince), I posted a piece called “Haiti needs to be HGTV’d.”
So, it seems only appropriate, since earlier this week I wrote about the Food Network and its disconnect from the “food insecurity” so much of the world endures, that today I share the February post again and comment (in light of this premier) on HGTV’s own culpability in not addressing the housing crisis so much of the planet faces.
(Please be aware that I’m a big fan of HGTV. I watch it daily, at least when I’m in the US and near a television. You should also know that the network does
support Rebuilding Together—”a nonprofit working to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize communities” here in the US. And I appreciate this effort.)
However, the network—though it airs shows such as “House Hunters International,” which follows the house hunts of ex-pats seeking to
relocate abroad–does nothing to share how the less-privileged
citizens of places like Costa Rica or Ecuador actually live, and it, moreover, does nothing to support housing projects in these countries—ones that would improve the standard of living endured by the poor in developing countries.
Perhaps, it’s not the responsibility of the network to do this. Perhaps, this kind of programming wouldn’t sell. Perhaps, people wouldn’t watch.
However, it seems reasonable to raise this question—especially in light of the series premier on Monday.
So, take a look at what I posted several months ago—photos of the housing crisis I witnessed when I visited a small Haitian village outside of Leogane—and tell me if you think HGTV has any responsibility to help a community like it:
Like many Americans, I love HGTV (Home and Garden Television). When I go home to the US, I can’t wait to watch kitchens upgraded, bathrooms remodeled, landscapes transformed.
Whether I’m cooking with the ease of Lean Cuisine, laundering with the convenience of Kenmore, or cleaning with the miracle of Mop & Glo, I appreciate the perky background chatter of “Divine Design” (to learn more about the show click here) and “Design on a Dime” (to learn more about the show click here).
I enjoy segments on how to install bamboo flooring at a diagonal as much the next surface-obsessed, granite-loving, domestic goddess in North America. Even when I’m at our house in Haiti, I complain about our stove, our oven, our cook-top.
It’s so small:
—so not the stainless steel I have at home in the States.
But—(and this is a big BUT)
This past week I went with Sara to Leogane, a coastal town about 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince, close to the epicenter of the January 12th earthquake. A United Nations assessment team deemed Leogane “the worst-affected area” in Haiti, with 80 – 90% of buildings damaged and nearly all concrete structures destroyed.
Just outside of Leogane I visited a community called Nolivos—
Where the houses look like this:
(To learn more about the HGTV show, “Desperate Spaces,” click here.)
The washing machines look like this:
The kitchens look like this:
(To learn more about the HGTV show, “Sizzling Outdoor Kitchens,” click here.)
The sinks look like this:
And the stoves look like this:
(To learn more about the HGTV show, “Kitchen Impossible,” click here.)
Watching a woman cook dinner for seven on a stove of sticks and stones, I wondered whether Vern Yip would be willing to bring a “Deserving Design” to this mother or another mother in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil. (To watch an episode of Yip’s series, “Deserving Design,” click here.)
I wondered whether David Bromstad (the designer featured in the premier of “HGTV’d”) would splash some color a little south of Miami. (To watch an episode of Bromstad’s show,”Color Splash: Miami,” click here.)
Haiti needs to be HGTV’d! (To learn more about the series, “HGTV’d,” click here.)
(and I thought I needed a kitchen remodel.)
I don’t even know where to begin when I see how so much of the world lives. Here at home, I always marvel at the spaces people think are in desperate need of a re-do. And you are right. How amazing would it be if these shows called other areas to our attention. Or chose to “redo” the community well of a village or a school or other building that would serve the community. Alas, people would probably stop watching the show.
Maybr they would stop watching. I don’t know. But I don’t know why they would. Maybe I just don’t get what motivates American TV audiences. But, you are soooooo right–how cool if the network would redo a community well or school. That would be amazing!
Again it simply comes down to our lack of perspective on the real challenges in this world. It would be great if HGTV and other stations became truly involved in more humanitarian efforts, but alas the American consumer will not stand for it. We want to watch our homes become better representations of the our own financial success and extravagance, and keep hidden the darker realities of life. Although, I have to say, one of my favorite shows this past year (I don’t know what channel its on) was School Pride–where a team went in to remake schools throughout the country in 1 week. However, even that became too extravagant for me as the donations of expensive technology by corporations seemed to become the focus. I ramble on in frustration. Thanks for another reminder of reality, Kathy.
I don’t blame you for being frustrated, Lisa! It’s such a pathetically sad commentary on our culture–God, it makes me sick! Do you really think that’s the culture we live in? And, if so, why do you suppose we stay? How or why do we put up,with thisl, do you suppose. I think I may have to do a post about this–because I don’t know why we don’t opt out. Like why do you all stay? I think for us it probably has to do with family–not that that’s a good excuse. That’s my first guess why, though. Maybe people stay for emplayment reasons. Just tryijng to figure this out.
We stay out of fear or laziness. Not a good reason, but the truth.
I think that’s a very legitimate fear though, Lisa!
Thanks for prodding our memories. I don’t own a TV but when I get a chance to watch it, I like the HGTV and Food Network channels so I can understand. I am currently residing in Ghana, my home country where I haven’t lived for 16 years and the hidden dark realities that Kathy mentions are ever present and ever in my face. I am constantly trying to re-do my grandmother’s kitchen even though it is much better than the average. Why? Why is our focus as individuals on making our own living spaces better and better even when they are already livable and the majority of the worlds’ are not? Thank you for making me think again.
These are great questions. Do you have any idea why you try to do this for your grandmother? I wonder–do you think, if you hadn’t been away for 16 years, you would try to do the same thing? I would love to know where you spent those years and how you think it changed you. I would love to know–just as I try to figure out my own culture.
But, I’m so pleased that you read and took the time to comment! How great to have your voice be a part of this dialogue! Thank you, thank you. I’d love you’ll come back. I would love to hear more of your perspective.
Although one cannot deny the extreme proverty in the world…there are places that do not have our weatlh…but are far more happier than we are…because they are blessed with real family.
Gosh, Charles, isn’t that the truth! That’s an excellent point, my friend!
Brava, Kathy! Thanks for the reality check.
You are so welcome! I didn’t watch the premier last night, but I think my Sara did, so I’ll have to ask her what it was like. Thanks for reading!