Thoughts on America’s Next Top Model
March 15, 2009 § 18 Comments
I don’t know how many of you watch America’s Next Top Model, but the first episode of the twelfth cycle premiered last Wednesday and has sparked some controversy over the first official photo shoot. It involved the girls (all of whom are 18+ years old) being dressed up as and posing as little girls. As Tyra described it:
This issue is really important to me, the issue of teen girls and being what I call ‘out of control.’ I did a survey on my talk-show website, and I found that one in five girls that are teens that we surveyed actually want to be a teen mom. Purity and innocence is something that’s being lost and as you Top Models are doing this photo shoot, you guys are role models, too. The assignment was for you all to embody different little games that little girls play on the playground. (Emphasis mine.)
Silvia and I both watched this episode and cringed. Our thoughts below the jump, including pictures from the photo shoot.
PHOEBE: America’s Next Top Model is (as feministing likes to put it) one of my unfeminist guilty pleasures. With the beginning of every cycle I swear to myself that I won’t watch it because of the ridiculousness the show itself has escalated to in the last years. But then I remember that my DVR is set to record it and in a weak moment on Friday night, I’ll watch an episode or two. Or three. Okay, so it’s an addiction. I can’t stop.
ANYWAY, I get where Tyra’s going with this photo shoot. Oh, the youth these days are sooo crazy! Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll! Let’s make a statement! However, I think it encourages and sparks the ever-growing fear of so-called “hook-up culture” without actually getting a definitive point across. It was messy. Putting fully grown and fully developed women in clothing meant to inspire thoughts of little girls actually communicates the opposite point of what I presume Tyra wants to make. I would even make the argument that it fetishizes little girls to an extent.
I also don’t like the way she bemoans how innocence and purity is lost at such a young age. However, that may just be a knee-jerk reaction on my part, because usually when I hear the word “purity” it’s used in a way that I find offensive. (Think purity balls, people in support of purity balls, and people who define any girl who’s open about her sexuality as a skank impure) I guess what bugs me here is that in Tyra’s world, it appears to be all-or-nothing. Either the girl is entirely “innocent and pure” (in that she’s a child), or she’s a hobag. I think Rich (at fourfour) expresses my feelings precisely:
Does she really think that condoning the modeling industry, with its barely-as-in-not-at-all legal undercurrents is preserving purity and innocence?…Also, does she really think that having women dress up as pre-schoolers is going to inspire anything but chiding and a chorus of, “That bitch crazy!”
Oh, how I love you, Rich.
Another issue I have with this photo shoot is the “bad girls” that were used. One of them is knocked up (and, in some shots, drinking), one of them smokes, and the other one… is black? I’ve looked through all the photos and can’t for the life of me figure out why the black girl is a “bad girl.” The other two girls have a defining bad characteristic. One of them has a cigarette with her in most shots and the other one is pregnant. What, they ran out of bad things the girls could be doing, and just told the black girl to look menacing? I’m not trying to say that ANTM and Tyra Banks are overtly racist. But come on. You can do better, TyTy.
Wow. I haven’t analyzed an episode of America’s Next Top Model this much since Nicole won.
SILVIA: Like Phoebe, I told myself I wasn’t going to watch this cycle of ANTM. However, come Wednesday night and my unfinished homework is sitting next to me and I’m wrapped up in Tyra’s intense crazy. Like Phoebe, I took major issue with the “bad girls” in the background. What is Tyra trying to say by including them? I guess if you hook-up, you lose your purity and you become a sketchy, prego, drunk girl…or black (?). P.S. apparently the only reason we slutty teenagers hook-up is because our fathers failed us or because we have self-esteem issues. And why do we have self-esteem issues?
Besides the “bad girls” in the background, I had a huge issue with the fact that women were being dressed up like little girls, told to act like little girls, but be sexy at the same time. This confused me the most, it’s a little paradoxical, no? This photo shoot was being conducted in the name of purity and innocence, right? Then why are all the “little girls” wearing hot pants and stilettos? This photo shoot fetishized little girls. Hmm…kind of like how Tyra and our society in general are fetishizing purity. Talk about mixed messages. So we’re supposed to be pure and innocent girls, but look hot and sexy while doing it (cough, virgin/whore complex, cough).
The reason why we’re putting so much energy into analyzing and drawing attention to this photo shoot is because it represents a larger trend in our society that is super disturbing. Think about all of the magazine covers, advertisements, etc. that send this same mixed message. That’s what’s hurting young women the most, not the perceived sluttiness and hook-up culture that has come to define our generation.
P.S. Jessica Valenti’s latest book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, is out now. I haven’t read it yet, but Jessica Valenti has never failed me.