Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Untopical, but never mind: America's Next Top Model

So I was sitting in front of the telly with my housemate, desperately flicking through the channels in the hope of finding something on to watch. We eventually landed on America's Next Top Model, a competition between young women for a modelling contract. I found many aspects of the programme more disturbing than I had predicted.

During a photo shoot, the would-be models are told what to do and how to pose, and are criticised when they don't get 'it' right. When the judges go through the resulting pictures before their young audience, they critique the appearance of the model in the pictures. One thing I kept hearing was that a model didn't have 'It'. Now what the hell is 'It'? If it is a technical term, I'm sure the photographers and stylists can explain it to us somehow in laypeople's terms. But they deliberately do not explain what they mean. Other assertions about how the picture should 'come from within', requiring some contribution of the model's soul, were made. Modelling is surely all about outsides. How is one meant to bring one's soul to a photgraph which has been organised and arranged by someone else? If there is something 'wrong' about a modelling picture that cannot be clearly defined, why blame the model? Why not blame the stylist, the make-up artist, the photographer? Oh right- ,they're the ones who are judging the picture.

I came to the conclusion that there is not meant to be a definition of 'It'. If there was, all the women in the room could achieve 'It' and there would be no competition at all. It has to be an impossible task that the models are encouraged to strive toward, a task in which the rules can be changed at any moment by the controllers. Just as women are encouraged to strive towards some kind of perfection by beauty advertising (the trick is, of course, to keep women feeling insecure about their appearance, otherwise they would not buy the products), the models are pushed towards some unclear goal. They are the paradigm of what 'normal' women are supposed to be reaching towards, yet they themselves also are made to feel insecure, that somehow they are not doing it 'right'.


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