Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Wanna Be On Top: Use Your Inner Goddess to Preserve the Purity of Young Girls

Cycle 12 of America's Next Top Model aired it's two hour premiere tonight with themes of greek goddesses and girly innocence. As someone who came within inches of getting the opportunity to strut my stuff out there, I watched transfixed with skepticism (that Rockville girl with the bad attitude took MY spot?), and wonderment (did Tyra just self identify as the Goddess of Fierce?).

The high notes of this week are mostly centered around the picking of the girls who will live in the house and becoming familiar with their characters. The notable ones include a Texan street preacher, a wide eyed girl with blood lust, the requisite "plus sized" model that looks like everyone I know, and perhaps Tyra's proudest catch, a burn survivor. Tahlia (the burn survivor) and Kortnie (the "plus sized" model) serve as the shows' underdogs and token characters that Tyra can point to so that the show can't be criticized by the mainstream as only catering to a certain body type or look.

Tyra has already bathed in self righteousness over how Tahlia is strong and needs to be given a chance by ANTM, and while she makes an attempt at comforting Tahlia when she feels othered at the runway competition, Tyra's bemoaning about how the modeling industry will either love Tahlia's scars or hate them just comes off as belittling. Tahila's personality quickly is lost on the show, and she becomes nothing more than her scars. I look forward to learning more about her (as she is one of the nicer contestants), and I hope the producers give us a chance to see her other attributes, interests, and thoughts. That being said, as always with this gray-area series, it is great that this woman has air time to talk about her story, showing viewers that she is talented, and that her burns don't make her ugly. Although, so far she has admitted that the show is making her feel "shame" about her skin and serves as a reminder for how "different" she is. Will this be a train wreck or a growing experience for the audience and the contestant? I'm eager to see how this plays out.

Secondly, the show's photo shoot has a creepy/cute focus on young girls and how they are, according to Tyra, "good girls turned bad." (bolding mine) During the shoot, there is an emphasis on what makes a good girl (pigtails and jax) and a bad girl (torn stockings, smeared make-up, and pregnancy), and Tyra can't help but allude to her talk show which has found that (gasp) "1 out of 5 girls want to be teen moms." This moral panic has, of course, turned into Tyra's personal war against the idea of "innocence and purity being lost." Which we know thanks to The New York Times and Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing and author of the new book The Purity Myth, is a big fucking scare tatic. Not to mention how this line of thinking only targets and infantilizes girls and women. It is disempowering in refusing to acknowledge our capabilty to make our own choices, and is also slut shaming/victim blaming as it ignores the responsibility of the men needed for the sexing, raping, and baby-making. The Tyra Show website even asks "Why are so many teenaged girls pregnant?!," - we have yet to see the question, "Why are so many teen guys getting girls pregnant?" In the video clip, not one person even thinks to explain girls get pregnant "because guys have unprotected sex with them." Though, that's because, duh, it's mostly the media whoring them up and making 'em unpure. It couldn't be from the lack of safe sex education, no no no. Don't girls know we can see their dirty pillows? Cover up, or you might get preggers. Unless you're on America's Next Top Model, then get nekkid, sexy, and girly for the camera's, but only in the most pure fashionista way. Virgin/Whore Chic is totally in for Spring. Thanks Tyra, the wealth of crazy pants knowledge you bestow is priceless.


emrez said...

i didn't watch the premier, as i'm frankly still bitter you didn't make it. ok, that and i never watched it before. BUT, i think you hit on some things i've noticed when i've seen other seasons (at eric's house for numerous marathons): tyra brings on girls who are "different" and in a way kind of parades them around saying "look how inclusive i am." i don't know if she's got some model-guilt going on, or if we'd call it tokenism, but it bugs the hell out of me because, in the few episodes i've seen, it just serves to Other these women even further.

i read recently that they're going to do a "short" season where everyone is 5'7" and under. i'd like to see her do a "plus-sized" season. and then everyone in America can see what it's like to have girls who are closer to average modeling and looking hot. i may be giving ANTM too much credit, but damn wouldn't it be awesome to see 12 size 10 women (and i hate that size 10 is plus size) strutting their stuff.

Eva said...

Remember when we watched that thing about the two headed girl, and they couldn't talk about the girls having sex, but they could pose the question "what about when they want to be a mother?" It's the same thing. It would be inappropriate to discuss underage girls just having sex (to say nothing of them ENJOYING it)... they clearly only have sex to become mothers. So let's talk about teenage girls who want to be mothers.

I have a problem with the term "teen pregnancy" anyways. When we say there was an increase in pregnant women ages 15-19, how many of those are 18 or 19? Whether or not I agree, they're adults, and it's a much different situation than a pregnant 14 or 15 year old.

And that link to 'SEX DRUGS AND VIOLENCE...' is hilarious! Made my evening. I recommend that episode to be viewed with Jack Hill's Switchblade Sisters.