Wednesday, September 21, 2005

America's Next Top Model - 5x00 "Return to the Runway"

This episode gave me a bad feeling for this season, only partly due to the unpromising outlook for Kahlen (and similarly with Shandi). The main problem I had with this episode was the emphasis on a teleological narrative, that is, that the story of how a certain model basically reached its conclusion/pinnacle on the show, and that what happened to them in real life didn't matter or didn't even exist.

Actually, the lack of initiative/good fortune of some of these girls actually relates to the teleology of ANTM, come to think of it. Hearing Kahlen and Shandi implicitly describe their difficulty in finding modelling success was deflating, a lot of passive "I'll go to New York and see what happens from there" -- hardly an inspiring career plan. (Michelle is in the same boat, but who cares about Michelle?) Of course, both the girls and the show want to put a positive spin on things, so when they express some vague hopefulness, there's nothing else to say, that's the end of the story. Realistically, Kahlen and Shandi have a low likelihood of making a sustainable career out of modelling, but the episode cuts off that conclusion and ends their narratives on the hope of something better. That hope becomes the acme of their stories, which is the best they'll have. In other words, the canned hopefulness on the episode replaces the more probable and dismal outcome. By substituting the glossy surfaces of their televisual lives for their real lives in the popular consciousness of its viewers (i.e. me), ANTM reveals its preference for depicted "reality" over real reality ("real reality," of course, being its own complicated idea). And it depresses me that underneath the cliched sheen of optimism lurks the Sisyphean fate of working for Walgreen's again.

A more concrete fear for Cycle 5, however, is the possibility that Kim is going to be less cool and self-aware than Elyse, and more stridently arrogant like Yaya.

Indie rating: Gwen Stefani - "What You Waiting For?"

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