Saturday, May 13, 2006

America's Next Top Model (Cycle 6) - 6x10 "The Girls Go To Phuket"

If you're familiar with average scholarship on pop culture, then you would probably have noticed how often an article talks about how a show subverts some hegemonic or heteronormative position of dominance. This sort of scholarship has long stopped impressing me since it has become an academic cliche. What's more, the texts that are examined often have had so little cultural impact that they don't even have a cult following (e.g. the Tank Girl film), which begs the question: if a text subverts norms, what effect does its subversion engender? I would respond cynically that such subversion is little more than an academic urge towards cultural contrarianism; in any case, subversion scholarship operates within a cultural binarism of "worthwhile/not worthwhile," and since we're all post-structuralists here, binarisms suck!

Now, all that foofaraw serve as introductory material with which I can discuss Tyra's tsunami PSA, which can be seen in two lights. First, that a beautiful, paradisiacal place could be the same site as a disaster parallels ATNM or any other reality program which presents a glossy and refined surface that may hide ugly truths (e.g. Tiffany from Cycle 4, who was presented as "ghetto glam" but came from a seriously troubled background which included sexual abuse). The second interpretation builds on the first, though in a more positive manner; Tyra contextualized the pursuit of a modeling contract back into the real world vis-a-vis the tsunami (which most Americans "experienced" through TV), but despite the tragedy, life (and the show) must go on, whether out of capitalist crassness or the need to stay sane by focusing on your own good fortune. (This life/show conflation also brings up the post-modernist "reality"/reality distinction.)

In other words, Tyra's tsunami speech may be sentimentalist liberal guilt, but it also grounds a "frivolous" competition in a more serious context. The show's frivolity is also questioned, since it can provide its contestants with a substantive career.

Model Entertainment Value Index
Another set of prefatory remarks: I was so overwhelmed by the complexities that Tyra's tsunami speech brought up that the notion of entertainment didn't figure into this episode. Either that, or the long delay in getting started on this entry has made me forget anything amusing that happened. I can only assume that Ken Mok is going to submit this episode to the Emmy's in consideration for that prestigious reality programming award.

1. Danielle
105, -7
Once in a while I admit to having trouble understanding what Danielle is saying, but I dare you to suggest that she is inarticulate or has speaking "difficulties" when she's describing what go-sees are -- proof enough that this absurd criticism is overblown. You may not be able to take the country out of the girl, but you can sure learn her to talk in standard American.

2. Joanie
88, -11
In keeping with the whole "serious episode" thing, we got to see to see her self-described bitchy side, which is not fun or entertaining, but full of doubt and self-loathing. Which I guess makes her indie.

3. Jade
88, +1
Continually understimating Joanie's modeling skillage? Moderately amusing. Having a hotter body than Joanie? Worth a cheap thrill.

Indie rating: Solex - "Go Easy on the Fun Fund"

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