Sunday, March 27, 2011
America's Next Top Model - 16x05 "Rachel Zoe"
Was it just me, or did this episode, with all its not-so-subtle innuendo of sapphic intrigue, seem like it was written by a horny teen-aged boy (i.e. me many, many years ago) (i.e. last year)?
I mostly blame Monique (and by blame I mean "adore"), who knows exactly what she's got to offer and is offering it to be on top. It's rather frightening how Monique practically has a direct line to some of my shallowest fantasies. (My deeper fantasies all involve... well, there's no way of finishing this sentence that could avoid making me seem like a pervert and poseur, so cheers.)
At the same time, Monique was the one who decided to read Alexandria's diary, a matter that resonates for a reality tv program. At the visceral level, Monique's action brought up a lot of conflicting and uncomfortable feelings -- as trashy as this genre can be, reading someone's diary is unmentionably invasive, and considering how all the girls in the house have sided against Alexandria, speaks to the tyranny of the majority. What's more, Monique is the Queen Bee(yotch) of the mean girls who's found a consensus easy target to pick on so that she can distract everyone else from finding out just how heinous she herself can be. We've seen bullies deposed before, but sometimes a bully gets knocked down by another bully, which is less satisfying to watch, especially when bully #2 is pulling some Nixonesque tricks.
But then, expectations of privacy on a reality program are naive, and this is the sixteenth cycle of ANTM, so its contestants ought to be sufficiently self-aware to know about the invasive and voyeuristic demands the genre makes on its participants. Did she keep her diary in hopes of it becoming reality tv fodder? That's an uncomfortable path to go down, because if we continue to telescope out to think of this episode as a typical exercise in the reality genre, then we reach a point where we have to assess Alexandria's revelation about apparently coming from a broken home with a sense of disbelief intact, cruel as it may sound. (I need say "apparently" because she described her family history as consisting of "abuse" and didn't get any more specific than that, which leaves enough wriggle room for doubt, fair or not.) On the one hand, we're obliged to feel sympathy for her -- in a more just world, whatever happened to her and her family wouldn't have happened -- but on the other, a sad background doesn't give her license to act like an overbearing tool, and a lot of the circumstances, if what we've seen is to be believed (always the overriding caveat with this and similar shows), have come about by her own doing.
Anyway, speculating about the contestants based purely on what we see from the show is an infinite regress of supposition and counter-supposition, at which point, Molly has the best response (as she always seems to have) to such radical postmodern relativism: