Tuesday, December 13, 2011

America's Next Top Model: All-Stars (Cycle 17)

I couldn't live with myself if I didn't say something about the All-Star edition of my favorite show ever, and boy, do I ever have stuff to say about this.


I can fix the results, if not the unfortunate brostep soundtrack.

Next, I'm obliged to mentioned Angelea's disqualification. I've yet to see anyone put forth a compelling case that she did not originally win (because if she was a runner-up, then why did the show have to re-shoot the announcement of the winner?), but Rich doesn't think that she was leaking anything, instead speculating that "it's something that would have shamed the show far more than Angelea. [...] I'd guess the secret information would have somehow revealed a lapse in background checking that would ultimately make the show look negligent for signing Angelea on in the first place." Like Rich, I hope that whatever the reasons for her dismissal, Angelea comes out of the cycle in a good place, because I have had nothing but love for her since cycle 14 and was doggedly pulling for her this cycle.

Another reason that I feel that she was the initial winner is because her triumph seemed overdetermined -- she fell to the bottom 2 four times but was never actually eliminated, as though the judges were saving her so should could fulfill some grander fate than losing out on a reality tv show. Furthermore, given Tyra's penchant for turning the show into a vehicle for social engineering, I can easily imagine that, based solely on her biography and apparent desperation, Angelea would've had to kill someone to not win the competition. Wait a minute... (As I joked elsewhere, she could've gone on Project Runway this season and won it.)

In any case, the harvest of Internet speculation on the possibilities of what may have disqualified Angelea aptly bookends the uneasy way people relate to the blurred line between reality tv and real life. Right from the start, as the show had its live judging (/jealous), we saw how uncomfortably the two realms interact when the creeps in the audience started swearing at or dissing Alexandria. The show wouldn't let us forget about the former, while the latter involved that clever guy in the audience who interviewed to Jay Manuel, "Alexandria needs to go home, I hate her. Even though I love her, I hate her too." Sure. If I had been there (sigh) and I was asked to call out my least favorite all star, I'd have felt remarkably uncomfortable revealing my choice (Alexandria, as it happens) because I have this thing about being rude to people when they're that physically close to me; this guy, though, saw his chance to act like a diva on tv and no amount of propriety was going to stop him.

Those two Alexandria-focused events indicate that for viewers, reality tv and real life share the same essence, and that people who've been designated as villains on tv shows should, in real-life, be treated without respect or decency. I should add that considering all my fondness for inane controversies and unnecessary fights, I don't quite stand on unimpeachable moral ground, but it's one thing to revel in the excesses of the genre with a tv screen between you and the action, and quite another thing to actively precipitate those very excesses. The former is a private act of consumption of a commercial product; the latter typically involves an amount of heedless shamelessness wherein the participants are formally and positively identified as such. In Alexandria's case, though, she was ambushed by someone from the anonymity of a crowd (sort of the Internet made real and fleshy and no less horrible), which collapses the private and public in a way that Alexandria catches all of the heat while the chump who yelled at her is safely shielded within anonymity. (I'm sure that being ganged up on by Brittani et al and then having it televised was bad enough -- having it happen again with a live crowd must've been magnitudes more traumatic.)

Such asymmetry boils down to an unfair breach of privacy as it demonstrates how reality tv can so ravenously distort and bend real life and real people towards cruelty when the two realms collide. To be more precise, though, the dynamics of their interactions are a complex Ouroboros of feedback loops. The genre is omnivorous enough that it easily absorbs rudeness, whether it comes from a reality tv contestant or its observer, and seamlessly transforms it into just another spectacle to be shown on the program. What's more remarkable is that the genre blithely encourages this kind of behavior from its onlookers, and then incorporates that behavior and its aftereffects into the fabric of its episodes, thereby ensuring another source of drama for it to mine. I mean, real life doesn't quite stand a chance; it'll get deformed into reality tv.

We see reality tv and real life intersecting with Angelea's disqualification, that is, something that happens outside of the bounds of the recorded show ended up affecting the course of its events. Strangely enough, though, reality tv sloughs off real life with the finale (rather than absorbing it), since the episode mentions it but once and hardly exploits it for spectacular purposes. Actually, in this rare case, we have real-life encroaching on reality tv, perhaps even inconveniencing it (given the lack of exploitation); either way, we witness how uncomfortably the two interact with each other.

  • Kudos to the final runway organizers for actually installing a deus ex machina for the girls to get into. I haven't seen such a confluence of low- and high-brow culture since Ulysses.
  • Oh the irony of Tyra teaching the finer points of becoming viral to Allison of all people. Also, she ruined Allison's music video. 
  • Laura's video is probably the best. Unsurprisingly, Lisa's actual song is the most polished.
  • Amazed at how put together Dominique is now compared to cycle 10. 
  • Bre! Similarly amazed at how emotionally mature she's become; also, the short cut they gave her is marvelous.
  • The whole branding enterprise was so stupid. Inevitably, most of the girls took their brand far too literally to the point that their preoccupation with it doomed them. In other words, I don't like the thing that got Kayla eliminated so far before going overseas.  

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