Tuesday, November 12, 2013

America's Next Top Model (Cycle 20) - 20x15 "Finale Part 1: The Finalists Shoot Their Guess Campaign"

So what initially appears to be a final-three runway turns out to be another one of Tyra's cruel hoaxes (the biggest one of course being the promise of a lucrative modeling career to the winner), where one more elimination is to take place just before the final runway. And that's where the last episode ends, which is as good a time to address something critical that I've ignored too long in this space: Tyra's mom hair.

She may or may not be sleepwalking through an otherwise invigorated cycle, but the show (ostensibly) remains concerned with fashion, so you'd think she rock something a little less dowdy. But there you have it.

Anyway, to handicap the probable final two, I doubt Cory will make it, even if he's been one of my favorites for the majority of the cycle. Although he's been featured in (nearly) every episode, he's been used exclusively as a talking head, an observer pithily commenting on the other contestants and the various goings on. He has only started talking in earnest about himself and his own chances of winning the competition as of this episode, and the show didn't even start positioning him as the androgynous alternative between Marvin and Jourdan (both of whom have been allowed to talk themselves up) in an overt way until episode 14 -- yes, it's always been a subtext with him, but a reality program lives almost solely on the surface of events.

A real contender then has to present him or herself as a contender (or by proxy, through other contestants remarking on how s/he is a threat to win), which was underscored for me when Jourdan said that she wants to show that she's more than just a pretty face during the Guess shoot. ANTM supposedly being a modeling competition, a pretty face is fairly crucial to the being a model (notwithstanding the show's increasingly tenuous hold with the industry), but the "more than a pretty face" line goes along with the reality tv narrative impetus to (shallowly) psychologize its protagonists. This psychology then gives the contestants a sense of depth that goes beyond the simple parameters that the show is supposedly measuring. That is, it's not enough that a contestant is technically good at the program's challenges; the exigencies of the reality genre require that they also elicit sympathy from viewers to become someone for whom we can root. This requirement explains why we've been barraged all season by Jourdan talking about her abusive marriage and Marvin being a janitor's son, both reminders of which have only intensified as the competition has narrowed down on the two of them. (You see this tension between the demands of the genre and the demands of the industry/medium most clearly on vote-in shows such as SYTYCD, but it's showed up on ANTM as well, and long before Tyra incorporated the social media element to her show.)

In contrast, Cory mentions his difficulties growing up as a biracial kid in the first episode, and subsequently... a lot of pithiness about Marnee and stuff, which deflects attention away from him (well, it may call attention to him, but as a wit, less so as a model). And it's not as if he lacks a storyline -- the producers could've fashioned a classic plot for him where he struggles against and eventually overcomes Rob's obvious homophobia distaste for him. No, the editing of the cycle telegraphs the improbability of his becoming America's Next Top Model, while keeping him around as America's Next Top Sassy Gay Sidekick.

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