Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Pop Culture Vault Vol. 2 Pt 3
Thank God for the Little Things OR
America's Next Top Model

America's Next Top Model is UPN's highest rated show, and it is now on it's fourth season. Hard to beleive isn't it? For those of you who haven't already seen an episode, I must implore you to watch this train wreck. This show is without a doubt my favorite guilty pleasure. Some people think I should be embarassed about the Star Trek and the X-Files that find their way into my TiVo, but its only Top Model that I'm somewhat ashamed of. The show is unabashedly girlie, which isn't something I usually go in for. I confess, before I became addicted, that when I first heard tell of this show in its first season, I mocked my co-workers for watching it, decrying it as superficial trash.

Yet there is something incredibly compelling about watching all these young women vie for a title so viciously - that of America's Next Top Model. There's nothing inherently unique about vying for an accolade in reality TV land, many reality shows are just game shows with contestants competing for a prize. In Amazing Race teams race to win a million dollars, in The Apprentice, the winner works for a Trump company in a very influential position, and one of the oldies but badies, Survivor, also boasts large monetary prize.

The thing that's so interesting about top model is that the title that these girls are trying to win, means very little in the grand scheme of things. These young women don't actually become America's Next Top Model, gracing every magazine cover and billboard from here to South Dakota. They are only America's Next Top Model according to Tyra Banks and her three cronies. Does anyone know the names of the previous models who have won the last three years? Have they suddenly popped up in Hollywood films and on International fashion runways everywhere? No, not really. A Neutrogena print ad here, a small Jane fashion spread there - these are the sorts of things that a top model can look forward to, at least at first when she's fresh off the show. As we have seen, time is never kind to the top model, and Adrienne, the winner of the first season was last seen on The Surreal Life, a C-List reality show where one hit wonders live communal style a la Real World. Yikes.

Besides the relative obscurity of the prize, another irresitable element of the show is the way that Tyra Banks holds court, and she does so with the earnestness and severity of a callow politician. Ms. Banks truly believes that she has the ultimate power to render girls "top models", and her enthusiasm for her power to change lives is endearing in its own strange way.

The show can actually also be mildy intriguing if one has a remote interest in fashion and I have to say being a model...is actually more than just sitting there and looking pretty. If the show succeeds at anything, it is at showing how much women acutally have to work at being le top model.

Now if only the prize meant something...

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