Friday, March 23, 2007

Death Becomes You, Young Lady!

This is what one of the judges in America's Next Top Model said during Week Four of the competition when the topic was....

Crime Scene Victims

Each of the model-wannabes is posed as the victim of some gruesome type of murder, and the judges are very focused on how well the women do dead. Or really dead violent crime victims. Jennifer Pozner has written an excellent post on the misogyny this necrophilia conveys:

I'm so disgusted by the photos that I refuse to give them extra visual traction on this blog - but do click over to Zap2it's photo gallery if you'd like to see for yourself how ANTM gives new definition to the phrase "suicide girls." The lithe lot of 'em are arrayed in awkward, broken poses, splayed out in cold concrete corridors, lifeless limbs positioned bloodily, just so, at the bottom of staircases, bathtubs and back alleys, mimicking their demise via stabbing, shooting, electrocution, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, decapitation and organ theft (!), to judges' comments of "Gorgeous!" "Fantastic!" "Amazing!" "Absolutely beautiful!" and, of my favorite, "Death becomes you, young lady!"

But this isn't the first week of America's Next Misogynism Victim. Last week, Week Three, had as its theme Sundaes, which meant that each competitor was photographed naked while pretending to be an ice-cream sundae. None of the judges praised them "for looking good as food", though I did catch this comment from Tyra Banks (about Week Two photo shots):

Tyra: I saw your film and you did do some more sexy stuff. You just seemed so unsure: "I think I'm a ho?" Most modeling is acting like a ho but making it fashion. (later) So much potential, but so bottled up. It's almost like she needs pre-"America's Next Top Model" school.

My bolds.

Let's see if I get this: Most modeling is acting like a ho but making it fashion. Except when the model plays the victim of a violent crime or a food item. Got it.

Now for the letdown: None of this comes as a surprise for anyone who has leafed through the pages of high-end fashion magazines. The models are routinely portrayed as broken dolls, with vacant eyes and permanently gaping mouths, like toys flung about after the giant child who played with them has left. If this is mainstream art in fashion photography, what is the finely honed artistic edge, then? Perhaps dead women will do? Dead women gruesomely murdered? See? I know why they had to go there. I'm not just a humorless feminist prig, though I play one on the blogs.