19 November 2007

Never long enough

It doesn't matter how long it's been, or what's happened since then. How many others there have been and how many miles doubtless separate us. It doesn't matter how much you hurt me, how much it all hurt, and how ashamed I can still feel for having been such a damned fool. It doesn't even matter how much havoc your memory and the memory of us can create for my life now, if I let it.

All it takes is one dream to send me into the day looking for you again. Once I met a girl who'd been your friend back home. Once, at my lowest (or possibly most optimistic?) point, the ad I placed got a response from another friend: a possible phone number that I never called. Today I found your picture and all I could think was "I am sorry you cut your hair."

I don't actually know if I miss you. I think I do. If we spoke, I would not feel good. If we met, I might not behave. So many years since, but something in my chest remembers you and makes me think I see the back of your head--the way it looked seven full falls ago--on the train in the morning.

If I hold this trigger in me my whole life, when will I stop responding when the gun goes off? When will I hear it, but leave off looking for you?

14 November 2007

ANTM: being green is not equal to easy, and issues of reality television in general

Q: So Nora, do you ever get tired of picking apart the "green" cycle of ANTM for its general half-assery?
A: Not when they're jetting off to China with nary a mention of "carbon footprint."

No no, y'all--China, like Old Navy, gets a pass when it comes to the larger questions of sustainability and general environmental consciousness. Oh, La Banks, why did you open up a can of worms that you could never hope to...consume? Put back in the can? Utilize? (What does one do with an opened can of worms? You probably shouldn't store them in the can, so you'll need to transfer the surplus worms to a plastic or glass container before you put them in the fridge...). I accept that the "green" commitment of this cycle is less, ah, of a commitment. My feelings make the following part of the episode even more delicious: our Hopefuls drive out into the desert and are left behind by their biodiesel van in a landscape that is likely to become more familiar and common as the "light green" actions like the things in which ANTM is dabbling fail, and weather patterns become more extreme due to climate change exacerbated (at best...) by human activity. Get used to the heat, friends, because we're all in this kitchen together.

In panel, our guest judge from the design school challenge offers that Lisa isn't the freshest of faces, the youngest or dewiest of the lot. Tyra fires back, musing "why is the modeling industry so obsessed with women looking like children?" Like her chastisement of the poor misguided man-judge/robot (he was a little metallic, no?) would ever make us forget the way they threw Renee under the bus last cycle on account of her not-so-fresh feeling! I'm not saying Banks and her hangers-on have to pick one line and stick with it, I'm just saying they should at least show a little bit of reflection about the things they say, cycle after cycle. Though it is this lack of reflection that gives us one of my favourite things about ANTM: the completely contradictory critiques from one girl to another! We haven't stumbled into it yet this cycle, but I hold out hope. Two cycles ago, the Panel chastised one girl for not ignoring how sick she felt, not pushing through to deliver the shot. Only a handful of eps later, they berated a different Hopeful for ignoring what her body was telling her, for pushing to hard to get the shot. Are girls supposed to sacrifice their health or not? Are they supposed to lose the weight or not? Are they supposed to look "men's magazine" or just regular sexy/available? It's only a taste of the contradictory messages that all women get all the time from all media, but it's stark as hell on ANTM.

Speaking as we were of worms, maybe Tyra et al should have opened up a can of those red worms, for composting. That would have been green. Composting isn't even that hard--and surely, given the amount of food I've seen the Hopefuls eating, there must be some scraps of not bread, not meat, not fat to churn up into some rich, dark compost. In fact, tonight's ep showed Bianca and Heather breaking bread, possibly pasta, together. Sometimes I almost buy the normalcy, you know? Thank the lo' for yet another (shamefully thrilling! I am ashamed by my cheap, cheap thrills!) shower scene. Unfortunately, we are on the receiving end of a dramatically edited, possibly fabricated fight between the previously docile Heather and Bianca. Now, I have it on good authority that it *is* all in the edits, and it's not like we actually get--or expect--reality in our reality television. We like broadly drawn conflict; we want good girls, bad guys, bad girls, good guys, familiar stories, and situations in which we can imagine ourselves and what we'd do differently and better. With reality television in general--and ANTM in particular, filled as it is with young people still learning how they fit in the world--all of the analysis that the "characters" (who are real people, actually) do about their actions and themselves is externalized: the viewer takes part in review, judgment, assessment. Reality television highlights the inability of its participants to immediately and correctly perceive their situations while they are in them and invites the viewer to engage in the introspection that the participant does not or cannot. We get the gift of edited vignettes that give us all we need to make the right decision; we get to instantly compare characters' reactions to similar things, picking them apart for inconsistency. We get many opportunities in this ep, as Bianca (again) gets to go on about how Heather (again) just needs to get over something or other, when just recently we've seen Bianca's inability to get over something. We can see the things she cannot, grow in a way that she seems to not, and use those judgments to feel superiour. It's the same all over reality television and is, I think, what lies at the core of its endurance: we're all comparing ourselves to the participants and coming out ahead. Since they are real people, we think, we're demonstrating our superiority over our peers, and this makes us feel pretty good about ourselves. This is the danger of reality television--this false comparison--because the people aren't people. They are the pastiche of people, people that make good entertainment. This should remove them from the reasonable range of people to whom we, the viewers, should contrast ourselves and ought to keep us humble when we think "I totally could have done that. I totally would *not* have fux0red that Cover Girl commercial. I completely understand this situation and I would have come out of it with much more self knowledge." This comprises my emergent Theory of Reality Television and Viewer Identification and Transference. It is possible that I missed my calling.


On a reality show that's not all that real, with an environmental commitment that isn't all that committed, sending messages as mixed as they are absolute, lead by Tyra's conceit that she might make changes in an industry that has been as unchanged as any in its continual and continuous need for younger, thinner women: what kinds of analysis, what sorts of self-discovery, what critical thinking at all can we make or find, should we expect, might we demand?

None. That's where I come in.

+ + +

Tune in for China next week where, if you all clap your hands very very hard, Ms. J. (runway coach extraordinare) might treat the viewership to some race caricaturization not seen on my television since PBS played "Breakfast at Tiffany's" that weekend this summer! "Miss-ha Go-Rightry, I Must-ah Plro-tesht!"

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08 November 2007

ANTM rides again, and so does this laptop


While we waited for Dell to work a minor miracle—that is, to address our needs on this approximately 2 year old lappy by replacing a hard drive and orchestrating not one but two complete reboots of the system *all while completely under warrantee*—you and I, blog of mine, have fallen seriously behind on the ol’ ANTM recap. Thankfully, Tyra gave a poor sinner like me a bit of a reprieve last week: the mid-cycle recap! Not only did she jog my memory, she gave me one less week through which I need to fly to get up to speed before I dip into tonight’s substantive ep.

I missed the makeover episode, in which they always shear some poor girl’s hair off and she cries and says she looks like a boy (the horror!). Bianca, heretofore known to me only as Queens, was the major target this time, though Ebony also got it bad. Taking off these weaves and wigs is like slash-and-burn farming: nothing grows there for years afterwards. I have some short damned hair, so I don’t get the severe negative reaction they girls have—but as a person with a very stylized look and a specific haircut, hair is a huge part of my identity. And it’s been gratifying to see Bianca toss that wig they fobbed off on her in favour of her eminently better chop job, because short hair does not equal boy. Short hair equals short hair, and Bianca’s begun to own it. I do love a good skull. At the end of the episode, they send the prickly Yalie home. Not a shocker: I still feel like her motivation was about having a conception of what a model is and does, and then enacting that conception. The panel reacted poorly this time, and I read in their reaction the idea that modeling should be from the heart, not the head. Models should be seen and not heard. Unless they’re spokesmodels, as they are in another episode I watched but could not blog. And where, exactly, did Ebony’s personality go? Man, is she a board up there. And that falling on the sword? I called that, on my little couch with my vegetarian dinner in one hand and my remote in the other.

Now, tonight’s episode.

I have wanted so badly for Sarah to do well, not least because she’s a burlesquer and I’ve rolled with my share of the neo-burlesque crowd (holla, Sissy Butch Brothers!). I was not charmed by her audition antics (really, the paper booger trick? That ain’t even vaudeville, honey) and I thought her haircut was very, ah, 1996. It was an improvement over the insipid mop she came in with, but it was not fierce. These criticisms aren’t the point, though. The point is Sarah’s weight.

There’s another thru line to this season apart from the “ANTM goes green” theme, which I cannot help but feel has been summarily dropped. Food and body issues are front and center. But it’s all adding up to me thinking that Tyra, and ANTM doth all protest too much. There’ve been so many references to food, eating, weight, health—and I’m suspicious. “Will we ever have a plus size model” muses Ms. J. You did. You had two last season—did you mean, will we ever have a plus size model that we don’t have to dismiss for reasons totally unrelated to her weight, thankyouverymuch. And, of course, you had this girl, about whom you all lamented: she’s not big enough to be plus, she’s too big for “regular” modeling, she just doesn’t fit. I am not surprised that the industry that Tyra, J, J, and Niles Barker (noted fashion photographer) work in likes a thin girl; I am not surprised that they’re trying to maybe backpedal a bit into “healthy woman” territory. What shocks me is the seeming unselfconsciousness of it all. The recap episode actually had just what I’d been searching/waiting for in my pitch black little size ten heart: a bald demonstration of the hypocrisy that is ANTM’s take on the injustice of (gasp!) sizeism in modeling.

During the Tyra Talkback, cycle winner Dani (she of the overly regional accent—that bit of identity had to go, just like those gap teeth, ladeez) favoured the Hopefuls with a very illustrative story. As a working model, which Dani totally is, Dani was told to lose some weight. Tyra interjects: I was mad! I know how thin she is! Those scumbags, telling a thin girl to get thinner, how dare they, and a model no less! Dani would never sacrifice her health or her body and neither would the Hopefuls, they all immediately supply. So Dani did the only thing she could do, when told by an industry that makes unreasonable and unjust demands on the still developing bodies of young women: she told the client to kiss her plenty slim ass. Okay no, just kidding. She ate healthy and worked out and lost the weight. If you’re confused about the moral here, you’re not the only one. It was emphatically NOT RIGHT, per Tyra and Dani and everyone, for MODELING to ask Dani, thin enough as she is, to lose weight. She sure showed them…by losing weight. It isn’t at all outrageous to find this outrageous. But really, Tyra et al, you can’t set a girl down a path, get indignant about the path, and then wish her luck as she skips down the path.

But back to Sarah. I wanted to like her, and her pics were good enough, but given her background, I expected more. I mean, there was nudie-ness in the recap ep (to my, again, shameful delight), and tonight’s challenge was all about the skimpy Video Vixen wear; where was the sass I thought Sarah must surely have somewheres in there? It was nowhere, and she’s headed home. To my state. So Sarah, give a girl a call when you land back in Massachusetts. We’ll get a damned bite to eat. And maybe after you turn 21, we can get a beer—a not light beer. A stout, maybe, built like you and me: shapely in the glass and thick in the hips. And we can talk about how modeling will never be brought down from the inside, on account of the inability of the master’s tools to disassemble the master’s house.

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