overthinking the idiot box

March 27, 2006

Reality: It's not just for off-camera life anymore.

"Wow Me, Bitches"

Why do women love Top Model?
by Lisa Timmons

"I don't get it. Every girl I know has told me that she loves it, but none of them can explain to me why."

That was my boyfriend's reaction when I first confessed to him my passion for America's Next Top Model. And it really got me thinking.

Why did I love the show so much? No one had ever asked me that question before, even though it would make sense for me to have pondered the reasoning behind my obsession.

I even enjoy how they use "Cycle" instead of season, making it seem more like a scientific force of nature than a television show.
With this in mind, I watched the premiere of Cycle 6 (I even enjoy how they use "Cycle" instead of season, making it seem more like a scientific force of nature than a television show) by myself, so that I could relish every trashy moment without fear of judgment, and more importantly — without interruption.

Admittedly, after the departure of Janice Dickinson from the judges' panel at the end of Cycle 4, I had lost a certain amount of interest in the show, recognizing that her presence generated a big chunk of the show's allure. Janice said what we all were thinking — plus, she wasn't above accosting a contestant or fellow judge.

Consequently, I wasn't nearly as dedicated to the following season, and barely even got involved until it was nearly over. Even the promise of secret lesbians and drunken hot tub shenanigans couldn't roust me from my indifference.

But when I started seeing the Fern Gully-esque posters advertising this new season on bus shelters, billboards, pop-up ads on the Internet and eventually, in my sleep, I felt myself being pulled back in — back into the warm, comforting uterus that is America's Next Top Model. That's when I decided I would give Tyra and her merry band of pranksters one more try.

So, I watched, a trusty box of Trefoils on the bed next to me, and observed the women on the screen with a healthy mix of disdain and complete and utter fascination. Because of this show, I can easily imagine these women fighting amongst each other in hope of populating the magazines that I so casually purchase in the grocery store. I prefer to imagine that these petty fisticuffs and heavy-air-brushing are taking place at fashion shows and photo shoots, rather than thinking that the seemingly perfect women who grace the catwalks and pages of Vogue are as happy as they are beautiful. I love hearing that being that fucking gorgeous takes a hell of a lot of work, not to mention pain.

Because we all love to believe that supermodels are made, not born. If a scrawny hood-rat with bad skin and what my friend Mauricio refers to as "crackhead hair" is still in the running, then we know there's hope for all of us.

Because the last thing we need to hear is that Giselle Buendchen emerged from the ocean perfect and ready for her first Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, wearing only a diamond thong and white angel wings. I want to know that no matter how many times she does it, she still yelps in pain every time she gets a Brazilian wax.

We need to believe that these are creatures who have worked hard — posing, catwalking, tanning, undergoing often emotionally debilitating makeovers and various "model challenges" — to get where they are today. Destroying the mythos behind the perfection makes it seem more attainable and less like winning the genetic lottery.

That way, when we lean back on our couches and loosen our belts after one too many Girl Scout cookies, we'll be able to rationalize to ourselves that honestly, when it comes to our supermodel careers, we are our own greatest enemies, not Mother Nature. And delusional as that belief may be, somehow it empowers me in a sick, but comforting way.

At the end of the day, America's Next Top Model is a place where no one is looking at ME, poking at MY flaws with a stick. Rather, I am a judge sitting on the panel saying to the parade of girls, week after week:

"Wow me, bitches."

And frankly, that's just the way I like it.

Email the author.

Return to Season 2, Episode 13.