Life&Style Writer Ellen Fadden asks whether the hit series is too out-dated for the current climate
America’s Next Top Model is a widely known show which first aired in 2003, hosted by television personality and model, Tyra Banks. It has been hugely successful, running for 24 seasons, and the drama of aspiring models trying to claw their way to the top draws in many viewers. It has brought audiences great entertainment, from Tyra Banks’s ‘smize’ to her infamous quote which has bred many memes: ‘I was rooting for you; we were all rooting for you’. Viewers have learnt not to take the show too seriously due to its antics, from a model sleeping through a task, to rumours spreading amongst girls that a fellow contestant was plagued with flesh-eating bacteria.
Despite this, there are still arguments that the show is problematic and may have a dangerous influence, particularly upon young women. The show has attempted to combat this by moving with the times, such as hiring plus-size model Ashley Graham as a judge in the 23rd season. However, Ashley is a size 16 which does not show huge diversity as in America the average woman is a size 16-18. On the tenth cycle of the show the first ‘plus-size’ model, Whitney Thompson won. It is however worth noting that when winning the show, she was also a size 16. This thus raises the question: where are the women above size 16?
Some could argue that the show continues to inherently body shame women for not fitting into the mould that the fashion world expects of them, by omitting certain sizes from the show, thus disregarding them as not worthy of being models. This reveals the unrealistic expectations set upon female viewers by the show. The contestants on this show represent a minority of the population and yet are still criticised for their appearance every week. The superficiality of the show is difficult to shy away from, as it appears to support the traditional and sexist view that women’s main attribute is their looks as it refuses to focus on the personality or actions of the contestant. Surely these things should also come into play when picking the next ‘top model’ as the idea is that they will be in the public eye and no doubt will be a role model to many, and thus it should be equally important that they are capable of doing and encouraging good.
There is also a problem with the oversexualisation of the contestants. Women should be free to wear what makes them feel powerful and comfortable, regardless of what it is. However, the show ignored this by forcing the young girls to wear provocative outfits, even when they did not feel comfortable to do so. This can be seen in the first series when a model does not want to pose naked for a photoshoot due to her religious beliefs. She is condemned by judge, Janice Dickenson, under the guise of it being industry standards for them to do as instructed. There is a great distinction between this and the girls willingly choosing to wear such outfits and is wholly inappropriate to force a woman into showing her body in a way that she is unhappy with.
These issues prompt the question of whether the show has possibly aged beyond resurrection. The idea of a programme based merely on judging women due to their appearance does not sit well with many, especially in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. It seems unlikely that the show can make the necessary changes of creating diversity and accepting the beauty of different women, as well as making it less superficial, due to the show being intrinsically based on an outdated fashion industry. Thus, it may well be time to retire the show. It is perhaps important to add that no one has become hugely successful from winning the show which begs the question – is America’s Next Top Model an irrelevant relic promoting outdated and unhealthy expectations, or is it merely ‘a bit of fun’ and an entertaining watch?
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