Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
September 06, 2011 /
Like every season of every reality TV show ever created, the modelling malarky ones have a mandate to viciously disparage waifs. Episode after episode, season after season.
Apparently size eight makes a woman a fatty boomba. Cue the outrage. Cue the acrimony. Cue exposés (read: cross-promotions) in “news” outlets.
This season Alex Perry was charged with the task of hurling this year’s carefully orchestrated missile. According to whoever crafted his dialogue, model Alissandra Moone looks like a piece of “overstuffed luggage”. Not any luggage I’ve ever seen on a carousel, but then again, Perry’s not on the panel because he’s a wordsmith.
And of course, Perry’s been considered a jerk accordingly; as the emblem for all that is hideous about the fashion industry; exposed as a man getting rich off the toil and calorie-restrict of women. His comment was repugnant, sure, but why lambast him, when he’s but a big player in a far bigger cultural problem?
Every single season of these shows, a barrage of ignorant, offensive and misogynist criticisms are made about the bodies of women. Every single season there’s a wave of condemnation from feminists, from eating disorder aficionados and from cultural critics and every season token efforts are made at inclusivity, at positiveness.
Every season the producers lap up the free publicity with gusto. Every season these shows get renewed and every season the public gets ever more lessons on the narrow aesthetic of beauty and on women’s love of hair pulling and catfights.
The most interesting thing about this latest brouhaha is that anybody was even remotely shocked that Perry made the comment in the first place. The gibe was made in the context of a television show based on the most simplest of all premises: that the prettiest wins the race. The remark was made by the staple mean judge caricature; made to a girl who enthusiastically, bought into being judged as a piece of chuck.
It’s a show built around women competing to be considered fairest of them all. It’s based around judging bodies, judging faces and about rewarding the notoriously demanding task of both wearing clothes and walking in them. It’s about teaching women to get their sense of worth from the appraisals of those paid handsomely to be quotable.
Celebrating people based on their appearance is as repellent as punishing, bullying and mocking on the same grounds. Australia’s Next Top Model is a show about discrimination, about judgment, glitz and gossamer just make a tad more palatable.
Don’t get me wrong, I find the concept of beauty pageants – televised or otherwise – as hideous, but these competitions, these television shows, are not born in a vacuum. Women are thrown into the battle of skinniest, shiniest, cutest, prettiest, whitest, boobiest at birth.
Until our popular culture begins to reward skills and attributes broader than wearing the faces we were born with, pointing the bone at Perry does nothing more than deliver additional publicity to a very bloated and ugly industry.
© Lauren Rosewarne