Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Australia's Next Top Bully

Last night I went to the final of Australia's Next Top Model. I've never really been into the show and to be honest it's not really my thang, but we scored some free tickets though work and I got to leave work early to get there, so i figured it was worth the early mark. It was everything you'd expect it would be, a lot of mums and kids, B grade industry types and Napoleon Perdis.

I have to say I walked home through the grotesque Luna Park overbite feeling a whole lot more disappointed and angry than I had ever expected - and it had nothing to do with the fact that I had just spent 3 hours of my life mildly pissed that the free drinks I'd been promised weren't available until AFTER the filming.

The little I did know about this season's Next Top Model was that the whole series had been marred by all the bullying that went on during filming. You would expect a certain level of bitchiness with a bunch of girls competing to win a modeling contract, but there had been some extreme and absolutely horrible cases of bullying between competitors. 3 girls in particular relentlessly picked on one of the girls, Alemena. Unfortunately, none of these clips are available on youtube.

So as the show went on the issue of bullying was broached rather fleetingly and Demelza, the ring leader of the bitchtivities, offered an insincere apology directed more to the audience than her victim and obviously for the sake of the public vote. And when the votes were closed and counted guess who was announced the competition winner: the prime bitch herself, Demelza.

Its not like I would usually care who wins these things. The winner, whoever they are, will inevitably get their 15mins of minor Australian celebrity and then fade away to work at Muffin Break for the rest of their lives. The bit that got me though, was seeing the reaction of poor girl who was so horribly bullied. She broke down. Fully broke down. Not like "Oh my God I'm in a TV show and everything is so melodramatic" break down but more like "she made my life hell and she's been rewarded for it" break down and discretely ran off backstage in tears. I'm sure no camera captured it but it was absolutely heart-wrenching to witness.

What concerns me with this issue was the fact that the Australian ideology of "the fair go" was used to rationalize the whole incident. This girl made a token apology and told everyone that she'd learned her lesson while minutes later we're shown footage of her bitching at/about other girls. I'm not saying no one has the right to their own opinions or actions and I'm certainly not saying people don't deserve a second chance, but where do you draw the line? The thing we often forget when we offer someone another chance is the way that their actions have affected other people, possibly for the rest of their lives. So where do you just stop and say "you're an absolute cunt and you don't deserve another fair go"?


Rose said...

S and I have been shamelssly orientating our weeks around when the next episode of Models gets onto youtube. It's honestly one of my favourite documentaries ;) Combines so many of my interests – women, their reception, aesthetics, ethics. But that final left me cold too. Not for such a specific reason as you had, just a general sense that the whole thing had lost its lustre and its validity (and host - ?).

Your bit about Alamela leaving in tears and how insincere you found Demelza's apology was so interesting. The kind of discussion that would elevate the show into such interesting territory, instead of the bland approach they took in putting together this final.

I don't really resent the verdict. Alex is no angel either – morally there's not much difference between them, but I find Demezla Helen of Troy beautiful. Either could have one – neither was that great. But I hated how they decided the winner. Dud call to leave the decision to the public vote, and so easily avoided if they just thought it through and had an uneven number of judges. Felt really Big-Brother / popularity contest / BORING.

1 star to the episode, 5 to you.

sophie said...


We loved, loved your post. As Rozo said, it's so fascinating to hear about Alamela's reaction when Demelza won. That really is so sad.

But I still don't know what to think. We thought Demelza was a total babe (and that Alex's beauty didn't quite compare). My own not entirely perfect record as 16 year old past also still haunts me. While Demelza definitely behaved apallingly, she wasn't a total lost cause either. I'm also sure there are lots of faggy models around, and I guess I just don't care that much, They're just so pretty!

But I worry about myself- that I don't care- that I'm so enraptured with beauty instead of morality. Which is why I think Vogue editor Kirstie Clements' judgement on the night was actually really amazing. She quickly quashed the idea that Demelza was a fatty, lauded her beauty, but ultimately couldn't endorse her because of the bullying fiasco.

I found it really empowering, that the editor of Vogue wants to shape a publication that represents more than physical beauty. I feel the same way abut your post, reading your strong opinion against bullying made me so glad that some media (and let's face it, movestill is as respected a force as Vogue) are decisive enough to take a moral stance.

The fact that Vogue will be contractually bound to include Demelza in their pages just points to AuNTM's inevitable downward spiral in to irrelevance. I have no doubt Vogue will not be associated with the TV show next year. And it's going to be one awkward shoot.

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