The worst problem facing queers right now has to be the lack of transgressive PhD topics. Gender, sex, phobias-it’s all been done. Luckily I have found a new gold mine of a topic.
I hereby offer it to all you queer academic types for free, along with a catchy title: (Femme)inist Heresy or “Model” Behaviour?: Feminist Femmes’ Fascination with America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). For those of you who live under a rock, this is the show where 14 stick insects compete to become Top Stick Insect.
I have an insider perspective on this phenomenon: this year I celebrated International Women’s Day by watching the two-hour premiere of ANTM and calling my feminist femme friend (FF) on the commercials to debrief.
Every day I swear I hear about another FF who loves the show and I’ve started wondering why. Is it the show’s excellent queer content?
Take Miss Jay, one of the judges. In season four or five, a contestant said, “Will someone please explain Miss Jay to me?” And the great thing is, no one ever did. She’s just a six-foot-something guy in a frumpy dress who uses female pronouns some of the time and teaches the girls catwalk technique.
Or Kim, one of the contestants last season; a cute little dyke who looked awful in dresses and excellent in suits. Her affair with 18-year-old curious Sarah wasn’t sensationalized nearly as much as it could have been, and Sarah’s tearful reflections on her sexuality were actually quite moving.
And how about this year when one contestant told the judges that she didn’t like gay people? “Girl, do you know what you’re getting into?” they asked. “Models are surrounded by gay people.” Queerness (okay, gayness) is just a fact of life on ANTM.
However, my preliminary research suggests that the queer factor might not be the only reason for the ANTM FF fan club. It’s possible that we are in fact just as bad as anyone else who watches reality TV.
We love it when the girls act stupid, like the time when they were trying to determine whether all birds are blind or just the ones who live outside. And we love dishing about who looks worst in the photo shoots, and speculating about who will be kicked off each week.
A fellow fan suggests that we love the show because the contestants remind us of the popular girls we hated in high school. Here they are on display for us to criticize at will. Hmmm. It’s an interesting theory, but I’ll leave it to the sociologists or anthropologists to do more research. I just hope that they come up with an explanation that doesn’t make me look too shallow, or too fat.