Thursday, October 1, 2009

ANTM: Breaking and Creating Ideologies

This is my (possibly) failed attempt at stepping away from ads and using a TV show as an example of ideology.

OK, I think Tyra Banks and ANTM is groundbreaking (and also sickeningly repetitive) in breaking down the public’s ideologies about fashion models and gender roles. I think it’s safe to assume that most of the general public view models as these dumb, shallow, self-absorbed, pretty bimbos with no depth and who are there to look good for the camera. As Kathy Griffin would say, “They’re just hangers with heads, because clothes look good on hangers.” That’s what I consider to be an ideology about the fashion world and about fashion models more specifically.

But because Tyra, now an executive producer of the show I believe, has a lot of the creative input and makes many of the executive decisions, she has the power to pick which girls get to be on the show. So in a way, she is forming her own ideologies about her show. If you guys look back (don’t lie, you’ve all seen an episode of this show), many of the contestants and coincidentally, those that make it far into each respective season, undergo transformations that involve self-improvement and/or maturity.There's Danielle from Season 6, who couldn't speak a lick of English; okay, that was an exaggeration but the point was that she was from the South and Tyra would always critique her about her Southern accent. Then there was Naima from Cycle 4 who turned from a bad rocker girl into a pretty, sophisticated, ethnic young woman. Then there's Whitney who became the first plus-size winner in Cycle 10 and Jaslene, the first Latina winner from Cycle 8.

In a way, I believe Tyra stages the show like this to counter the ideological sentiment of the “dumb model.” If she shows these contestants as complex characters on her show that are also trying to be successful models, then she is helping combat the stereotype that models are all white and dumb, and one-dimensional. According to Tyra, models can also be hard-working, multi-cultural, transformative, plus-size, and basically everything that the public typically thinks models are not. As stated in Mimi White’s article, the cultural artifact, ANTM, is “expressing and promoting values, beliefs and ideas” of self-transformation to the public to prove that not all models are dumb (163).

Anyway, that's what I mean by breaking an ideology.

When I say that Tyra is creating an ideology on and for her show, I mean to say that she is sort of staging her show for future cycles. If you are a fan of the show and follow it religiously (not me), then I think it's safe to say that you just expect there to be a diverse batch of girls on every cycle. Sometimes, you just expect the non-white girls to win (even though the white ones do win sometimes).

I view ANTM as its own world, and within this world, there is this aforementioned, created ideology by the creators of the show that models can actually be intellectual and hard-working and multi-cultural, blah blah blah.

What I mean is that I expect an Asian girl to win pretty soon, based on the show's own ideology.

I hope this makes a lick of sense.


  1. why is Tyra pyscho? (LOL at her picture).

    Did you know this cycle is all centered around short models? All the contestants are 5'6'' or shorter (which is SHORT for a model) and most certainly breaks the mold and the ideologies we hold towards what a model should look like.

  2. I feel like ANTM tries too hard to be diverse and politically correct (remember when they had a transvestite on the cast?) and it comes off as unnatural. It is obvious that these girls are not going to win (the plus-sized models rarely do), but that they are kept around just to make the audience feel good. At first, it was a good idea, but now I feel like it's been overdone and everyone can see through Tyra and her production team.