Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Gaze and the Other

Nowadays, the “other” is still highly represented in the media, specifically in advertisements where “ads attach notions of exoticism to their products through images of places that are coded as distant and outside the world of consumption.” Asia and Africa are often construed as “exotic” places and women of biracial/African/Asian decent are highly fetishized.

 In fact, a few weeks ago, America’s Next Top Model had an episode where the contestants had to adopt two different ethnicities for a photo shoot. Tyra said she wanted them to adopt biracial identities because they were in Hawaii, which is home to people of various ethnicities. Thus, the contestants were asked to portray ethnicities including, Mexican and Greek, Tibetan and Egyptian, Moroccan and Russian, Native American and East Indian, Botswanan and Polynesian, and Japanese and Malagasy. Here is a picture of one of the contestants after getting a lot of make up done to blacken her face to make her seem as though she is Batswanan/polynesian:

I personally think that this photo shoot reinforces racial stereotypes by making these various races appear more “exotic” and “foreign”. The fact that this contestant was asked to adopt a different race and was made to look darker and thrust into a setting that looks primitive and tribal reinforces notions of the other. The gaze is “commonly regarded as awarding more power to the person who is looking than to the person who is the object of the look.” Thus, the fact that Tyra is making these models adopt various ethnicities that are going to become objects of the look reinforces the idea of the “other” and the fact that they are subjugated in the media.  


  1. Tyra is famous for this post-modernist idea. She constantly promotes "authentic" or "exotic" looks on her show while at the same time, criticizing contestants of non-white race for characteristics that stray from the dominant ideology.

  2. Tyra is so confusing...does she want her African American contestants to be "true to their roots" and therefore EXEMPLIFY the other? Or does she want them to conform to society's idea of beautiful and adapt more white, dominant ideals?