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Dead Models

Author: • Oct 31st, 2007 •

Category: Ballardosphere, body horror, consumerism, fashion

Ballardian: Dead Models

Steve O. sent me a link to a photo shoot for America’s Next Top Model, on the subject of dead girls. It’s from March earlier this year, and even though seven months in the Ballardosphere is a very very long time, it still needs to be recorded. Steve writes, ‘I don’t know if this has crossed your radar yet, but it struck me as all very Atrocity Exhibition‘.

The judges’ comments have to be seen to be believed. For the above photo, we have this:

Felicia: Decapitated by a Model

Twiggy: I think she’s very beautiful. I don’t like this photograph this week.

Miss J: You’re so used to moving, that when you’re dead, you’re just that: capital D-E-A-D, dead.

Nigel: All the other girls managed to have some sort of spark even in this sort of morbid situation. I think I look at you in this picture, and you actually just look dead. One of the simplest things, like acting dead, can be the most challenging. The problem is that you didn’t do anything. You just gave up and thought that that was being dead.

Meanwhile, here’s a dissenting voice:

Jennifer L Pozner, from Women in Media and News:

Ain’t nothin’ hotter than a dead girl. That’s the take-away message from this week’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, in which Tyra “I care so much about my girls” Banks & co. created the most brazen bit of ad-industry misogyny ever to grace the reality TV genre: an entire episode presenting a gaggle of underfed model wannabes as the mutilated, mangled and murdered epitome of beauty.

I’m so disgusted by the photos that I refuse to give them extra visual traction on this blog… The lithe lot of ‘em are arrayed in awkward, broken poses, splayed out in cold concrete corridors, lifeless limbs positioned bloodily, just so, at the bottom of staircases, bathtubs and back alleys, mimicking their demise via stabbing, shooting, electrocution, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, decapitation and organ theft (!), to judges’ comments of “Gorgeous!” “Fantastic!” “Amazing!” “Absolutely beautiful!” and, of my favorite, “Death becomes you, young lady!”

For decades, media critics such as pioneering advertising theorist Jean Kilbourne have argued that ad imagery equating gruesome violence against women with beauty and glamour works to dehumanize women, making such acts in real life not only more palatable and less shocking, but even aspirational. ANTM’s pretty-as-a-picture crime-scene challenge epitomized the worst of an insidious industry trend that, ahem, just won’t die.

This is deeply dangerous to our culture, as I wrote in Bitchmagazine:

Advertising is profoundly manipulative at its core. Its imagery strives to deprive us of realistic ideas about love, beauty, health, money, work, childhood, and more in an attempt to convince us that only products can bring us true joy; numerous studies show that the more ads we view, the worse we feel about ourselves. How much worse will this psychological exploitation become when woven directly into our narratives?

+ Previously on Ballardian: k-punk on Steven Meisel.

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5 Responses »

  1. […] Ballardian shows us how this trend hit some sort of zenith recently within the arena of reality television, where the audiences have long since become acclimatised to participating in and enjoying casual long-range hate-fests occasioned by shows such as Wife Swap and Big Brother. America’s Next Top Model develops the tediously trangressive logic of the format in an original way: the opportunity to indulge the ol’ lust of the eyes with faked pictures of murdered women. […]

  2. […] use crime scenes as a gimmick, Melanie Pullen has made a name for herself doing just that and a particularly ridiculous episode of America’s Next Top Model, proved that feminists are indeed humorless or the fashion industry is vacuous or both things at […]

  3. […] Updated: Revisiting some of the controversy over Steven Meisel’s photos for Vogue Italia, I was reminded of last year’s American’s Next Top Model crime scene shoot, discussed on Ballardian. […]

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