The Wife:

The deliciousness that is ANTM returned to my living room last night in a 2-hour extravaganza. I am happy to say that I believe ANTM is returning to its pre-Cycle 5 roots, where the drama between the girls was issue-based, and not just based on the fact that many cast members were terrible people. (You know, like in Cycle 1 where Robyn and Shannon got all up in Ebony’s grill because they were devout Christians and she was a militant black lesbian. Or when everyone in that cycle accused biologist Elyse of being anorexic. Or in Cycle 4, when Brittany got all up in Keenyah’s grill because Keenyah suddenly starting adopting “black pride” when Naima, who is also black, got to open Nelson Mandela’s jail cell and Keenyah didn’t. I’m fond of that kind of organic drama.) This season, we have natural drama provided to us by transgendered Isis, who has no pro-trans agenda but simply wants to live as a woman and be totally fierce, and those who either don’t understand her or refuse to accept her for who she is. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll discuss Isis and her implications later.

First, the model hopefuls were taken to The Top Model Institute of Technology, where Tyrabot and the Jays appear to be building some kind of superwomen, using the high tech gadgetry CW has been saving in the vault since it cancelled Enterprise. (That technology seems to have degraded over time, evidently. Or over the network switch, at the very least.) The girls were zipped into spandex catsuits, put through a body scanner and then asked to pose with stability balls, all before a lucky 20 were granted access to the next round. In this Gattaca-like universe, I’m not sure I want to imagine what would happen to the girls who were not allowed to enter the next round of the competition. The ads for this season lead me to believe we were going to have some Haight-Ashbury Top Model Love-In as our season intro, but no, I got a B-movie filled with attractive women, two silver-haired Jays (boy, Jay Manuel must be super upset about being Beta Jay, right? Way to let your true feelings for him be known, Tyra . . .), and a Tyrabot, which seemed to be modeled entirely after Victoria Beckham. I think a Love-In might have been more interesting, but at a Love-In, I certainly wouldn’t have heard my new catchphrase, “Beam it up to fierceness.” Thanks for that one, Tyra. I’ll be using that from now on.

This episodes casting montage provided some truly amazing pieces of television: Tyra terrorizing a poor Alaskan girl who can’t blink by pretending to be the moose that chased her. Tyra grilling a Harvard grad who can’t seem to remember much from the American Lit classes she took in college. I think Tyra suggested that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was an acceptable heroine from the American Lit canon, and then decided heroines were worthless and that being White Fang was way more awesome. Thank you, Tyra, for impersonating two different animals native to the American North in a single evening, and thanks, as well, for helping me study for the GRE Lit! ANTM is so educational!

Ultimately, 14 girls were chosen to continue on in the hopes of becoming America’s Next Top Model: Sheena, Analeigh, Nikeysha, Marjorie, Samantha, Elina, Brittany R., Brittany S., Brittany B., Hannah, Lauren Brie, Isis, Clark and Joselyn.

Sheena reminds me of a less egotistical Jade from Cycle 6, especially because someone on the ANTM bus referred to her as Oriental and she didn’t even flinch. That’s pretty cool of her. Jade would have absolutely eaten anyone who called her “Oriental” for breakfast. In casting, Analeigh told a story about being purchased as a bride for a Saudi prince. I really enjoyed this story because it reminded me of a story my sister-in-law tells about a college classmate, who, when asked in Italian class to tell a story about her childhood, told a story about being kidnapped by a rival kingdom. The phrase “Come si dice ‘to kidnap’?” definitely sprang to my mind when Analeigh was talking. I love adorable little Marjorie in a way a person shouldn’t love a gawky awkward girl on a reality show. She’s so freakin’ cute. I love her little pixie cut. I love her penchant for suspenders. I love that she is a ball of nerves. I love that she reminds me of Godard’s Breathless so much that next to her name I simply wrote down, “New York Herald Tribune!” Clearly, because she has short hair and I love her, she will not make it into the Top 6. But she’ll be so damned cute to watch while she’s still with us. Clark is a bitch and I love that she established herself as the villain from this season from the first minute she opened her mouth. Elina is a really interesting person, but she won’t last long, as it is tradition in this competition for the heady, articulate women to not make it very far, unless they photograph really, really fierce.

Marjorie, the French immigrant, tackling the tough issues.

Marjorie, the French immigrant, tackling the tough issues.

Speaking of fierce, there’s Isis. I did not remember her from the street vagabond shoot last cycle, but this girl is indeed a diva. She’s a spectacular model, and very, very real, as far as looking like a lady is concerned. I was worried about her inclusion on this season once it was announced that there would indeed be a transwoman on the show, but then I remembered that Tyra would never do wrong by a tranny. On her talk show, she did an episode with a Top Model competition for transwomen in all stages of their transition and rewarded the winner with a cash prize and a modeling contract. Tyra is an advocate for the gay community in general, and specifically uses her talk show to address issues that face gays and lesbians, as well as special episodes dedicated to transgendered individuals. Think what you want about Tyra as a human, because she is crazy as batshit sometimes, but Tyra truly loves the LGBT community and wants to foster understanding of them.

I think Isis has been handled exceptionally well thus far. Paulina and Nigel were not told that she was trans, and neither were the other girls in the competition. Most of the girls figured it out, and were cool with it. Paulina and Nigel were surprised, but both agreed that, of all the girls, Isis was the most professional and ready to be a model. There were, of course, some girls who were not okay with Isis. Hannah and Clark were a little put off by Isis, but were not overly mean about it. They took some time to talk privately together in the hot tub about it and admitted that they were confused by Isis’ difference. That’s okay. It’s fine to identify that something is confusing to you; it is entirely another to pick on Isis for the fact that she is different. I’m talking about you, Kacey and Brittany B. (aka ShaRaun). Kacey started picking on Isis before the final 14 were called, but she was inevitably cut, leaving the newly-dubbed ShaRaun to pick up where she left off. ShaRaun continually said things in the confessional about Isis being a man (she’s not), and how America’s Next Top Model can’t have a drag queen. Um, ShaRaun? Drag queens are men who dress up like female characters and perform in shows. Isis doesn’t do that. She lives as a woman. That’s not a drag queen. Rest assured, ShaRaun, an ANTM winner will indeed never be a drag queen. ShaRaun took her hatred a step too far, though, when she heckled the well-composed Isis from behind the voting booth in the “Right to Privacy” photoshoot. Sharaun teased Isis about needed to sweat off her hair (umm, that’s why she takes estrogen, love), and some other completely inane things that made me write down, “I will kill ShaRaun. I will kill her dead. Stop bein’ a hater.” Now, I do not think Isis will win, but I believe that her presence on the show will do a lot to help transmen and transwomen to show how like everyone else they really are. Transwomen want to be included in the community of “real” women. They want to be treated as equals, not discriminated against, and allowing Isis to compete on ANTM — not just on America’s Next Top Transgender Model on The Tyra Show — is a bold step for transpeople everywhere. After all, ANTM is a competition for women, and Isis, even though she is pre-op, is all kinds of woman.

Isis, fiercly defending her privacy.

Isis, fiercly defending her privacy.

Frankly, I think ShaRaun was just jealous that Isis is so much more fierce than she is. Isis rocked that photo shoot. ShaRaun, on the other hand, did not. She was given “Homeland Security” for her shoot, and wore a glittery purple dress between some security gates, with a color-coded terror alert in the background. Correct me if I’m wrong, here, but I’m pretty sure purple is not a terror alert color. Unless it was intended as a terror alert for Isis, because terror alert purple must mean “terror level to trannies is extremely high.”

ShaRaun, failing to reduce the terror threat level.

ShaRaun, failing to reduce the terror threat level.

Aside from those two shots, Marjorie looked amazing as an illegal immigrant, Brittany R. (the only one to keep the name Brittany) was a pin-up girl for our military, Clark didn’t understand that bureaucracy was red tape and failed to deliver a good shot either in front of or behind it, McKey (the mixed martial artist formerly known as Brittany S.) fought for the environment, crazy Alaskan Hannah was ambivalent about nuclear weapons, Elina totally rocked foreign policy, Sheena took a really strange (but good) photograph about the energy crisis, Joslyn proved that she understood what it is to be unemployed, Analeigh took on healthcare semi-successfully, Samantha had an economic crisis, Lauren Brie worried about the state of education and Nikeysha cloned herself with some really awkward leg positions. Tyra, for some reason, took a photo that looked like Puerto Rico wanted to become a state, which I found really confusing. I found this photograph even more confusing when, at the end of the show, after ShaRaun was eliminated for being a hater and a shitty model and Nikeysha skated by on her calfless legs, Tyra flashed a photo of herself painted half red and half blue in front of the American flag. Why didn’t Tyra choose THAT photo to represent the whole shoot? That’s pretty much what it was about: issues that divide our country, not Tyra in rollers by a palm tree looking wistfully at an American flag.

The Husband:

I think with that ridiculously long recap of the episode – two episodes, in fact! – I’ll keep this fairly short. Despite being a straight man who played several sports growing up – over 20 years when added up cumulatively – I came to the realization a couple years ago that ANTM is probably my favorite show on television.

No, I know it’s not the best. Despite having great episodes, it is definitely not the most entertaining. Despite the fact that it features some of the most hysterical characters – in the sense that they’re crazy, not so much that they’re wonderfully quippy or anything – that can be found on the television landscape, it’s not the most emotional. And Lord knows it’s certainly not deep. But unlike almost any other show I have watched, I have not found one episode boring. Yes, it follows a strict formula, and with few exceptions Tyra seems to have a winner chosen from the get-go, but I consider it more than a guilty pleasure. It’s just a pleasure.

This is the one show I cannot defend liking when in discussion with “regular” men. In all actuality, I rarely bring it up. Because it’s my show. It’s unique to us select men who love to watch Bravo and still enjoy the fine touch of a woooooman. It’s my window into the souls of crazy American women, which has now in recent seasons branched off into crazy expatriate women. I was angry originally when the Russian Natasha of Cycle 8 joined the season, leading me to exclaim, “This isn’t ‘America’s Next Top Immigrant!’” But when put up against Skeletor – a.k.a. Jaslene – in the final two in a final Australian challenge about the evolution of man, I was rooting for the loopy girl who makes out with her phone when talking with her Texan husband.

See? For what other show can I even write a sentence with such insane descriptions? Only Fruity Pie. (Last week, I gathered from this brilliant Taiwanese children’s show, basically through pantomime and context since it’s not like I speak the language, that Grandma Fruity Pie had bought a tiny witch two purses for her birthday and was having trouble deciding which to give, so she bribed the Down Syndrome-inflicted banana children with felt yogurt to help her with her choice, and then the giant man-bunny asked the children to demonstrate what it looks like when firecrackers go off.)

But ANTM is one of those few shows I must watch the night it is on (no DVR timeshifting here), so I can read the bitchy blog posts the next day when immediately getting to work. I love a reality show where people actually need talent to succeed – once again, I point to the majority of Bravo’s shows – and even if you knew nothing about modeling, the show demonstrates to the best of Tyra’s ability what it takes to get ahead – or at least to get ahead on her show – and then never be heard from again unless they marry someone from The Brady Bunch or beat the shit out of Nikki Blonsky.

No, I’ve never bought an issue of Elle or Seventeen to see the winning spread – that’s something I cannot bring myself to do – but for 12-14 weeks each television semester, I know that every Wednesday at 8 I will be able to see beautiful women doing the best they can do, then join my wife in talking shit to the television screen about how people need to stop being haters, find the light, smile with their eyes and wow Nigel Barker with their body lines.

On topic: I still think that when Tyra mentioned “Rebecca” to the Harvard grad, she was referring to Daphne Du Maurier’s novel that Hitchcock adapted into his only Best Picture winner, but Stevi and I will have to disagree on that. Fuck, it’s not like it actually matters.

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