Tyra Stands Up For The Real Victims: Male Models
Stefano and Mikey are gross misogynists, but Tyra wants you to know that they're people too.
Was Top Model, at any point in its history, feminist? I mean, we can all agree that Tyra thinks of her little franchise as one that's been primarily good for women (and racial minorities and queer folk and "big girls" and shorties and, probably, the entire nation of Swahili). We can also agree that this show has a history of pitting women against each other -- besides in the most obvious competition sense -- and set the standard of bitchery being rewarded with additional airtime. But Top Model was also the only prominent reality-competition show to feature an all-female contestant pool that didn't involve fighting over cornhusk bachelors or wrinkled MCs. Go back and watch those early seasons. Hidden amongst the ever-present Tyrafoolery is a show about a diverse group of women, with varying amounts of life experience, working together, living together, and learning how to negotiate the currency of egos.
Whether or not Top Model was a force for good a decade ago, that's all over now. The choice to add male models to the fold two seasons ago -- while probably a smart decision -- obliterated the specific feminine narrative that belonged to this show alone. It's not that a show can't advocate for gender equality with cavemen models stomping around, it's that Top Model wouldn't even know where to begin. What we get when they try is this capital-P Problematic episode.
In our first Final Photo Reveal of the season, Tyra tells the epically-gross Stefano that the reason she added male models to the show (besides as eye candy for the show's primarily-female audience and real candy for Tyra's downstairs mouth) was to give a voice to the male models in the industry who are traditionally treated as accessories. FINALLY! SOMEONE TO SPEAK FOR THE MEN OF THE WORLD! She tells us that male models make 10% of their female counterparts -- which isn't exactly true. For top models, she's right. Sean O'Pry, the highest-paid male model in the world, made $1.5 million in 2013. Compare that to the twenty-one female models Forbes listed as the highest-paid in 2014. Each one clears $3 million. Giselle Bundchen tips the scales even more with an insane haul of $47 million, nearly six times more than her closest competitor.
When it comes to average working male models, they make about 40% of what women make. It's still a big discrepancy, but is there anyone who's actually upset about this? Besides some MRA douche nuggets? I actually don't think Tyra cares about the plight of male models. But she might! It's hard to tell with her. You can't exactly trust the stated motives of a woman who donned a fat suit in order to understand the plight of obese people.
Regardless of her stance, we're now listening to Tyra tell Stefano, one of the more condescending worms in recent reality-show memory, that he should never consider himself an accessory or item. As if the objectification of men is an issue to anyone at all. As if women having too much agency in the fashion industry is a reality or a problem. As if fuck-face Stefano, a twenty-three-year-old who's referred to two models he doesn't like as "young girls" in as many episodes, has ever felt less than confident in his status as a mansplaining alpha ass.
If you can believe it, though, Stefano's not even the biggest dickhead in this episode! But let's save that for this week's power rankings. After everybody whose name we didn't know is eliminated along with absurdly short Maleesa and absurdly self-confidant Bryant (like there are any humble Bryants), the models are paired off in boy/girl pairs for the photoshoot. This week's theme is Shit Tangled Up In Tyra's Desk Drawer. The models are wrapped together in rope, "barbed wire," skinny belts, Christmas lights, and computer cords, among other stupid, stupid things. They are also expected to demonstrate their ability to pose like "good no-neck monsters" by channeling different animals. Tyra is "sick and tired" of Instagrammers supposedly calling other Instagrammers "no-neck monsters" for poor selfie-work. So, yeah, that's Tyra's other cause for the week. She rectifies this grave injustice by holding a workshop to teach the models how to model like giraffes, horses, and owls; not like turtles, iguanas, or gorillas, who, as we all know, have terrible neck posture.
This episode has me seriously bleeding from my wherever, so let's get to the power rankings and put this nonsense to bed.
- Delanie and Nyle
Delanie's giving me pouty Fiona Apple for days, but, unfortunately for her, talent is secondary to outsized personalities in these early stages. Even Nyle's otherworldly eyebrows can't save her. Ultimately, though, Delanie is eliminated for the sin of looking kinda like Lacey without bringing the same aura of a Pretty Little Liars murderess.
- Hadassah and Dustin
Hadassah the pageant queen and Dustin the Iowa Fair butter sculpture are paired off presumably because they're both sex idiots. Dustin, having already mastered that particular male model look that says "these non-explicit novelty public bathroom signs have me confused," outperforms Hadassah, who doesn't know what a profile is. When she tells the panel this, Kelly snaps at her, "Why didn't you ask? You have no excuse." (I really do love Kelly.) Hadassah also chose not to use Tyra's lesson for the photoshoot because she "has other skills" and doesn't "like to use [her] brain for stuff like this."
- Courtney and Mikey
Oh boy. So, last week, Mikey duped Courtney into becoming his cuddle buddy, specifically preying on her naivete and anxiety about being away from home. This week, he's "done with all that." Courtney is quite a skinny woman (speaking of issues this show only sporadically cares about), and the pressure and culture shock of her situation has clearly left her dazed. While preparing for the photoshoot, Courtney breaks down into tears without any explanation. Since Mikey is her partner and current bedmate, he's tasked with talking her down. Attempting to console someone by asking, "Have you eaten?" probably isn't the best idea, but it's nothing compared to what goes down later at the house.
With Courtney very obviously within earshot, Mikey tells his best buddy Devin and his replacement fuck-interest Ashley that Courtney is a "weak person" who "just needs to eat" and "stop distracting" him. With Courtney on the floor and in tears, Mikey decides the best course of action is to bend over her and say to everyone else in the room, "I didn't make her cry like that." When Ava points out that, yeah, he made Courtney cry like that, he tells Ava to shut up. His next approach, obviously, is to take offense to Courtney's tears and publicly shame her. "Who is always holding you and comforting you?" he asks her.
And then, this: "The other night when you didn't have a bed, and nobody wanted you to sleep with them, who said 'come in my bed?' Who said it, Courtney?"
WOW. Fuck off, you dime-store cum rag.
- Stefano and Ava
Ava gets a double-dose of misogyny this week being paired with Stefano. Despite being a far superior model, Ava has to listen to Stefano direct her and brag to the panel about the "leadership" position he bravely took on. God bless Kelly, who hears Stefano say this, looks at the photo, and all but laughs in his face. And God bless Ava, the "really cool Christian," too.
- Ashley and Devin
Despite YET AGAIN putting his fingers in his mouth during The Elevated Shipping Container Catwalk Of Doom, Devin is awarded the top spot thanks to his giraffe neck. Good job at having a neck, Devin. I personally prefer Ashley's half of the pic (and her bitchin' monster claw), but she's on thin ice with me with this whole Mikey crush.
- Mamé and Justin
In far less icky relationship news, hotties Justin and Mamé should be smooshing any episode now. I'm really gonna need Justin to stop calling himself "J-Smooth" and rubbing his cheeks like he's wiping away BBQ sauce, though.
- Bello and Lacey
Bello is proof that most of the queens on RuPaul's Drag Race would excel if put on Top Model. He's still, clearly, a ghost haunting an abandoned psychiatric hospital, but he serves that demon mug ALL DAY. Plus, rather shockingly, Bello is the only person involved in the Mikey/Courtney debacle advocating calm heads and lowered voices. Long live Bello! And based on this photo, I'm hoping Lacey joins his coven right quick.