Top Model goes green, takes on smoking, but hypocritically

On the second episode of America’s Next Top Model 9 last night, the girls were introduced to their transportation for the season, a limo bus that is powered by “100% BioDiesel,” according to a sign on its side, which also said “Green is the new black.” Yes, as Jay Manuel told the girls, “This cycle, Tyra wanted to pay special attention to the environemnt, so Top Model is going green.” Mila, who would later become first eliminated quasi-model, said, “It really is important to just be aware of what keeps our earth good.” Well said.

To showcase their commitment to the environment, the producers had another vehicle following the green limo bus down the streets of L.A. to get footage of it driving around in all of its green glory. Was that follow vehicle also green, or even necessary? The limo bus drove the girls to their new house, which is also green. Earlier this year, executive producer Ken Mok told Entertainment Weekly, “The house went green not only aesthetically but in terms of the way energy was used and in tips that we gave all of the girls in the house in terms of using water and electricity.”

Those tips were mocked by the girls, who filled the bathtub with water that they wasted by getting in together. One said from within the pile of bodies, “We’re conserving water!” They also walked around drinking bottled water, with empty plastic bottles often visible in the background. How about a Brita filter and some reusable glasses?

The show’s hypocrisy didn’t stop there. At their first photo shoot, Jay told them that “unfortunately, [smoking] is seen as a very glamorous thing to do. … So we decided to take a stand against smoking.” While it’s so very brave of them to take on smoking (please), the explanation was a bit ironic, considering this is coming from the show that two seasons ago did photo shoot where the models glamorized “modeling stereotypes” by doing their best to look both sexy and bulimic, or anorexic, or addicted to drugs. The show insisted those stereotypes were bad, but the models were still praised for looking hot and model-like in the photos, and the same thing happened last night.

First they took photos looking hot with cigarettes, and then, to illustrate the effects of smoking, got into comical make-up for a second photo that was composited into the mirror–make up that looked so ridiculous and unrealistic that one of the girls laughed her way through her shoot because her patchy wig made her look like Bozo the Clown. As Jay explained earlier, “that composite photo is going to make the bold statement of, smoking is really ugly.” Oh yes, so bold. But then at judging, the judges spent most of their time praising the sexy part of the pictures: “Look at your neck, look at your skin,” Tyra told one girl.” “I love your legs, I love the pose,” Twiggy said about another girl’s photo; Nigel told her, “without the reflection, you make this look so good.”

Before she eliminated Mila, Tyra told the girls that smoking was banned as of the next day, as “this is a no smoking cycle. … So if they see their idol puffing and smoking a cigarette, what does that make them think?” But what do young girls think when their favorite reality show demonstrates their commitment to the environment and health by doing the opposite of what they’re preaching?

America’s Next Top Model [Entertainment Weekly]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.