Recently, I was informed of a photo shoot that the contestants of America's Next Top Model (ANTM) participated in. The theme of the shoot seemed to sexualize violence and have a distinct necrophilic-pornographic take.
The shoot featured young women in evening gowns and lingerie sprawled out dead across beds, out of bathtubs, and in alleyways. What was most disturbing about these photos (which can be found online on the ANTM Web site under "Model Portfolios") is that these women were not just made to look dead, but more specifically, made to look murdered. There are subtle implications in the photos that suggest violent abuse occurred. Specifically, one woman was made to look as though she was dragged out with the trash and another thrown down a flight of stairs.
I am worried about the subtle but significant suggestion of sexual violence against women that can be found in these photos. In one photo, a woman appeared to have been strangled to death and was lying on a bed wearing lingerie. It is not too hard to imagine that a rape may have taken place just moments before that particular scene.
Portraying violence against women disguised as a form of art makes it seem as though it occurs on a nonchalant, regular basis. It also perpetuates the idea that it is somehow acceptable if it is suggested through the venue of reality television that so many of us engage in.
I know at least one person agrees with me. "ANTM is awful. ANTM uses those pictures to glamorize and perpetuate that violence against women is nothing to be shocked at, just another day in the modeling world." (Taken from http://letters.salon.com).
Before visiting a blog called "Corpes in couture gowns," I was reluctant to consider any other points of views in this argument. Many people who commented on this site suggested that if anyone watching this show really believes it is portraying real life, then he or she is already disillusioned beyond the point of repair.
One particular person argues that instead of complaining about what this reality show demonstrates, viewers should just stop watching it. I find this to be faulty reasoning, however, and equate it to such arguments that only encourage apathy and inaction. I do not watch America's Next Top Model but I am still affected by its subject matter. One person argues, "somebody did an arty fashion show. What is the world coming to?" (also on http://letters.salon.com).
Perhaps the fact that many people are able to shrug this off as a part of pop culture somehow reflects the attitude that women need to toughen up and quit complaining about problems they create for themselves by making a bigger deal out of the issues than necessary. I know not everyone who looks at these photos will feel my same feminist outrage, but it's hard not to at least be disturbed and disheartened.
Since when is violence, not just violence against women, sexy? It's not okay to glamorize or sexualize violence in any way and ANTM has proved to its audience that, along with encouraging unrealistic beauty standards, it is also offensive and disrespectful.