The Third Annual Serene Wombles

Sorry this is so late. I had, like, three significant life crises happen all at once, and I only had this half finished by 3rd October, which was my blog’s birthday. I really wanted to get this out on the day itself, but that’s life. Let the post begin!

Wow, we survived a whole ‘nother year, and for some reason you lot are still interested in what I have to say about various forms of speculative media and other awesome shit. Weirdos.

For the n00bs: The Serene Wombles are the awards I give once a year, on my blog’s birthday, for the stuff I liked best of all the things I have reviewed. The skinny:

Eligibility for a Serene Womble is conferred by being the subject of a review on In Search of the Happiness Max in the past year. There may have been better or more worthy things that came out this year, but if I didn’t find them relevant to my interests, or if I simply didn’t have the time to review them, they won’t be eligible for a Serene Womble. I make no pretense that these awards are significant or important in any way, but I enjoy having the opportunity to praise and draw attention to things I have loved.

The Serene Wombles are divided into two categories, those that apply to recent releases, and special Time Travelling Wombles for the most awesome things in my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts. The division between the former and the latter may at times seem arbitrary – why should a film that came out in 2009 count as a recent release, whilst a TV Show that ended in 2009 requires a time machine? It’ll always be a judgement call, and the call is mine. At the end of the day, these are not the Oscars, they’re the highlights from a blog, and are therefore subject to my whim.

Due to illness and stress and stuff the pickings have been a little thinner this year than I would like. Nevertheless, there have been some really awesome and creative things out there, and I still want to praise them.

The Serene Womble for Best Film

Poster for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Poster for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Elligible films: Looper, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Star Trek: Into Darkness.

So… guess who hasn’t been to the cinema a lot this year?  There are a whole bunch of films that I wanted to go see this year  – summer of bloody superheroes indeed! – but illness and lack of funds have prevented me. As a consequence, this was basically no contest. Looper made me angry. Star Trek: Into Darkness was tiresome and disappointing. And I enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a very great deal. I said when I watched it at Christmas that it would be the one to beat, and, alas, nothing rose to the challenge.

This was an exceedingly pretty film that I found well-paced and which realised the story very well. I didn’t mind the extra stuff added in, and actually like that Peter Jackson took this once-in-a-generation-or-two opportunity to explore Tolkien’s world more fully. Bags of fun!

The Serene Womble for Best TV Show: Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove PosterEligible TV Shows: Hemlock Grove, Doctor Who, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, America’s Next Top Model, Sleepy Hollow.

For the first year, Game of Thrones is not the winner of this category! I still enjoyed it, and it had some of my favourite moments of the whole series, but the pacing was rocky, and for consistently good value there was some significant competition.

Hemlock Grove was original, genre bending, narratatively interesting, conceptually challenging, and thoroughly addictive. It wasn’t quite like anything I had seen before, in a good way.

Hannibal deserves an honourable mention, but although it was addictive, entertaining, and well-acted, I can’t say it was anything especially new or original, just very well done. House of Cards was well-acted and reasonably well-written, but fairly unoriginal and tiresomely another privileged white man plotting petty revenges that it’s hard to care for when he’s not really received any very great slights. Doctor Who is… Doctor Who. This really isn’t going to be a contender until Moffat leaves. If an episode doesn’t leave me wanting to scream, it’s a good sign. I thought there were a couple of somewhat interesting episodes this year, but that’s all. America’s Next Top Model, much as I am in the business of defending it, is not remotely in the same league. Sleepy Hollow snuck in as a last minute entry. I enjoyed the one episode I’d seen at time of review, but it’s basically entertaining fluff.

So, it’s a hearty congrats to Hemlock Grove. You seriously impressed me and I hope I can spread the love to my readers.

The Serene Womble for Best Novel – Null

There was precisely one entrant in this category: A Dance with Dragons. Given that this is just a couple of chapters from the longer Read Along with Rhube chapter by chapter review that I have been doing for the last year (two years?). It feels a bit cheaty to give it a free pass to a Serene Womble by default of multiple entries and the fact that I just haven’t reviewed any other (current) novels. Plus, it just isn’t that good. Entertaining, interesting enough for the time and attention I have devoted to it? Yeah, I guess. But it’s also deeply problematic and I doubt it would win against any competition it might have had in another year. (It did not win last year, for example.)

Fair? Unfair? It’s my blog, I get to choose.

The Serene Womble for Best Blog – Escher Girls

Escher Girls avatarEligible blogs: Myths Retold, Academic Men Explain Things to Me, Escher Girls

Oh man, this was a really hard one. I want to give the award to all of them and actually changed my mind a couple of times. One of the difficulties is that Myths Retold is a very different kind of blog to the other two, which are in turn very similar to each other in both content and impact. I considered making a separate category for ‘Best Fiction Blog’, so that I could honour Myths Retold as well, but then I couldn’t think of any other fiction blogs and it seemed like that would be getting needlessly specific. Basically, I’m saying that all three of these are very good and worth your attention.

I’ve picked Escher Girls for the win for the scope of its impact. Escher Girls is the creation of Ami Angelwings, an awesome Canadian woman who started the blog to ‘archive and showcase the prevalence of certain ways women are depicted in illustrated pop media’, namely: women are contorted into physically impossible poses for the pleasure of the male gaze. The blog functions as a demonstration that the way women are drawn in comics and other illustrated media is dramatically different to the ways that men are drawn, that we are sexualised to extremes and that this sexualisation is commonplace, and in ways that do not compare to the male power fantasies of ripped muscles in skin-tight costumes which are so often held up to minimise women’s claims of unfair treatment. The volume of examples that Ami has collected (both personally and from submissions) is staggering, and the comfort this provides to women (who have long been told that their experience of alienation by sexualisation in mainstream comics is a mere subjective impression) is extensive and powerful.

Academic Men Explain Things to Me serves a similar function, in providing a platform for women to voice their frustrations with the phenomenon of ‘mansplaining’, in which women frequently find that men explain very basic things to them, often in areas for which the woman is herself an expert and the man a novice. Again, this is an area in which women have often been told that they are imagining being treated in an overly patronising manner, that there are ‘know it alls’ of both genders, and that our subjective experiences are not as valid as men’s (who, of course, are privileged by a default supposition of objectivity that does not exist). By creating a venue to archive these experiences in detail and volume, Academic Men Explain Things to Me has provided a powerful vindication of women’s experiences – one which I genuinely believe is helping men to rethink their behaviour, as well as providing women with a sense of justification long denied.

In the end, I chose Escher Girls for its breadth of impact. I feel that there has been a palpable shift in comic and visual culture over the past year, where the misogyny in mainstream comics has come under increasing scrutiny from more mainstream critiques and fans. I don’t think Escher Girls have been the sole cause of this. Blogs such as DC Women Kicking Ass have also provided a sustained critique and made significant contributions, as have prominent critiques from individual women, such as Kelly Turnbull and Kyrax2. But to concede that a leading light is a part of a movement need not minimise the specific contribution. I think the impact of Escher Girls can be seen in the fact that it was able to spin off other projects, such as The Hawkeye Initiative, which highlights the discrepancies in treatment of men and women in comics by showcasing redrawings of sexualised female images with the male character, Hawkeye, in an identical pose.

Moreover, Ami’s blog is impressively organised in a way that facilitates citation and comparison from multiple angles – the tags page not only collates posts by trope, but also by artist, company, character, series, and Genre/Medium. And the blog integrates a Disqus commenting feature, allowing for debate and discussion of issues in a way that usually isn’t possible on Tumblr style blogs, and which Ami manages with great sensitivity.

It’s hard to compare a project like this with an artistic endeavour, like Myths Retold, which is not aiming at the kind of social change Escher Girls enables. Myths Retold demonstrates an artistry and poetic sophistication that simply doesn’t apply in assessing the other two blogs. All I can say is that whilst I recommend all three blogs to you, I felt that in this year, Escher Girls seemed most significant to me.

The Serene Womble for Best Webseries: Welcome to Night Vale

Night Vale logoEligible webseries: TableTop, Vlog Brothers, Welcome to Night Vale

I admit to using the term ‘webseries’ loosely. I reviewed quite a lot of things this year that don’t fit neatly into large categories, and although I might call TableTop a webseries, Vlog Brothers a vlog, and Night Vale a podcast, having each win a category for which it was the only entrant, I don’t think that’s a good use of my time and attention or yours. In any case, there is no question in my mind that Welcome to Night Vale outshines the other two, and I do not have the qualms I had for the previous category, in that I feel these compare fairly well, for regularly web-distributed entertainment.

TableTop is a nice idea, and if I were really into game mechanics I might find more value in it, but ultimately it fell flat for me. It’s basically just like watching other people play fun games. The games look fun, and maybe you like the people, but you can’t help but feeling that the whole thing would be more enjoyable if you were actually playing, too.

Vlog Brothers is entertaining, amusing, thoughtful, and informative. I recommend it. But it can’t hold a candle to Night Vale.

Welcome to Night Vale is one of the best, most enjoyable, most original shows I have had the pleasure to stumble across in a long time. The idea of using the podcast format as though it were a radio station for a fictional town is not one I had come across before, and it has been put to good purpose. Funny, strange, and more than a little bit dark, Night Vale is like a ray of sunlight that never fails to make me smile or to delight me with its unexpected changes in direction. It’s also surprisingly durable in terms of being something I can listen to over and over and still find new things to enjoy. I’ve had a hard year, especially the last few months, and being able to tune in to Night Vale any time I would otherwise have been alone with my thoughts has been remarkably soothing. It comforts me to know that wonderful, joyful, eccentric people are making such wonderful, joyful, eccentric works of art.

Not to mention that it manages to be progressive in terms of representation of gender, race, and sexuality without ever being po-faced. I can’t not give this an award.

The Serene Womble for Best Music: Stephanie Mabey

Album cover for Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie MabeyEligible musicians: Garfunkel and Oates and Stephanie Mabey

Garfunkel and Oates are witty and entertaining, but occasionally problematic. By contrast, Stephanie Mabey’s music is pure joy. I’ve listened to her album, Wake Up Dreaming, again and again, often on loop, since downloading it, and I’m not sick of it yet. Her music is delightful, witty, and often beautiful – a real must for the geek music lover. I can’t recommend her work enough.

The Serene Womble for Best Webcomic: City of the Dead

City of the Dead, panel oneEligible webcomics: City of the Dead

OK, this one was the only entry in its category – I haven’t been reading as many webcomics this year, focussing, as I have been, on trying out different new media instead. Nevertheless, this comic is dynamic, atmospheric, and fun, making full use of the online medium to present a fast-paced and cohesively presented story. It’s no Romantically Apocalyptic (the winner from last year), but it’s certainly a cut above the average, and worthy of your time.

The Time Traveling Wombles

The Time Travelling Womble for Best Novel: The Count of Monte Cristo

Cover Art: The Count of Monte CristoEligible novels: The Count of Monte Cristo.

A consequence of the sparse nature of this year is that the categories for the Time Traveling Wombles each has only one entry, but as each are stellar examples of exemplary works, this should not count against them.

I had no idea that The Count of Monte Cristo would be either such a rip-roaring adventure, or that it would be so progressive for its time (I ship Eugenie/Louise forever). Some classics are classics because they are fun as well as intelligent, and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Non-Fiction Book: Wild Swans

Wild Swans - cover artEligible non-fiction books: Wild Swans.

In my original article on this I wrote that this is one of the books I would say everyone should read before they die, so it should be no surprise that I honour it here, also. Wild Swans is a biographical and autobiographical work of heart-rending and exquisite expression of three women’s lives across turbulent twentieth century China. The tale is worthwhile and breath-taking in itself, but for people living outside of China – people for whom the ‘Cultural Revolution’ is just a term – this intimate, detailed, and thorough history is an absolutely essential piece of reading that will change your perspective in the world.

Time Traveling Womble for Best Blog – Inexplicable Objects

A cupcake with a festive plane-on-a-stick in it.Eligible blogs: Inexplicable Objects.

Dating from a time before there was any such thing as a ‘blogging platform’ (the first was launched in October 1998), one can’t help but feel that Inexplicable Objects, which updated weekly from April 1998 to June 2001, would have made a phenomenally successful Tumblr. The archive is still active, more than ten years since it stopped updating, and it’s still one of my very favourite things in the world. Chocked full of delightfully strange objects, coloured by the witty commentary of Bill Young, this little website is a welcome piece of harmless absurdity to brighten your day. It may be the only entry in this category, but it is assuredly worthy of the Womble.

And finally:

The People’s Choice Award 2013: Hemlock Grove, Season One

Hemlock Grove PosterBy far and away the thing you most wanted my opinions on that I reviewed this year was Hemlock Grove. Netflix’s original fantasy/horror/weird show, released as an entire season, all at once, in April this year has garnered nearly 2,500 hits, with over a thousand more than its next nearest rival, Looper. This should possibly give pause for thought, as my review of Looper garnered attention more because it was negative and controversial than because the film was well-liked, but I hope that those who came to read my review of Hemlock Grove came away with a more positive image and their interest was more than car crash theatre.

Incidentally, last year’s winner, The Guild, Season Five, still has more hits than any other page on my website (including the home page) at over 14,000. What do these figures mean? Who knows, but something captured a lot of people’s interest, and maybe that’s something that’s worthy of your attention, too.

And that’s about it for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews (or at least found them interesting) and that those who have won Serene Wombles of one kind or another get something positive out of the experience. It’s amazing the volume of wonderful and engaging things out there to culturally consume  in this crazy internet age; I hope I can continue to provide some kind of useful commentary on the tiny section of it in which I partake.

We need to talk about America’s Next Top Model

Promo shoot for America's Next Top ModelThis post is going to seem wildly off topic. I’m sure it will garner easy trolls, as well as people who don’t think they’re trolling but feel I’ve made a Serious Lapse In Taste of which I’ll need to be educated. I mean, what am I doing, with my blog which is casual in style but (tries to be) scholarly in approach, enthusiastic in tone, feminist in philosophy, writing about that awful woman , Tyra Banks, and her tacky show?

Which is kind of why I feel like it’s an important post to be made and it does belong.

Let’s start from the fact that it is overwhelmingly men who have criticised me for liking this show. Whereas numerous women have (in hushed tones, with a shifty look, as though confessing a dirty secret) have either volunteered that they like it, or confessed that they do too when I say I do. They are almost always quick (very quick) to add that what they love is the artistry of the photographs, and sometimes (usually if they are more comfortable with their own femininity) with the beauty and interest of the clothes.

Sadly, the promos (like the above) are almost always hilariously contrary to this professed quality. I mean, Tyra looks pretty powerful and clearly knows how to work a camera, but the skimpiness of the clothes and the cliché of many of the poses adds together to make something that looks faintly ridiculous and a tad exploitative.

I’m not gonna defend the promos too much. I rarely like them. But I would say that it’s worth baring in mind that this is all the models, including the ones that fall out in the first few rounds because they are, basically, crap. It’s also a composite of a group of individual photos. None of these women posed with each other. The were all trying to look their best for themselves as individuals, and none of them were thinking about how they would look in the composite because what they cared about was being judged on that photo, and there’s no way they could have known what the other girls would be doing anyway. As for the theme… themes for large groups of people verge very easily on the cliché, and ANTM has to roll out loads of these over the course of the series. If you try to focus on an individual model you can actually see that some of the outfits are not, in themselves, bad. Indeed, the model in question might be working the shit out of that thing. Compare, for example, the models in the front, or the one in the middle row on the far left with the cheesily posed lack-luster trio immediately above her. One thing this awkward promo format does allow for is that as each model gets eliminated her image disappears from the group, and you often have an interesting sense of perspective as you see that the ones who are left are usually doing more interesting things in their first photo.

As for Tyra… Let’s bloody well talk about Tyra Banks. She gets a lot of flack. She gets called fake and cheesy and bitchy and all sorts of unpleasant unsavoury things. Here’s what Tyra is: she’s a driven career woman who launched herself as a teenage girl into a very competitive field that frequently eats people up alive and actively works to exclude people of colour. She not only stuck it out and made it through levels of discomfort and hand-to-mouth poverty that would send most of us looking for a cushy job at McDonalds, she rose to the very top of her field, and then, before her fame faded and at the point where the natural effects of ageing would have excluded her from that field, she used her fame, her contacts, her skills, and her experience to make the move to TV. And whilst that might seem easy for a famously beautiful woman to do, it’s really not very common. There are probably others, but Tricia Helfer is the only other one I can think of (and she hosted Canada’s Next Top Model, too). Think of the adverts you may have seen other top models doing. If they speak at all it’s often pretty stilted. Acting and modeling and presenting are all different skill sets, and we only show our own ignorance if we suppose that any of them are easy.

What’s more, Tyra talks about her own career as a part of America’s Next Top Model, and whilst, yes, there’s a certain amount of self-aggrandizing in that, it’s no more than Alan Sugar gets away with on The Apprentice. She tells how it was always her plan to move from modelling to presenting. She knew the career of a model has a set lifespan and she planned ahead. There’s a kind of terrifying awe that grows as you watch through the series and realise just how meticulously Tyra has planned her life; how in control of it she is, how she manages her image and achieves her goals. She’s a business woman, and a pretty effective and powerful one, at that. Whatever you think of America’s Next Top Model, you can’t deny that it’s given Tyra everything she wanted: exposure, money, a career that extended beyond modelling, and a certain amount of power and visibility in an industry that likes to keep women in their ‘place’.

Which, of course, is usually the reason men laugh at me for being a feminist who enjoys America’s Next Top Model. ‘How can you watch something that’s in an industry that so exploits women?!’ they say, having never seen an episode.

Firstly: are they expecting that as a feminist I want to abolish modelling altogether? Do they have similar concerns about male models? I’m sure that some people do (possibly with good reason), but I’m pretty sure that these men (the ones I have talked to) don’t. That there are people who wear clothes and display them on catwalks and in photographs does not seem, in itself, to be a problem. In fact, it seems like a good way of both getting a designer exposure and allowing consumers to have an informed idea of what’s available. Honestly, I can’t see any problem with the idea that there should BE models.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing wrong with the industry in its actual form. It clearly is often exploitative of models. It’s frequently objectifying of women. The standards of beauty that have become desired in fashion are remote from reality in a way that’s damaging to consumers and (often) models both. That’s a reason to dislike a lot of how the industry works at the moment. It’s not a reason to say we should denigrate the industry altogether. Ignoring it, refusing to educate yourself about it or engage with its politics is basically tacitly encouraging it to continue on however it wants without you.

J Alexander (aka Miss J)

J Alexander (aka Miss J)

I’m going to hold my hands up right now and say that I absolutely had all these prejudices when I started watching. But I was parrot-sitting in a large house with a large TV and no internet. I like to take breaks whilst studying, and I watched a bunch of things I wouldn’t usually watch just because they were on when I was taking a break. America’s Next Top Model was one. At first it seemed bizarre. The characters flamboyant to the extreme, such as the fabulously larger than life Miss J Alexander, catwalk coach. But when they actually started to talk about their work, or when Miss J strutted his stuff on the catwalk* and explained to the young hopefuls what they were doing wrong… I realised quickly that there was a lot more to this career that I had never taken seriously than I had ever guessed. And I felt stupid for that, because of course there is.

Most people are uncomfortable having their picture taken, and many people who are conventionally attractive don’t know what to do with themselves in front of a camera and take dreadful photos. As for walking a catwalk, I’m pretty sure that most of us, if asked to do so, would produce a highly embarrassing pantomime of the activity. Of course there’s skill involved. Millions of attractive women (and men!) wash out of the fashion industry because however pretty they are they aren’t models. And there’s a clear difference between a catalogue model and a supermodel. We all know it. We mock the catalogue models for their cheesy poses – whatever else we say about the men and women in editorials and on catwalks, we rarely call them cheesy.

And this was underlined when it came to the photos. The people I’ve talked to who quickly rush to say that they watch for the artistry of the photography aren’t lying. Some of them are breathtaking. Here are just a few:

Cycle 15 winner, Ann Ward

Cycle 15 winner, Ann Ward

Kayla Hagler, Cycle 15

Kayla Hagler, Cycle 15

Jenah Doucette, Cycle 9

Jenah Doucette, Cycle 9

Cycle 9 Winner, Saleisha Stowers

Cycle 9 Winner, Saleisha Stowers

There’s real skill involved here, and being able to see the difference between someone who is trying to pose and someone with genuine skill who knows their body, their angles, how light plays on their skin, is aware of their surroundings, understands what will show clothes to best effect and what won’t… it’s really interesting. And you also see what goes into the lighting, the photography, the hair, the make-up. What makes a good walk. How personality, common sense, punctuality, can prove vital for someone who actually wants a career, as the models go to ‘go sees’ and compete to get booked, but also to get back on time (a model who arrives late is disqualified). The contestants are educated about what it’s really like to be a model, and so are we.

Which is not to say that it’s 100% ‘real’. The girls share a fabulous house and are constantly thrown into situations that will provoke discord. it’s a reality TV show and it has those markers. I will also concede that quality has fallen off sharply in recent years. I don’t watch anymore, but I watched a good 16~ cycles before I gave up. Of course the format got stretched and old. Of course it got formulaic. And ultimately I felt that the contestants were being asked to do some things that weren’t OK.

In one particularly fraught episode Tyra demanded that all the women wear special pants (underwear) to enhance their bums. One girl refused on the grounds that it went against her beliefs about body image, and she was treated extremely harshly for it. On the one hand, I understood that Tyra was actually pushing the boundaries of accepted standards for beauty. In particular, a larger behind is often favoured in African-American culture, whilst white American fashion scorns it. But on the other hand, the pressure to accept any and all of a client’s demands, whilst possibly realistic, does reflect and support the ugly side of the business, and the pressure to conform to beauty standards, whatever your personal beliefs.

It was also an uncomfortable moment as the girls were being taught ways to stick their bums out to be more attractive. This seemed in direct conflict with the line that had always been drawn before between ‘model sexy’ and ‘hoochy’. The ‘teaches’ and methods of posing the contestants were being taught that season seemed to be getting increasingly silly. One felt that the show was struggling to remain fresh and interesting, and had begun to reach too far.

However, ANTM’s descent into absurdity is highlighted against a background that frequently sought to be progressive. Having been a woman whose own career ended when she ceased to maintain the stick-figure physique, Tyra (an obviously still beautiful woman) championed plus size modelling. And whilst her rebranding of this to ‘fiercely real’ feels a little forced, I can get behind her thought that ‘plus size’ isn’t really as big as that name suggests, and that the real aim is to encourage greater diversity of body-types in modeling. ANTM also embraced transwomen, gay women, bi women, religious women, atheist women, women on the autistic spectrum, women of colour, educated women, women from poor backgrounds, metropolitan women, country women – all kinds of women. There was a real sense of Tyra consciously pushing the boundaries of what is permitted in fashion and championing the disadvantaged and excluded. Yes, some of it was to have a ‘story’, but there are an awful lot of US TV shows that would not have represented such a spectrum, and would have vilified a lot of the sorts of women described above.

So, yes, it’s now over-branded, formulaic, something of a caricature of itself. But just because it’s concerned with fashion and modelling doesn’t mean it’s frivolous. Just because the fashion industry frequently has a very problematic relationship with women and their bodies doesn’t mean that this show endorses everything you don’t like about it. Just because it’s full of flamboyant personalities doesn’t mean they don’t have serious things to say. And whilst one sometimes senses the machine of Tyra’s image generation working in the background, you cannot deny that she’s effective. Over all I sense a woman of tremendous personal strength, charisma, and confidence, with a sharp mind, using what she knows to build the kind of career she wants and challenge the issues she faced when she was fighting her way up the scale.

And I admire that. And I think a lot of the other women I know who like this show admire it. And I think we like seeing a powerful woman leading a show where there are lots of other women of many different races, backgrounds, sexualities, and beliefs, many of whom are ‘interesting’ to look at rather than conventionally beautiful in the way an actor is expected to be. Whether we want to work in fashion or not we also like to see the artistry and skill that goes into a sort of work that women do for which they are denigrated more than their male counterparts. (Which is not to say that male models face no issues of body-image or prejudice, they do, but the scale of the way women are judged by their appearance and for earning money by their appearance is that much more.)

And I can’t help but wonder if maybe some of the people who mock Tyra Banks as ‘annoying’ or ‘fake’ really just feel discomforted by seeing a confident woman running a show, instructing others, being regarded as an authority. She feels ‘fake’ because we’re not used to seeing a woman take such a stance of certainty – of stating facts and imparting knowledge, of sitting in judgement. There’s a sense of ‘What RIGHT does she have to set herself up as an authority like that?’

So, yeah, the later cycles of America’s Next Top Model in particular have issues, but they represent just a fraction of the output. This show has an awful lot more going for it than many people give it credit for, and I’m sick of apologising for liking it and for being berated as though I have betrayed the sisterhood (although it is rarely my ‘sisters’ who voice such views. So, I wanted to talk about America’s Next Top Model for a bit. And now I have.

*It’s my understanding that Miss J is not transgendered and uses male pronouns primarily, although he is referred to as both ‘he’ and ‘she’ on the show.