Model Behaviour

Michelle Jenkin ponders on the possible effects of Model Behaviour

, 16 April 2002

Model behaviour – for those of you who were lucky enough to miss it – was a documentary shown recently on Channel 4. This programme was one of the most disgusting displays of mainstream, appearance related fascism I’ve ever witnessed. For an hour each week the public were subjected to watching thousands of teenage girls having their self esteem shattered in an elimination process. It began as a national competition with locations across the country and finished in London during the capitals fashion week.

One of the most disgusting displays of mainstream, appearance related fascism I’ve ever witnessed

The girls were narrowed down to 20 during the course of 3 weeks, the judges being less than subtle with their opinions on who was “model material”. The word fat was never actually used (That would not be PC, would it now?) but replaced with “dumpy” or “plump”. Throughout the competition as the numbers gradually got smaller the finalists skills were tested (a preferable term would be EXPLOITED) by walking around wearing minimal amounts of material (No, I’m not being a prude this was a ratings ploy aimed at the majority of teenage boys). The 20 became 10 then 5 who moved into a Big Brotheresque house, their modelling exploits caught daily on camera. Their diets were reviewed to “get them in shape” despite the fact they were all extremely slender and size 10 or below. One girl, Patricia, had bad skin and was treated as though she was lucky to even be there by both the judges and her fellow competitors.

The girls were then forced to compete with each other for a cover shoot for Cosmopolitan and one year modelling contract with Premiere. This resulted in a constant obsession with presentation, bitching behind each other’s backs, criticising each other’s hair/skin/weight etc. The final degradation came when the 10 finalists were reunited with one another to recreate a famous photo of supermodels naked to advertise the show. 10 naked females – essential to the competition or a publicity stunt?

What exactly did this program achieve? Was this good entertainment?

What exactly did this program achieve? Was this good entertainment? Did it enrich the lives of the public? Did it provoke thought? NO – The result of this so-called form of entertainment was a thousand more eating disorders successfully developed or furthered. Another model launched to emphasise the “perfect” female physique. A nation of girls and women questioning their body image. Strong visuals of how our figures are supposed to look, reinforcing stereotypes. Model behaviour? I don’t think so.

Michelle is the creator of the zine PaperDollCuts.

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