Monday, April 11, 2011


The idea of bullies in America's Next Top Model is no strange thing. After all, in every cycle, in every model house, there is the hard girl, the cruel girl who stands independent of the others. Like Tiffany (Cycle 4), like Jade (Cycle 6), like Angelea (Cycle 14), the models make oblique references to their past to account for why they bully. Cycle 16 is no different in that Alexandria is immediately cast as the bully. From week to week, she comes across as rude, abrasive and controlling. She tries to direct the photoshoots, to which any ANTM viewer is a well-known cardinal sin. The other housemates often bitch about Alexandria, often insinuating that she needs to be on medication for her mental health. It went as far as Monique reading through her diary. Matters came to a head in the most recent episode of ANTM when it became apparent that it was no longer Alexandria who was the bully, but Brittani. Brittani's outburst during a photo-shoot challenge, her hysterical proclamations that "everyone wants you gone" and "you don't deserve to be here" made it clear that the bullied had become the bully.

What do you deserve?

I had such investment in my disdain for Alexandria that I failed to see what was really going on. Brittani, too, felt as if she was entitled to victimise Alexandria as she did. It was only when she was interrogated by Tyra and Nigel Barker at panel that she showed visible signs of remorse and embarrassment. But even through the tears and the panic attack, it was apparent that Brittani did not feel sorry for treating Alexandria as she did. Brittani only felt sorry that she "let (Alexandria) do this to her." It forced a lot of viewers to evaluate and compare the actions of both models and consider whether the bully deserved to be bullied. In spite of my initial dislike for Alexandria, I saw so much cruelty in the behaviour of not only Brittani, but in the whole model house. I saw so much ugliness, so much hypocrisy and I was disappointed to see that other YouTube viewers didn't seem to feel the same way. The majority of the commenters felt as though Brittani's bullying should have been carried out back at the house, far from the eyes and the ears of the clients.

The incident forced me to consider the ongoing battle with the bullies of my past. It all went down more than ten years ago, but I dream about them still. I dream about confronting them and shouting at them. I dream of understanding why they were so cruel and sadistic. I figure that is why it is still so relevant to me, I fail to understand what I could have done to deserve that treatment. At the same time, I am uncertain as to what effect my bitching, my snide comments had on my tormentors. I remember a number of girls who hated me so much that they couldn't even look me in the face. One girl spread a rumour that I had planned to do a "Columbine". Another girl stood with a clipboard outside her party and without looking down, she said I wasn't on the guestlist. I remember that night, but I also remember listening to the other girls talk about her. They speculated why all her hair was falling out. They speculated whether she really had an abortion.

I hated these girls, I really did. It wasn't until Top Model that I'd considered that they might have had a reason to hate me too.


  1. Excellent points, Miss Eleanor.

    There's always more than one side to a story, and I always take these reality shows with a grain of salt - editing can make the most reasonable human seem like an evil conniving bitch. My guess is this is what makes a lot of people tune in.

    I think the bullied often turn into bullies themselves. I think it's human. Not one of our most endearing traits, but I guess it's about power, pecking order, domination, etc. And one can justify it as "I was bullied, so I can bully that person back/or someone else".

    As an aside, your bit about the "doing a Columbine" rumour reminded me of something from high school. During roll call in my grade 11 music class, my teacher post-scripted my name with "yeah, I imagine Wayne's the one most likely to stand up in class and shoot everyone...way too quiet, frowns a lot...actually, no I think he'd probably be more likely to just be poisoning the school water supply". Wacky guy.

  2. It's so nice to hear from you, as always!

    Oh, we must be mindful that these characters are created. I'm sure it's no coincidence that the manner and sensibility of each respective girl conveniently aligns with that of a model stereotype. I'm not as naive to think that this is an accurate portrayal of these people, but viewers identify with ANTM's construction of them.

    Tyra's always maintained that viewers identify with the kind of beauty represented. Bi-racial or plus sized or edgy, we're MEANT to look up to them and see a version of ourselves there. It is a far-fetched analogy, given that it is their beauty which is so ruthlessly dissected in every frame. The irony is that it is their character (or the construction of it) which is under the greatest scrutiny.

    But back to the point at hand, all this bullying stuff seems to be relevant now I have recently become reacquainted with girls from my school. I've been assured that the bullies are now suffering more than the bullied, but I find that hard to believe. I still fail to understand why it went down as it did, but over the past few days, I've been coddled with so many compliments and so many assurances from my former peers I hardly know what to do with myself.

    Can't believe your teacher said that to you. I hope you dobbed him in for that, completely unprofessional :(

  3. I haven't had the pleasure of identifying with any of the models just yet - I always seems to switch over just as they go into the elimination phase. But I have seen enough pouts, frowns, and annoyed hair flicks to know who I like and who I don't. Even viewing in small doses I find myself getting caught up in ANTM's oily charms :)

    I can't say that knowing that people who bullied me are now suffering would make me feel any be honest, the idea of it used to. But I think somewhere along the line I subtly changed my perception of events. It probably helps that I live a good 200km away from where I went to school, so I don't get a lot of reminders. I did recently make contact with someone from my school via FB, and she said "I remember you being quite popular in school". The news certainly too me by surprise, and I now I'm not sure whose perception is more accurate - hers or mine?

    As to why some people end up being the targets of such behaviour, I think I'm in the same boat - I'll never understand what made me a sometimes target...except for my rakish handsomeness, of course. It's probably a similar reason in your case, I'm sure.

    Hope you're having a swell day.