Docile and Disciplined: What it Takes to Become America’s Next Top Model

2017-05-23T00:12:46Z (GMT) by Justene Musin
Reality TV show America’s Next Top Model was created by former super-model Tyra Banks and first aired on UPN in 2003. The show moved to the CW network at the start of the seventh cycle and remains one of its highest rated shows. Twenty cycles later, the show has become a global franchise, playing in over 170 countries.1 Each cycle shadows a dozen or so aspiring models as they tackle various high-stakes modelling challenges and photo-shoots. Every week contestants face a dramatic judging ceremony, presided over by Tyra Banks, upon which one or more contestants are eliminated. This article will explore America’s Next Top Model through the lens of Foucault. Discourses of discipline and transformative labour will provide a framework for analysis, with attention to how authoritative power dynamics impact on contestants’ personal narratives on the show. The notion of self as commodity will be explored in terms of labour and the series of challenges that contestants must undergo to “prove” they have what it takes to win and become a professional model. A thorough case study of episode 7 from cycle 12 will examine the specific ways in which mentors and judges attempt to “discipline” contestant Thalia, which she persistently resists. The limitations of Foucault’s thesis will be examined in terms of feminist critique as well as post-feminist readings of Reality TV (RTV).