Sunday, January 16, 2005

To Surly, With Love

Or, A Nostalgic Look Back at the "America's Next Top Model" Finale.

Dearest Ya Ya,

I gratefully acknowledge the way you used both your unrelenting bitchiness and a strangely emotionless performance in the runway challenge to sink your chances of winning this thing. Kudos.

Blockade Boy

The finale begins with the three remaining candidates -- Ya Ya, Amanda, and Eva -- returning from a tough elimination ceremony. No-talent Ann was the bootee-of-the-week, and she capped off her inexplicably hateful treatment of Eva by completely ignoring her after hugging Amanda and Eva. Amanda confides to the camera, "Eva has been treating Ann like poo." The hell--? First of all, it was the exact opposite. And second of all... poo? What are you, six years old? Or Norelle? In an interview, Eva says, "I'm trying to be this better person, but nobody is seeing it. I know Amanda isn't seeing it, but then she is legally blind. And then it's Ya Ya's turn. Ms. Compassion-and-Wisdom blesses the viewing audience with her bitchiest, ugliest quote yet: "If there's something Amanda and I could do to make Eva feel included, we wouldn't do it." They should have filmed this like a Japanese horror flick, 'cause then they could have panned over to a pale, kohl-eyed youngster pointing at Ya Ya and yowling like an alley cat.

The next day's challenge is a photo shoot. "The lip is the hero today!" proclaims Jay Manuel. And Tyra's ass is the love interest! The photos are for a new type of Cover Girl lipstick, and the woman who gets crowned "America's Next Top Model" will get to see her photo in an honest-to-goodness, published advertisement. The contestants have to pose on rocks in a shallow pool, so it's kind of like a Zen garden at George Clooney's house. Amanda mentally prepares herself to "exude [her] appreciation for bunny rabbits and France." Well, bunny rabbits didn't do big business selling weapons to Saddam Hussein and then take a phony moral stance when another nation wanted to get rid of him (admittedly, that other nation was also taking a phony moral stance). Anyway, I think she could've just stuck with the bunny rabbits. Amanda does a good job on the shoot. So does Eva -- while Amanda lurks in the rafters and stares at her. And sees a fuzzy gray blob, I'd guess, but hey -- intimidation is intimidation. Jay says that Eva "let the tough girl wall come down." Is that what they're calling the hymen these days? The "tough girl wall?" Ya Ya tries to act like she's not a spoiled, venom-spitting harridan and it actually kind of works, although her smile is a bit strained. Talking about the photo shoot, Ya Ya mentions her educational background yet again. Jeebus, honey! Nobody cares!

Commercial break. Eva has been voted "Cover Girl of the Week" for the fifth week in a row. I wonder if that's foreshadowing anything. Huh.

That night the three contestants have a "go-see" with Noriko Fukushimo, a major fashion designer. Ms. Fukushimo has Amanda model a wedding dress with a lacy hood that's embroidered with pink flowers. Amanda has rarely looked better. I have no wise-ass comments about this. I'm just really blown away by how gorgeous Amanda looks in that outfit. At the judging panel, all three finalists look very happy and perky. See, Ann? It's only been one night and Eva's already over you. Suck it! Amanda's Cover Girl photo is praised but she gets points off for wearing her glasses to the go-see. Ya Ya is stunned by her own photo. And no, that doesn't mean that somebody clobbered her over the head with it. Unfortunately. Ya Ya squeals, "It doesn't look like me!" One of the judges adds, "You look sweet." And I think that was Ya Ya's point. The judges fall all over themselves praising Eva's photo. Janice thinks Eva has "skin like honey." The judges send the contestants away so they can deliberate, but not before Tyra points out that they're the three shortest women in this season's group. Everybody laughs at that, but honestly, that's just another way the whole "top model" aspect of this contest is a crock. Agencies aren't looking for short, twenty-something gals when they want beginning models. They seem to prefer reedy, pubescent, androgynous giantesses -- with eating disorders.

Ms. Fukushimo, or at least her translator, opines that Amanda's "skin is translucent." It's meant as a compliment but it puts me in mind of "Valeda, the Transparent Talking Lady" at the Kansas Health Museum. Her organs take turns lighting up and then she tells you about them. It's nightmarish. One of the judges (sorry, my notes are a bit spotty) calls Eva "the girl every girl wants to know and be." With sentence construction like that, I'm guessing it was Ms. Fukushimo but I hate to throw stones. Nigel thinks Ya Ya is attractive but he's put off by her arrogance in person. Join the club. (It's huge!) The judges all agree that it's a hard decision. "I'm shaking, you guys!" says Tyra. Janice, thinking she's going through withdrawal, wrestles Tyra to the ground and forces a whole bottle of Seconol down her throat.

With the decision made, the three finalists are called back into the room. First place goes to... Ya Ya. Enjoy it while it lasts, honey. Eva wins second place. Amanda hugs them both, waves at the judges, and bows. Alone (with the camera crew) she breaks down and cries. She sobs that she wanted to win the $100,000 contract so that she could buy her family a house. Aw! Then again, she is way too old to be starting out as a model, not to mention there's the whole "going blind" thing so I don't know what she expected was going to happen, but still... aw! Maybe somebody will let her live in France. With the bunny rabbits. In the composite photo they show at the end of every episode, Amanda vanishes! It's that damned translucent skin, I tell you.

With just the two of them left, Ya Ya and Eva become friendlier. "We let our guards down," says Ya Ya. Eva says, "There's a sweet person underneath" Ya Ya's exterior personality. (And then there's another rampaging bitch underneath that, but I guess you take what you can get.) The pair of them have to go to their last one-on-one counseling sessions with Tyra. Tyra likes that Eva is always trying to improve herself. Eva explains that "There's never a testimony without a test," which is very fortune cookie of her. But what she means is that she's had a difficult life. Since this makes Eva sympathetic, the editors apparently saved any mention of this until the last episode, so as not to ruin the contrived "likeability arc" they'd created for her "character." Ya Ya confesses to Tyra that she didn't think she be called "first or at all." Tyra asks her why she doubted herself. Maybe it's because the only reason Ya Ya lasted this long is that the show needed a villain, and Ya Ya is basically Alexis Carrington, only with the complexion of Edward James Olmos (or me, to be fair about it.)

The final challenge is a fashion show. Eva is confident and points out the fact that she "can walk." Yup, that's definitely a plus. Jay is there, dressed in one of Neo's hand-me-down cassocks. Miss J. is also there and has done "her" hair samurai-style. It turns out that the models have to walk slowly. This panics Eva. I guess she only has one speed. Eva and Ya Ya get dolled up in cheek-to-forehead rouge and ridiculous hair extensions. They're both nervous about the show. Tyra breathlessly exclaims, "I'm nervous, too!" Ha ha ha! Cut the crap. For no good reason at all, Jay seems to be in charge of the fashion show. He gives directions to somebody on a space age headset. I sincerely hope that there's nobody on the other end of his conversation and that the show is, in fact, being run by somebody with a sliver of talent. Ya Ya and Eva step through the curtain aaannnndddd... cut to commercial! Oh, the suspense. It is killing me.

Masked drummers provide the music for the show. The models appear, walking like robots. (What is it with the Japanese and robots?) Backstage, it's pandemonium! Jay yells into the headset, "I need more girls! More girls!" Okay, that setup is way too easy, so let's just move on. Ya Ya is not only walking robotically, she's also banished all emotion from her face. She looks like a dead robot. Eva, meanwhile, looks more like a sexy, determined robot, on its way to a very efficient, highly organized orgy. As Ya Ya passes by, Janice screams, "Faster!" Bless her, I don't think she has the first clue as to where she is. Just like the fashion show in last season's finale, this show is rigged so that the two finalists almost collide with each other. Yawn. Both of the contestants are relieved that the show is finally over. "Eva collapsed into my bosom," says Ya Ya. The producers are kicking themselves that it didn't happen on the catwalk.

From the show, the contestants are told they must go straight to the judging panel. And by "straight," I mean "with a lengthy detour that allows for new hairstyles, makeup, and gowns." Eva and Ya Ya hold hands. Ya Ya silently berates herself for neglecting to wear the springloaded poison ring she keeps for such occasions. Janice has had her hair done, too! It looks like an old-time cathedral radio, covered in mink. Janice critiques Ya Ya's walk by telling her she looked "like a zombie." Tyra thinks Eva's bobbing head was a bit much. Janice compares her to "a little egret." Thinking about all the time I wasted watching this show, I feel a little egret -- I mean, regret. The judges review all of Ya Ya's and Eva's photos. In the tarantula photo, Tyra thinks Ya Ya looks like her. This is when I thought Ya Ya had the title all wrapped up. I remember last season, when Yoanna stayed in the competition week after week, even though the judges berated her for her thick waist. And then she won. Ya Ya was like that this year, with her attitude problem. Thank goodness I was proved wrong.

The judges deliberate and then bring Ya Ya and Eva back in for the final decision. Tyra tells Ya Ya that she "became likeable." She did? When did this happen? Tyra also thinks that Ya Ya is now "a true model from inside out." (I groaned with miserable expectation of Ya Ya's win at this point.) Nevertheless, the actual winner is Eva. Eva cries. Ya Ya tries to look like she's thrilled for Eva but her expression is closer to "Are you ****ing kidding me?" A stagehand splashes a bucket of water on Ya Ya and then she melts into a tiny puddle. All her beautiful wickedness--! Janice gives Eva a hug and then basically climbs on top of her and starts humping her. I wish I were exaggerating. Eva gets the last word: "Look out world, here comes Eva!" And if this were a Japanese horror film, this is the point at which Ann would crawl out of a television set and throttle her.