When the everyday teenage girl turns in the tv, looking for her reality television show fix, she may end up turning to Australia’s Next Top Model, a competition run as a reality television show, in which a panel of judges “search” for the next big model in Australia who has it all. Each year countless numbers of young girls aged 16 and up line up for hours in a Westfield near them to audition to be on the show, only to be told that “I think your hair is a bit shopping mall.” (Australia’s Next Top Model Cycle 5. 2009.DVD) Eventually 12 contestants are chosen and the competition is broadcast over 12 weeks of thrilling and over-dramatised television. And how, do you ask, are people actually sucked into watching this kind of crap entertainment?
Well, first of all the show appeals to the mainly female demographic ranging from teenage girls to middle-aged women. They love over-dramatisation within each episode, they offer the viewer to live vicariously through each contestant on their journey to fame and fortune; there’s no denying that modern day women love a good old rags to riches story. They feel the pain of the contestants as they are forced to have their haircut or dyed or when the contestants get in trouble for putting on weight when they’re supposed to be eating healthily and exercising OH MY GOD SHE PUT ON 2 KILOS, HER PHOTO-SHOOT WILL BE RUINED THIS WEEK NOOOOOOOOO!
And who could forgot Sarah Murdoch’s finest moment in television?
The editing techniques used to create these over-dramatic episodes each week allow the audience to empathise with the contestants who face the very apathetic judges. They pull the heartstrings of their viewers, often resulting in them reflecting on their own personal issues or inspiring them to achieve their goals. According to Lewis Turgoose, drama “makes the audience relate and sympathise with the characters. This is done through a mixture of cleverly written script, a heightened level of tension and good use of editing.” (Turgoose, Lewis. “Drama Genre”. 2010) Seems simple enough, right? Yet in the modern mediated public sphere, reality television shows such as ANTM also contribute to the continual debate on the “ideal” body for women and healthy versus skinny. This leaves their viewers with a lot to think about after the show. And I must admit, as an avid watcher of ANTM and The Biggest Loser, these dramatic effects used really do turn me into an over-empathetic blubbering mess who either feels inspired to lose 10 kilos or put 10 back on.