America's Next Top Model: like a bad horror film
America’s Next Top Model received some bad press from women’s groups across North America after their March 21 episode “The Girl Who Changes Her Attitude” contained a “crime scene victim” photo shoot. In particular, activist group CFAN (Campus Feminist Action Network), of Regina, Canada, started a letter-writing campaign, as we reported earlier.

This week BuddyTV had a discussion with Amber, Facilitator of CFAN, about the letter-writing campaign.

BuddyTV: Can you tell us a bit about your group?

CFAN: CFAN is a grassroots feminist activist group. Our mandate extends to fighting sexism, racism, homophobia and other types of oppression.

What was your initial reaction to the America’s Next Top Model episode?

At first, many CFAN members thought that it must be an awareness-raising episode. Tyra Banks gives the impression that she is interested in women's empowerment, so we had hoped the episode might contain factual information about violence against women, and perhaps some resources where women experiencing violence can seek help.

Unfortunately, the episode contained no such message. In this episode, America's Next Top Model employed the same cheap tactic as a bad horror film: it appealed to some people's sick fascination with violence and gore. What's worse is that this violence was directed at women: one of the pictures depicted rape, a crime that is inherently gendered.

What are you hoping to accomplish with the campaign? Do you think it's going to have an effect on the show's choices in the future?

My hope is to raise awareness. Often, people simply don't realize the effects of their actions. People (in this case, those responsible for the show) don't realize that their choices can be harmful. Can you imagine how it must feel for a rape survivor, or a survivor of domestic violence, to see such images? They've experienced this violence firsthand. It's even worse that such images are promoted as "art" or as something beautiful. For a survivor, violence is never beautiful.

I certainly hope that the producers of America's Next Top Model will consider such impacts on their audience, or they will drive away many of their female viewers. After all, we live in a society where 1 in every 4 women has been, or will be, raped. Approximately thirty percent of women experience domestic violence - they are strangled, beaten, and cut, just like the models in these photos were supposed to be. These women do not need or deserve to have their experience trivialized in such a way.

My colleague Kris asked of your campaign "Could this be an upshot of the campaigns initiated by women's groups in the United States?" Were you influenced by other groups' protests of the episode?

Actually, I was not aware of the other protests. But I'm happy there were some! If various people in various places - people who are not connected to each other - all see a problem with something like this, then it is truly a problem. This should dispel any arguments that we are "overreacting." If we were, it would be a pretty mass "overreaction," wouldn't it?

How's the response been so far?

So far we have not received any word from the show's producers. However, the response among people in general has been enormous. Everyone who has seen the pictures, feminist or not, is horrified by them.

I would also like to say one last word to those who think we should "get over it" - would you say the same thing to a woman who has experienced rape? If you were a survivor of such violence, how would this episode make you feel? Would you want to see your experience trivialized like this, used just to gain ratings for some TV show?

Thanks for your time, Amber, and good luck with the campaign.

What do you think of the idea? Were you offended by the America’s Next Top Model episode? Comment below to share your opinions.

-Mel, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Photo credit: The CW