Is 'Missing Model' Reality Show Exploiting the Handicapped?
By Mike Hess Posted Dec 1st 2009 03:33PM
'Missing Top Model,' a BBC series coming to American television, documents a modeling competition between female contestants who have disabilities of varying forms and severity. Some are amputees, some are paralyzed, and some are deaf. The participants must go through challenges like any other modeling reality show, with the endgame being a Marie Claire magazine spread.
How would being deaf adversely affect an attractive male of female from pursuing a career in modeling, and why would they be lumped into a group of contestants with very visual disabilities? It's decisions like this that have some questioning the intentions and decisions behind 'Missing.'
Mary HK Choi, an entertainment writer for the news blog TheAwl.com, thinks that 'Missing Model' "is hideously exploitative and inane. How is this real? It would be a hysterically apt indicator of the end of the world were it entirely fictitious and created for an apocalypse movie wherein humankind is destroyed for being revolting." She goes on to argue the point "that deaf people are lumped in with women with physical deformities for sufficiently 'missing' or 'lacking in something' is ridiculous. Even the rhetoric of the show is gross."
AOL Television editor Kelly Woo agrees, saying that "including deaf contestants seems a bit unfair since their disability isn't apparent on camera."
And judging from some episode pullquotes printed in the New York Times, the 'Missing' contestants aren't fans of the format choice either.
For instance, after one competition, Sophie -- a 23-year-old paralyzed contestant who is in a wheelchair -- vents about how her deaf competitor Kellie wins a challenge despite not having any visual impairments. "The chance to meet a designer who is willing to put a disabled girl in his show is such an opportunity, but I want someone to choose a girl with a really obvious, really visual, really kind of blatant disability," Sophie says after Kellie wins an audition. "So that it makes a change. And choosing someone like Kellie is not really the same - it's the same as just picking a girl that speaks French."
So, while the contestants may willingly be on the show as a way to show their natural beauty no matter what the conditions, the show's decision to equate all disabilities seems to be the show's downfall.
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