Background: America???¬??s Next Top Model (ANTM) is a reality television show in which 13 beautiful young women compete against one another to be crowned ???¬?America???¬??s Next Top Model.???¬?? Each week, one contender is eliminated. The last model left standing (in six-inch heels, of course) wins a lucrative modeling contract.
In episode 5, the girls were joined by aging supermodel Janice Dickinson, a former ANTM judge who was thrown off the show a while back for being too harsh on the contestants. Ms. Dickinson has an intimidating presence. Her super-sized lips and botox-immobilized facial muscles give her a freakish, somewhat aggressive appearance. Reporter Steve Rogerspicks up the story:
That night at dinner, tempers flared when Janice tempted [ANTM contender] Gina to admit who was giving her a hard time in the house. After gentle prodding from Janice, Gina finally pointed the finger at [ANTM contender] Jade ???¬??? something that neither Jade nor Janice herself appreciated. ???¬?No matter what ???¬??? Rule #1, we never rat out our bitches ???¬??? zip it!,???¬?? Janice ... yelled at Gina as she told her to go back to her seat at the table. ???¬?Zip it bitch, zip it, you???¬??re dead in my book,???¬?? she added as Gina tried to respond. Gina broke into tears on the ride home, upset at Janice???¬??s comments.
This episode brings into focus questions essential to the calibration of our own moral compasses:
1. Is the imperative that we not rat out our bitches a categorical imperative, or does the carefully constructed reality of a reality show permit a suspension of the ethical? As Jade herself once pointed out, ANTM stands for America???¬??s Next Top Model not America???¬??s Next Best Girlfriend.
2. Janice???¬???a kind of God figure in the episode under discussion???¬??? is legislator, enforcer, and judge of the moral laws that govern ANTM. But is she herself bound by them? If Jehovah may ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, may Janice tempt Gina to rat out Jade, as she in fact did? Does ANTM succeed in motivating the Kierkegaardian transition from the ethical to the religious?