I admit one of my guilty indulgences is catching a rerun of America's Next Top Model every so often. I'm truly not triggered by it, it's just the cattiness of it all that I find super funny. I don't know exactly how ANTM works, but I know on other reality shows, there's a lot they do to make sure audiences stay glued to the tube, like making sure contestants have easy access to alcohol, are deprived of sleep, and hear circulating rumors.
Reality shows also like to have a bit of controversy to spark audiences. Well, it looks like in the next cycle of Britain's Next Top Model, airing later this month, there will surely be some debate. Apparently, one of the contestants (Jade) is anorexic. According to the UK's The Sun, Jade has been anorexic since the age of 8. Now, at 21, she is receiving treatment (some through the show) and has gained weight, though still underweight for her height.
This is all good and well, but I think there is an ethical issue. Should someone with anorexia be permitted to be on a show, promoting modeling? Even Jade herself asks this question: "Do I deserve to be here as I’m promoting an unhealthy image? But then I was determined to make myself happy. And it’s helped me put on weight...I never wanted my weight to be an issue. I came into the show with literally zero confidence and I’ve got so much more."
Again, this is superb that the show has helped. However, what I don't understand is why she could not have finished treatment or been in more recovery, then allowed on the show. Perhaps, this show thought it would be helpful for audiences to see what someone who is being treated for anorexia has to go through, but still, there is a cost to the contestant with that. Maybe the show thought this would help deter the size zero debate in modeling in that models did need to gain weight to book some jobs.
Whatever the reasoning, the bottom line is that it is a reality series where having a problem, a good back story, an eccentric/cool personality are part of the casting calls half the time. Case in point with The Real World auditions where "weight issues could be welcomed again this time," according to the producer. In the end, it just becomes about drama and ratings.
What's your opinion? Is this ethical? Does this harm the contestant? Does this make you want to watch the show?
Note--*This reminds me of Jamie Lynn-Sigler when she got the part of Meadow on the show The Sopranos. However, from what I remember reading, I'm pretty sure casting directors were surprised at her gaunt appearance from anorexia as she was not at the point of the audition. She did receive treatment and says she is recovered now.