The show of our choice was ‘America’s Next Top Model’(ANTM). The episode that we chose was from Cycle 12, the third episode of the season entitled ‘New York’s Finest’. Since this episode of AMNT had many groups consisting of 2-3 people, we chose to analyze one. Our team of choice, a group of three, consisting of the following contestants: Natalie, Teyona and Tahlia (referred to as ‘the team’ from here on). The goal of the team was to impersonate specific and recognizable characters within a certain setting and while doing so, deliver a good photo within a limited number of frames during a photo shoot. Our team depicted tourists at Times Square in NYC during their shoot.
The majority of our individual observations were virtually the same. We came to a mutual conclusion that all the contestants felt a bit insecure since the show had just started. Nevertheless, some of our group members felt that the girls were insincere at times. Others, however, contributed this phenomenon to the over-excitement of the contestants. There was a general consensus that a sense of rivalry was present. Moreover, we all felt that some team members were more aware of the concept of the show, while others failed to comprehend what they were actually supposed to do. Similarly, we noticed that some contestants have higher standards than others. Furthermore, we were all on the same page as to what motivates the contestants. They all strive to win the show. Consequently, they all try to do their upmost to avoid being sent home or ending up in the bottom two, as it creates a lot of extra pressure for the contestant. Their mutual interests and common goals make the girls a group. They are all into fashion, fame and modeling. One member of our team disagreed, however, stating that their interests are quite different, given their different circumstances, such as their marital status, children and age.
Each member of our group had a slightly different approach for formulating initial impressions about the team. For instance, one of our group members based his impressions solely on the physical appearance of the contestants, whereas others based their observations on the behavior of team members, their motivation and interpersonal communication, and the following emotions such behaviors triggered. However, we all agreed that at least to some extent, our impressions were subconsciously influenced by what we knew about the show beforehand (this is the 12th season of the show) and the general concept of reality shows: we assumed the contestants enjoy attention and their personalities lack depth.
The show has historically been subject to physical discrimination, often encouraging unhealthy diets and weight loss. Contestants who fail to meet such criteria are never directly frowned upon by the judges, but extensive peer-pressure from competitors can easily be recognized. In the given episode, however, none of our team members noticed any discriminatory conduct, except for one minor discriminatory remark by one of the judges, who addressed the blonde contestants as ‘blondies’.
As for stereotypes, our team found that the show actually breaks stereotypes. This can be illustrated by the fact that not all the contestants on the show look like typical models. For example, the show features many plus-size girls, as well as a girl with burns on her body.
According to our team members, the show does enforce some stereotypes. For instance, girls with similar backgrounds flock together. For example, the Afro-American girls tend to spend their free time amongst each other and the Mid-West girls from Arizona and Texas do the same. What is more, we observed that stereotypes concerning homosexuals are enforced as well. For instance the runway coach on the show, Miss Jay, who is openly homosexual, was depicted as having a flamboyant and feminine personality.
As a group, we noticed three distinctive strengths within the team (effective communication, diversity and similar interests/motivation).
Firstly, during the photo shoot, the girls communicated on many different levels (verbally, physically and emotionally). It was easy for them to follow each others’ poses. Their chemistry and overall ambience within the group was positive.
What is more, their various backgrounds and diversity offered different perspectives on how to get the most out of the photo shoot and succeed. This enhanced the creativity of the group as a whole.
Finally, the contestants share similar interests; the same things motivate team members, making it that much easier to get the group complete any given task. They all strive to win the show and do their best not to be eliminated.
The biggest weakness of the team is that the team is not the first priority of its members. Each contestant is extremely driven and ambitious. Their personal ambitions make them think first about their individual aims and needs. Consequently, the group’s dynamics are off-balance and team goals are of secondary importance. During the photo shoot, the girls were mainly concerned with how they personally look on the picture, not with how the picture looks on the whole. Even though the contestants were judged as a group, only the worst performing individual got eliminated.
1) A co-dependent policy.
2) Short-term incentive policy – teams performing well get extra benefits, such as more frames during the next photo shoot or a free SPA weekend.
3) An intervention by the judges or the host of the show, helping girls better understand their agenda and regain sight of their actual focus.
4) Empowering the worst performing team – the worst performing team has to decide who is going to be eliminated.
5) Empowering the best performing team – the best performing team has a say in who is going to be eliminated.
6) Random elimination for the worst performing team – one member of the worst performing team is randomly selected and eliminated.
7) Remaining bottom two incentives – the contestant who ends up in the bottom two and is eventually not eliminated gets extra frames during the next photo shoot, thus gaining an advantage compared to other contestants and possibly be more motivated and perform better.
The ultimate strategy
The best strategy that our team came up with is a co-dependent policy –a policy that works on two different levels – co-dependent elimination and co-dependent safety. Both of these sub-strategies are hereby discussed:
1) Co-dependent elimination – in case of poor performance, the whole team (2-3 contestants) is eliminated, rather than only the worst-performing team member. This would be highly efficient as the single highest motivating factor for all the contestants is fear of elimination. If such a policy were to be enforced, the girls would put the group’s needs before their individual needs.
2) Co-dependent safety– each member of the team is granted safety during elimination in case of exceptionally good performance. Currently, even though the teams are judged as a whole, only the worst performing individual is eliminated. This makes the contestants think about themselves rather than the team they belong to. However, if the best team is granted safety, the team members might increase their individual contribution towards the team’s goal.
In conclusion, implementing such a policy will help the contestants regain their focus on the group and not their individual needs and goals.