Wednesday, August 6, 2008

the tyra banks post.

I'm a tv addict and there is no way around it. In addition to the 5 or so shows I watch religiously (Weeds, The L Word, Jon Stewart, Colbert, The Office) I engorge myself on long marathons of the Simpsons, King of the Hill, Seinfeld, and Arrested Development. I consider these shows to be the cream of the crop, which normally makes me something of a functioning addict in society. The problem arises when these shows aren't on and I'm jonesin' for a tv fix. At this point I will watch nearly anything, and this is how I came upon the Tyra Banks show.
Now, it's not that Tyra Banks isn't qualified to host her own talk show, because all it really requires of a person is that they are already famous. Talk show host "greatness" comes later, obviously. And it's not that her show functions much like most women's magazines do, with show titles like "What men really want you to wear" and "Just how hot are you?", because fine, there's a place for that.
What sets Tyra apart from all the others is her willingness to address women's sexuality. Good for her, right? Not quite. It would be a good thing if she knew what the hell she was talking about, but she doesn't.
I don't know if it started with those girls gone wild videos or that infamous Britney -Madonna kiss.....but when it comes to bisexuality, it seems to be everywhere these days!
Riiiiiiight, Tyra, because bisexual women are magical creatures that spontaneously appear only when cameras are around.
For this episode, she had Tila Tequila on as a guest. You know Tila; the tiny, obnoxious myspace mogul-cum-reality starlet? As you may or may not know, she speaks for all bisexual women everywhere. She's an expert, because she can tell you that women kiss differently than men. And way to go for framing bisexuality as a fad or a phase, because all the bisexuals I know totally dig that.
Then there was the infamous Violet Blue fiasco.
Now, if anyone knows anything about women and porn, it's Violet Blue. As a former sex educator for Good Vibrations, sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and blogger for Fleshbot and her own Tiny Nibbles, Mizz Blue constantly has her finger on the pulse of the adult industry, and Tyra's staff couldn't have chosen a more eloquent or knowledgeable person as a guest for her show on pornography. If you saw the interview , though, it was incredibly disappointing. Appearing within the last 10 minutes of the program, Violet Blue appeared from the audience and was interviewed quickly and sloppily. But that's not even half of the story, for you see, Violet had been told that she was going to be the porn "expert" for the show when in fact she was to appear after longer and more in-depth discussions with performer Nina Hartley and filmmaker Candida Royalle, famous for her brand of romantic porn marketed towards women. The entire show for this day did nothing but re-affirm old ideas about pornography, ideas which would have been refuted if Violet Blue had been allowed to speak at any length. Violet was also treated horrendously backstage and it became pretty clear that Tyra herself was not interested in hearing that women's taste in porn is as varied as men's, as she was caught up in this idea of women responding more to romance than to sex.
(As a side note, why is everyone so mean to Violet Blue?)
Tyra continued her sketchy stance on pornography in another episode, in which she talked to teenage sex workers, specifically, a 14 year-old prostitute and porn performer Sasha Grey, who was 18 years old at the time. I didn't get to see the entire interview with the first young woman, but I could discern that the tone was of deep shame and judgment. This tone was carried over into her interview with Sasha Grey. The first thing that got under my skin about this segment was Tyra's constant reiterating that Sasha looked like a child. Sasha vlogged about her experience on the show as well, and reported that her "look" for the show was deliberate on the part of the wardrobe department. After showing up at the studio wearing her own clothes, she was told she looked to mature to be 18 years old and was promptly thrown in a pink t-shirt, making her look not unlike the little girl Tyra persistently insisted she was. The interview was edited to make it look like Tyra was just talking at Sasha. Tyra asked her questions and looked shocked and offended by her answers.
Do you do anal? (I found this one funny. Christ. Anal is not the most explicit thing people do in porn)
Were you abused as a child?
Are you mentally ill??
Do you have AIDS?
Has your family disowned you?
Why are you really in the adult entertainment industry?
Tyra ended the segment having decided for herself that Sasha needed to do some "soul searching", but it's pretty obvious that Miss Grey isn't the one who needs to expand her mind.
Now I come back to the idea of a person being qualified to be a talk show host. Her being a supermodel is not the reason she is bad at what she does. She is bad at what she does because she is close-minded, judgmental, and treats any guests that may have beliefs at odds with hers (like sex-positive feminists Blue and Grey) like shit.
You wanna be the next Oprah? Then shape up.

(and calm the fuck down....)


Samantha Manchester said...

Wow--this post is an awesome, well-voiced installation to the Rigid blog archives.

You know, I don't think people question Tyra Banks *enough* only because she either has that beauty queen smile plastered on or, (when something SAD comes up) she does her pouty face...and everyone thinks, "Wow that Tyra is sooo nice!" without actually -listening- to how she exploits people.

Her image is half-baked, for sure. She's catering to the beliefs of middle America while still trying to be 'hip' for the younger crowd, all the while losing the great impact she could have as a talk-show host(ess).

And that Vaseline clip is repulsive and embarrassing.

Thanks for the thought-provoking opinion, Laura. I look forward to more.

Phylicia Sampson said...


Tyra Banks comes off as really snobby and self-righteous when it comes to sexuality and women. You can't help but wonder who's really responsible--Tyra Banks or her producers?

It kinda creeps me out how daytime tv exploits sexuality and young women. I mean gross. An 18-year old chick being told to wear pink to accomodate her age? Miley Cyrus (or Hannah Montana as i was recently told) and condoms?

It's so weird.

The Lesbian Mafia said...

stumbled across your blog on google.
lmao at that tyra video!
fantastic post.