Episode 27 – Foxy Ladies

 

This episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month we have a special episode as Mike made the trek across the country to visit JS and we decided to do a ‘live-in-studio’ episode (aka recorded on a mic sitting between us on a card table), so there’s a bit more ambient noise than usual, but hopefully the quality should suffice.

Anyway, this month’s show provoked quite a bit of divergence in opinion as Mike more or less enjoyed it for what it was and JS had to bottle up his disdain for a month and has some grievances to get off his chest.  That being said, we eventually get into the usual talk of concept and structure and give our opinions on the rather large cast of characters and their personal travails.  Then we discuss how this show interacts with class and gender, particularly in comparison to the other ‘occupational’ reality show we reviewed, Highway Through Hell.  This discussion then leads us to our article, which analyzes the relationships between masculinity, sex, and work.  We apply the theories of the article to the two different shows and delve into how the occupations they depict differ both in their ‘cultural cache’ and in the narratives that unfold for their different reality television audiences.  Finally, we end with why we believe this show failed to be renewed and how its attempts to straddle two different audiences might have fallen short.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Welcoming you all to a very special live-in-studio episode

1:51 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / Our personal differences on the quality of this show

4:40 / The concept and structure of this show

6:08 / A brief diversion into JS’s favorite scene

6:55 / A low-rent Vanderpump Rules

7:35 / Our previous knowledge of the ‘bikini barista’ phenomenon

8:33 / What’s the appeal of a ‘bikini barista’ joint?

10:10 / A digression into food and their excellent website (no nudity, but prepare for some side-eye if you click on this at work or in front of Grandman)

10:51 / Mike’s experiences with Olympia, WA (Mike mentions Evergreen State College)

11:50 / Going over some of the themes for the various episodes

12:35 / JS makes a pitch for a new sponsor

13:27 / The owners of the chain are listed as executive producers

15:28 / Segueing into the cast of characters

15:43 / Kallai – single mother, veteran, manager, recovered addict

16:56 / Dalilah – other manager, relationship issues, history of DUIs

17:45 / Arielle – pastor’s daughter, single mother, boyfriend in jail

19:33 / Mike’s two cents on the characters mentioned

21:00 / A common thread (?) – questionable judgement

21:34 / Why Mike found Dalilah less sympathetic than the other characters

23:41 / Chrystal – recovering alcoholic, cosplayer, Etsy entrepreneur

25:40 / Arianna – newlywed, aspiring manager, most stable

27:53 / Paul and Yulia – owners (K-1 visas are a reference to our episode on 90 Day Fiance)

29:20 / Their story hits the typical beats of the ‘business owner’ narrative (our Highway Through Hell episode comes recommended as a companion to this discussion)

31:00 / The business expansion subplot

32:15 / Stephanie – operations manager, victim of a hatchet-job (?)

33:38 / Jaslin – the one whose name we couldn’t remember, put someone in a coma at 16

34:52 / Ashley – outlier, educational aspirations

36:42 / JS’s plausible theory on the transition from Ashley to Jaslin as the ancillary barista

37:13 / Mike enjoyed Ashley ditching Dalilah during the ad contest

38:02 / The photoshoot as an example of the disconnect between Ashley and the others (future orientation vs. orientation to the here-and-now)

40:42 / The social ties and the divide between ‘education’ and ‘here-and-now’ struck Mike as an authentic representation of this type of entry-level service-sector workplace

41:20 / Bringing Highway Through Hell back in – how representations of occupational reality TV are affected by gender

44:05 / JS would have liked this more if it did focus on the occupational aspects

45:04 / The issue of class (and financial compensation) in the level of ‘openness’ to having personal issues on television (ex. Ashley)

46:50 / We had a suspicion that the personal issues in both shows were similar, but that gender and audience shaped the narrative in terms of depictions of ‘work-life balance’

49:10 / Coming back and looking at the narrative in the finale in more depth

51:15 / The relationships that seemed more long-lasting and authentic worked much better in the finale’s narrative

53:32 / Transitioning to the article, “Masculinity, Labor, and Sexual Power”, Ann C. McGinley, 2013, Scholarly Commons at UNLV School of Law (Article mentions Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men)

56:51 / Delving more into the topic of post-industrial transition (although Trump is going to bring back all the jobs!)

58:36 / The gendered nature of different occupations; discussing orthopedics and its connection to sport

1:00:44 / The idea of ‘head of household’ and ‘protector’ as last refuge of hegemonic masculinity

1:01:16 / Bringing it back to the show – huge contrast in both gendered aspect and cultural cache of jobs depicted in both Foxy Ladies and Highway Through Hell

1:03:27 / Disentangling the ‘bikini’ aspect from the ‘barista’ aspect in our cultural expectations; discussing the link between sex and work for working-class women (Mike forgot to mention it, but this even goes into ‘professional’ women – think of all the sexualization in pop culture around nurses, secretaries, etc)

1:04:41 / The double-edged nature of sex work (freedom to sell what you have on the market vs. commodification of women’s bodies)

1:06:25 / Returning to the idea of cultural cache of different occupations

1:08:15 / The skills involved in being a (bikini) barista – the ‘taste test’ segment of one episode (JS also briefly mentions his past working at good old Dunkin’ Donuts)

1:11:10 / Why wasn’t this show successful?  Bad luck or bad show?

1:12:28 / Vanderpump Rules as an example of this formula being successful

1:13:46 / Show likely was intended to be televised episodically, but doesn’t seem to have been picked up

1:14:19 / Where JS thought they went wrong – tried to straddle the audience of a ‘male gaze’-oriented show and a more ‘feminine’ show about women’s personal issues

1:16:14 / Mike thought the second-half shift to the personal was what made the show interesting to discuss

1:17:33 / Returning to gender and Highway Through Hell – imagining an attempt to pitch it to a more ‘female’ audience

1:18:04 / Final thoughts and last-minute grievances (our episode on Blind Date)

1:18:38 / Announcing next month’s episode

1:19:49 / Last call for our apathetic listeners to go vote on our listener’s choice poll

1:21:09 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate or review, and subscribe to us

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Episode 24 – The Fashion Hero

 

This episode: The Fashion Hero, Season 1.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next episode: The Four: Battle for Stardom, Season 1, Eps. 1, 5-6.  Watch it on Hulu.

Mike has been talking about it for ages, but the day has finally arrived for our friend, Dave, to come back on and discuss the Amazon-produced reality TV fashion (anti?) competition show, The Fashion Hero (aka America’s Woke Top Model).

After breaking down the unique structure and format of the show and discussing the principal players, such as the host, judges, contestants, etc, we do a deep dive into the relationship between the show’s ideology and structure with a particular focus on both the unique nature of its blend between reality TV competition and a ‘social justice message’ (touching on the good and bad sides of ‘message television’) and how much of the social mediation in the show is shaped by said message.  Throughout it all, we continue to return to the question of whether this is the future paradigm of reality television or a failed experiment that is weighed down by its contradictions (egalitarianism vs. capitalism/competition, utopian harmony vs. conflict-driven entertainment).

Finally, we situate the show within the broader ‘meta-genre’ of reality TV as a form of ‘advertainment’ and the cultural context of changing political and cultural attitudes among millennial women, who constitute the target demographic for the sub-genre of fashion competition reality TV before ending by asking, “Is some level of cattiness and trashiness necessarily always a bad thing?” (Mike says no.)  We hope you enjoy this episode because this is definitely the most unique and interesting show we’ve reviewed for this podcast.

Show Notes and Links

1:12 / Our returning guest host, Dave (Episode 17 on Hell’s Satans is here)

2:01 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / The concept and format of the show – a modeling competition with a twist

3:48 / Examples of the activities performed on the show

6:00 / The activities were microcosms for the overall journey

6:57 / The unique structure of the ‘competition’

8:47 / How the lack of eliminations affected our view of the overall narrative

9:39 / Discussing our impressions of the host, Brooke Hogan, and how the role of the host differed in this show (Mike mentions Kate Moss)

11:48 / Talking about the four judges and their role in the show (Dave mentions Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay as contrasts; Mike mentions Top Chef)

15:24 / The familial atmosphere of the show was striking (Dave mentions The Voice)

16:38 / Segueing to our overall impressions of the contestants as a group

17:27 / A striking focus on the collective as opposed to the individual that separated this from other reality competition shows

18:52 / The diversity of the cast in terms of nationality was notable, especially in comparison to other reality shows

19:52 / Lots of contestants who are outside the mold in terms of body type and age (Mike also brings in a brief compare and contrast to Season 1 of the ur-text of reality TV fashion competitions, America’s Next Top Model)

21:55 / Discussing the finalists – Stacey, Tanashay, Heidi, and Revic – and their narratives of overcoming their insecurities and challenges

26:52 / Is there a difference in how we view male models as opposed to female models? Perhaps our broad lines of male attractiveness are more permissive, but our ideas of the ‘male model’ are narrow? (Mike mentions Calvin Klein underwear models)

28:10 / Discussing the worldview more explicitly – ‘democratization of beauty’

28:56 / Is there a tension between the show’s egalitarian ethos and the relationship of the fashion industry to capitalism, competition, etc?

31:03 / Mike makes a call-back to our first episode and compares the two shows in terms of the relationships they fostered between contestants

33:06 / This show really illustrated the level of control that the production team has in enforcing the ‘reality’ in reality TV

34:10 / Dave thought this show really stood out for having an explicit ideological agenda that is normally not found in reality TV

34:53 / The tension between the show’s positive tone and the goal of entertainment – it often went to sometimes comical lengths in order to build drama

36:18 / Talking about the sincerity of the show through the guests that were brought on

38:14 / Mike calls back to Survivor and observes how this show actually meets many of the conditions of the hypothetical ‘cooperation’ show he mentioned during the episode

39:17 / Introducing the article we read for this episode, “Reality TV as Advertainment” by June Deery, from Popular Communication, 2004

39:52 / The main points of the article – Reality TV as hyper-commercialized documentary, voyeurism, ‘hedonistic’ and ‘spartan’ reality TV, product placement

41:36 / Dave noticed this show rarely peered into people’s private rooms or treated the contestants as commodities – with one exception that we delve into (the discordant DQ moment)

44:35 / Briefly touching on Brooke’s freak-out (and its possible connection to the DQ moment?)

45:05 / How Mike thought this was similar to conventional reality TV – focus on the therapy of the self, advertising for products – but with an activist message (Mike mentions our last episode on Highway Thru Hell)

47:28 / Dave observes that in absence of antagonist characters, the antagonism derives from personal insecurities and societal prejudices that must be overcome

48:09 / Can utopian harmony be entertaining?  Particularly within the context of reality television?

49:52 / This show often changed the rules at the last second and staged weird ‘mock eliminations’ to generate drama

51:14 / Mike thought it funny that all the contestants leaned on reality TV clichés in their confessionals during the final week of nominations despite the competition not appearing all that intense

52:12 / How cooperation was baked into the judging criteria and contestants often acted anti-competitively

53:01 / Transitioning into the demographic appeal of the show – Mike discusses a Pew research poll on political affiliations that came out recently

53:53 / The conflict between the reliance on stereotypes in reality TV and the burgeoning cultural progressivism of the millennial women who are the chief audience for these shows

54:36 / This show fits well into the current cultural zeitgeist – Trump, #MeToo, etc.

55:26 / Is there a conflict between the utopian positivity of this show and the base entertainment value one expects from traditional reality TV?

57:39 / Dave’s chief complaint: the heavy-handed nature of the show’s message

58:43 / Are we more forgiving of the exaggerations and heavy-handedness in relentlessly cutthroat shows like Survivor? (Mike also makes a comparison to Monica the Medium in terms of both shows’ relentless positivity)

1:00:03 / What would our advice be to the producers for improvements going forward?

1:02:01 / How drama and personal conflict could be incorporated into the show without stepping too hard on its ideological message

1:02:56 / Introducing the idea of ‘friendly competition’ between judges a la The Voice

1:04:17 / Despite the flaws, the sincerity and positivity of the show was refreshing, particularly because it differed so much from what we’ve come to expect from other reality TV shows

1:04:48 / Is it still OK to crave the cattiness and trashiness of reality TV? (Mike, for one, was definitely craving it)

1:05:45 / This show did change how Mike viewed the possibilities of fashion

1:07:18 / Announcing the next episode

1:08:06 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe