Who rebels, flies

Commentary on Germany’s Next Topmodel Anyone who rebels gets fired

For the latest season of GNTM, 'model mom' Heidi Klum has brought in a new judge: designer Michael Michalsky now sits next to her and creative director Thomas Hayo. Photo: dpa

The casting show "Germany’s Next Topmodel" enters its eleventh round. There are new rules, but the principle is still the same: Those who refuse to follow Heidi Klum’s instructions have virtually no chance of making it to the next round.

Stuttgart – Entertaining? Ridiculous? Or even dangerous? The model casting show "Germany’s Next Topmodel" (GNTM) enters its eleventh round. On 4. The first episode of the new season was broadcast in February. Like other shows of this format ("Deutschland sucht den Superstar," Dschungelcamp, "Der Bachelor"), "GNTM" could pass for opium for the people – if the show didn’t convey a more than questionable image of women.

Perhaps the audience is now aware of this, or perhaps they are just tired of the repetition of the same routine over and over again. Be that as it may: viewer numbers are steadily declining. For years. To counteract this, "model mom" Heidi Klum has come up with a few innovations for the current season: Instead of Wolfgang Joop, designer Michael Michalsky now sits next to Klum and creative director Thomas Hayo at the judges’ table.

In addition, the young contestants compete against each other in two teams and spend the night on their journey around the world in uncomfortable hostel rooms instead of in the suites of a luxury villa. After all, the show is supposed to reflect the reality of everyday modeling.

Who refuses, has no chance

The basic principle of "GNTM" has not changed: As the show progresses, a dwindling number of young women vie for the favor of the jurors, or customers, respectively. In principle, the contestants only have to fulfill three tasks in order to obtain them: Look thin, smile and look sexy into the camera – be it on the skyscraper wall 80 meters above the ground or with the palm-sized tarantula on their shoulder. Those who refuse have virtually no chance of making it to the next round.

One could dismiss this as a fun competition – after all, no one is forced to be filmed and photographed in the most abstruse outfits and poses under Klum’s supervision, or to strut around in high heels in front of objects and foodstuffs placed for publicity purposes. In addition, the parents of girls under 18 must give their written consent for their participation. But the message with which the show reaches living rooms – and thus potential future participants – is anything but funny. It’s: girls, turn yourselves into submissive puppets with no opinions of your own. If you speak up, you’re fired.

As if the women’s movement had never existed

Although it has never been a secret. Years ago, the TV presenter Roger Willemsen, who died on Sunday, told the "taz" that when Heidi Klum separates "valuable from unworthy life," "you want to beat six kinds of shit out of her – if only it weren’t so misogynistic.". In 2009, feminist Alice Schwarzer even called Klum "misanthropic": the coldness and arrogance with which the presenter shows off the young girls is "simply disgusting.

What is puzzling, however, is why such messages continue to be accepted and regularly consumed in our society. Thursday nights, prime time. As if the women’s movement had never existed a hundred years ago. And as if around seven percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 18 and three percent of boys in this country did not suffer from an eating disorder.

Of course, "GNTM" cannot be held solely responsible for the growing number of anorexics in Germany. But the format is not without danger. Ultimately, it reduces women to just one thing: their shells.

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