Why I'm boycotting NZ's Next Top Model

I had real trouble writing this opening paragraph. No matter how many times I came up with a first line, it always seemed as though I was trying to avoid getting to the point - that I'm boycotting New Zealand's Next Top Model from this point on.

Friday's episode, in which the girls headed to Abu Dhabi for challenges and a photo shoot, was a huge disappointment. But it wasn't just that one episode; in fact, I've been struggling with many of Top Model's foibles for weeks now, and the latest episode just saw my own impatience come to a head.

For a start, I thought it was criminally unfair that Aroha was kicked off the show in the manner she was, failing a challenge that she didn't even know was taking place and leaving the group after she had already received her boarding pass for the flight to Abu Dhabi. It was a cruel exit for a contestant who has been one of the brighter stars so far, and a nasty excuse to either get rid of the one plus-size model on the show (a conspiracy theory floating round the NZNTM message boards) or manufacture a shocking, emotionally charged scene for the show.

The image of a sobbing, hyperventilating Aroha talking about her elimination was enough to convince anyone watching that it was a severely traumatic experience for the poor girl.

It also shone a light on the baffling nature of the NZNTM judging method (which I mentioned a few weeks ago): the worst contestant is removed every week, based only on their performance in that week's episode. For example, Aroha was one of the top performers throughout this latest cycle, so to see her kicked off for a relatively minor indiscretion was disgraceful - if the judges had considered her performance in the series so far, there's no way in hell she would have been removed.

The poor judging reared its ugly head again later in the episode, when Hillary - another strong contestant - was removed from the show for a single bad photo shoot. I can't help but think there are too many variables in the judging to base a decision solely on a single week of the show. For example, who picks the single shot that the girls are judged on? Does a single person decide this based on predetermined criteria? Also, since Sara Tetro eventually signs the winner to her own modelling agency, doesn't she have a conflict of interest in the sense that she might want to weed out contestants (say, a plus-size model) who might not do as well for her agency?

It also saddens me to see bullying become such a big part of life in the house and on the show. For example, from what I saw on Friday, it appears that most of the girls are treating Bianca - the clear favourite, in my opinion - as some kind of strange outsider because she is a little younger and quirkier than they are.

Think about the sight of AJ chasing Bianca around the pool because she wants to read a book instead of going for a swim, or the five girls receiving the second Sara Mail then tossing up whether or not to tell Bianca (who was having some alone time), complete with Hillary saying "we've got our top five right here!"

Speaking of AJ, I actually don't think a lot of her as a person: she seems ignorant of the world and the people around her, is particularly unforgiving of differences in personality, and has been one of the ringleaders when it comes to bullying in the house - remember, she also was pretty hard on Tyne, once upon a time.

I believe that bullying should be factored in to the final decision on who goes home each week, yet the NZNTM producers and judges don't seem to mention it at all. By not punishing bullying or reprimanding those at fault, the show inadvertently condones the behaviour that goes on in the house.

Before you say it in the comments: yes, I understand that nastiness is just a part of the show, that it's common on reality game shows of this type. I just think that NZNTM's behaviour seems to be at a lower level than its competitors' - where the bullying on other shows is usually focused around the show itself, the bullying we're seeing on NZNTM seems to be much more personal. I'd like to think that most other shows would have put a stop to the behaviour before now.

At any rate, that's why I'm boycotting the show from now on. The judging portion of the show seems patently unfair, there seems to be a tendency toward manufactured emotional responses from the contestants, and bullying isn't reprimanded. I've had enough, so I'm not watching any more.

What do you think: have you had enough of New Zealand's Next Top Model? Have you stopped, or will you stop, watching the show? Alternatively, do you think I'm being unfair to the show? Tell me what you think.

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