This week's argument: The nation's standard of beauty will be set by Tyra Banks.
Perhaps you think there's a better use for this space than handicapping a televised beauty contest.
But you would be wrong.
Believe me, I didn't want to get hooked by "America's Next Top Model," which airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on UPN. This is the time of year when I try to rest up for "Big Brother," after all. I only watched Tyra Banks' vanity project because I'd heard that three young ladies from Chicago were among the top 10 contenders. And they say Chicago is the world capital of fat. Ha!
My elation was short-lived. Two of the Chicagoans were the first two voted off the series.
I intend to keep watching, though, if only to wallow in the faded glory of celebrity judge Janice Dickinson. Always introduced as "one of the world's first supermodels," as if she popularized prehistoric leopard skins, she is intended to be a Botoxed version of the crotchety Simon Cowell of "American Idol." But bear in mind that this is a woman who had three failed marriages, two children out of wedlock, lovers including Stallone, Willis and Jagger, and decades of abusing every drug imaginable.
And she is SITTING IN JUDGMENT ON OTHERS. Fabulous.
But the show is not just light-headed entertainment. Do you realize what is at stake here? Whatever girl is crowned "America's Next Top Model" will not just be a reality show winner. She will be America's Next Top Model.
Banks and her bitchy brigade are choosing a girl who will be no less than a role model; who will set a new standard for beauty; who will literally shape the next generation of women. Can you imagine the pressure?
With all that in mind--and let's just assume that Banks and Dickinson have put as much thought into it as I have--here's my take on the aspiring models.
Elyse: If this weren't a television show, I'd think that Elyse had the best shot at a modeling contract. You've got to love that she's told the camera, more than once, that if this whole fashion thing doesn't work out, she'll just go to medical school. Also, she hates everyone else. But clothes look amazing on her, which is precisely the problem: She's too thin to win. She's prisoner-of-war thin. She embodies the kind of heroin chic that can't bother with the actual heroin (too many calories). The viewing demographic that eats food would protest.
Giselle: There's already a supermodel named Gisele (Bundchen). Sorry.
Kesse: Looks too much like Banks.
Shannon: Blond hair, blue eyes. The judges would never reinforce the all-American stereotype.
Robin: The token "plus-size" model has almost everything going against her. At 26, she's too old. She's been told she's not proportionately chesty. She's shrilly hyper-religious, and in the middle of a fight, she dumbfounds her roommates by loudly singing gospel tunes. Her worst crime? She's a pageant girl.
Ebony: Not since Michael Jordan have we seen bald this beautiful. She may have a chance. But she's already made it clear that she'll resort to dirty tricks to win, and then there's her sexuality. Will Banks really reward a cutthroat lesbian?
Adrianne: At 20, she's neither too young nor too old. She's been cast as the naif, freely making references to cow-tipping. Her looks are hard to pin down; she photographs like a goddess, but in person, she's downright gawky. I think we have a winner! Get this--in her spare time, she picks up trash and rescues animals.
And the clincher? She's from Joliet.