Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Only Just Realized That People Were Kind of Terrified by Supermodels in the 90s

Okay, not like I sit around all day watching Third Eye Blind videos and hoping there is some way to pretend I am doing it for social analysis reasons (LIE! That is exactly how I occupy up to 7 hours that I will never get back, every day of my rapidly-ending youth).

BUT I was just watching this and just realized something I never realized when I was an actual tween/ teen in the 90s, during the big "supermodel" heydey: in addition to worshipping them for their attractive facial moles or whatever, people were at the same time fucking TERRIFIED of supermodels.

As a background note, the only ways I really interfaced with models in the actual 90s were watching "House of Style" and, when I got older, writing stuff like "Real women reject plastic perfection!" on copies of Glamour that I found in the school library. I was, like, 16, and not very good at seeing multiple points of view, so I was pretty sure that "mainstream" was obsessed with how models were perfect, and I had to fight the power, as the minority, and show how models/ the culture of modeling sucked and was negative for women. Yes, my heart was in the right place, but I mostly ended up shifting the blame onto other women who looked modelly or loved modeling culture.

A nuance that was lost on me at the time was this thread of models/ supermodels/ beautiful women/ powerful being viewed in some pop culture (mostly grunge) media of the time as...I don't know, ghouls? Like in the video above. The second I started watching it, suddenly my brain flashed through a billion other 90s music videos and fashion spreads and other things, where these model faces are kind of distorted and grimacey and made to look monstrous. And one of the things I think going on with that was fear of these women, fear of these models.

I think since the 90s contained a moment when supermodels began being perceived as ultra-savvy, powerful, in-control millionaires, there was an urge to take them down a peg. And I think this micro-trend towards shooting models like they're kind of horrifying had just as much to do as taking powerful women down a peg (look, you're not so pretty! You're a monster, in fact!) as it did with taking mainstream culture (you think you're great, but really, you're cheesy and lame!/ You're rich but you still suck) and unrealistic beauty standards down a peg.

I know nowadays everyone (including me, more often than not!) is into remembering the 90s as a feminist nirvana, where President Liz Phair and Co-Vice Presidents Louise Post and Polly Jean Harvey ruled us with tough-but-fair legislations that required everyone to watch "Xena." But really, while there was certainly more embrace of "girl power" and whatnot in the mainstream media than there is right now, the 90s were still twisted and confused with regards to a lot of things concerning women, and a lot of that confusion/ twistedness was just not reflected in media that really lasted, and so we've kind of forgotten about it. or maybe I'm wrong! If you have any recall of the pop culture of the mid to late 90s, watch part of the above video, check out the weird, grimace-y monster models, and let me know if any of this rings any bells for you. I could be wrong!


  1. Also, it looks like they're playing in a giant vagina, am i right?

  2. Hey Gabrielle,
    I am writing a research paper on alcohol abuse promotion in young women based on your article published in Bitch magazine and i was wondering if we could exchange words. My email is