Friday, August 26, 2011

Korea's Next Top Model

I mentioned in passing previously that I have been watching "Korea's Next Top Model" lately, and after my last (very long) post, I decided that I would lighten up and write about this TV show. (Warning: this is going to be a rather harsh review of "Korea's Next Top Model" ... I tend to be hard on these types of 'reality' shows.)

This show is much like "America's Next Top Model," a reality show competition that pits a group of thin, generally high-strung girls against one another in order to win a contract, a spot with a modeling agency, and other random prizes.

The main differences between ANTM and KNTM are the hostess and the culture. To compare the hostesses:

ANTM is, of course, the brainchild of one Miss Tyra Banks. I've always thought that Tyra was striking, with those big eyes and all those teeth. She was a great Victoria's Secret model because she had the body and the sass.

As a reality show MC, I don't know. The first few seasons of ANTM, she was a little bit awkward, obviously not that comfortable. She found her footing as the seasons wore on (and on and on and ON), but she also became sort of the bridezilla version of an MC. She did strange things (remember that season during which she only wore jumpsuits?), she came up with weird concepts, and she stomped around the show like she was the star. I thought a reality show was about the contestants, the hostess is supposed to facilitate (for the record, I really liked Heidi as the hostess of "Project Runway," which I am currently NOT watching because I still have a thorn in my side about the awfulness of Gretchen's win).

In the end, between Tyra's growing oddness and my growing disinterest, I stopped watching ANTM. It's been a few years since I've watched (or maybe just a couple years, who can tell with this show, there's a new cycle seemingly every couple months), so maybe things have gotten better lately (doubtful).
Then I came to Korea and watched "Korea's Top Model," with Jang Yoon-Ju (장윤주) as its MC.

Bizarrely, I recognized her from a Korean TV show broadcast that I had watched in LA not too long before my departure for Korea. She was on a talk show (I think it was 놀러와) with a bunch of Korean indie groups. She sang a song with one of the musicians, and she was quite good- a great voice for soft indie music. I remember being impressed with how genial she was, and how great she was with people. She was actually really funny, and put all the awe-struck men at ease.

Then I came to Korea and realized that dude, she's a model. She hosts the show with much more of a quiet command than Tyra. When Yoon-Ju interacts with the models, she is helpful but never aggressive. She seems like a girl that I would want to be friends with, like a girl that would be super fun if you met in a bar one night.

I obviously prefer Yoon-Ju. I just don't like Tyra's hosting style. Honestly, I'd rather see pictures of Tyra than watch her on my TV.

The cultural differences are huge, of course, and lend for completely different types of model-filled houses.

I think these are the models that are left (the ones that blended into the background have all been eliminated- thank goodness, because I was confused for a few weeks, who's that girl? has she always been there?):
Park Seul-Ki  (박슬기). She seems to be one of the more mature girls. I like her, and actually want her to do well.
Song Hae-Na (송해나). She seriously irritated me during the makeover show, because they chopped her hair off and dyed it blond and she was leaking tears like a faulty faucet. She's a little petty sometimes, but I like her- she tends to be bubbly and seems sweet (and sometimes a little dumb).
Lee Jenny (이제니). She's foreign, though I never pay enough attention to the show to hear where she's from. Maybe the States? She speaks English, I'm pretty sure. Her Korean's not great, but it's passable. I question whether or not she's from the States because her Korean accent is not very American. I think I like her, but she's hard to read, since she doesn't talk much, owing to her language barrier.
Lee Sun-Young (이선영). What's the Korean word for "ditz"? Because it's this girl right here. I think she's adorable, but then she opens her mouth and it all goes down the drain. Her photos are either fantastic or awful.
Lee Song-Yi (이송이). She's got that awkward, shy, model-y thing going on, but sometimes, her photos are actually just awkward, instead of awkward-chic. She doesn't talk much and is very quiet, so I have no strong opinions about her. I have a very strong aversion to the horrifying haircut that they gave her, though.
Um Yoo-Jung (엄유정). WHINER. She complains about everything, gets depressed at the drop of a hat, and is generally just a dark cloud over the entire show. She makes me sad, and while she's striking, I don't think she's very photogenic.
Jin Jung-Sun (진정선). Ugh. I can't even begin to describe how annoying this kid is. I believe she's the youngest (17); she certainly acts like it. She's always overly confident, obnoxious, and says the most grating things. DISLIKE. I do concede that she takes some amazing photos- her pictures look much better than her snippets of "reality," that's for sure.

So I think those are the girls. As much as I dislike Jung-Sun, I have a feeling that she'll be going far, as she generally has good photographs and can actually walk on the runway (unlike some of the other poor girls who clomp up and down like they're in cement shoes).

A few differences between ANTM and KNTM:

- Cat-fights:
On ANTM, the girls are thrown into a house together ... and then they fight. There's always some sort of screaming fit, someone throws something, someone pours someone else's Red Bull down the drain, and someone always cries. On KNTM, not so much. Koreans have much more of a pack mentality than Americans, I think, and when someone tries to "lead" the other girls (generally the oldest, as Korea ranks people by age much more than America), the other usually follow along. Complaints aren't as frequent on KNTM- at least, not until some of the girls become good friends and whine to each other.

- Confessionals:
I admit, I kind of love the confessionals, where the girls are filmed talking to the camera about the other girls. I still remember Elyse talking smack about every single girl on the show, and how hilarious I found her (she's one of my favorite ANTM contestants). Korean girls? They talk about how good the other girls are, and how they're worried. After a few weeks, when cliques formed and discontent started coming to the surface, they would say things like "I don't know, is she going to be my rival?" or "I really want to beat all the other girls"- nothing nearly as mean-spirited (and therefore entertaining) as the ANTM girls. The one exception is, of course, hateful Jung-Sun, who says things like "I doubt she has that many friends," and "I can't believe she would come on this show when she can't even walk." Mean-spirited, sharp-tongued, and vindictive, that one.

(Side note- Korea's got a singing competition show called "I Am A Singer (나는 가수다)" which pits all kinds of singers (old, young, professional, amateur, men, women) against each other. These singers, when watching the others perform, only have nice things to say about each other. They never say mean things or belittle each other. It was so bizarre the first time I watched the show, because wow. That is not American at all.)

- Housekeeping:
The ANTM house, at the beginning of the cycle, is usually an unbelievable mess. Totally gross, with trash all over the place, disgusting bathrooms and kitchens, and unmade beds. The KNTM house is pretty dang clean. The "buckle down and clean" mentality is very strong here in Korea, and it shows. There's a little drama about who's going to do what, but not nearly as much as on ANTM. The house is in pretty good order, from what the cameras show, and it's a smaller house than the one that the American girls usually get.

- Relationships with the creative director and photographers:
The ANTM girls listen to Mr. and Miss J, though sometimes grudgingly. And in America, talking back to them or to the photographers isn't as rude and disrespectful as it is in Korea. Because of the casual and formal speech differences in Korea, I think the distinctions are clearer. Talking back to the (totally gay and fabulous) creative director or the photographers is considered to be absolutely disrespectful and something that just is. not. done. There are good and bad elements to this, of course- the good being, the photoshoots tend to have less drama. The bad being, there's less drama.

On the whole, I really prefer KNTM. ANTM just seemed so angsty and overly theatrical, like they were purposefully going out and trying to find insane girls to pump up the (already overmuch) drama. KNTM seems more real, and the girls seem more normal. I mean, do you actually know anyone that's like the craziest ANTM girls?

I miss American TV, of course (they have the weirdest selection of American TV shows here, which is so confusing- I mean, the new "Night Rider"? Really?) but Korean TV is doing nicely to fill the void and give me a source of white noise.

It's Saturday and I'm at work! Shouldn't be here long- I really do want to try to make it to Namdaemun today.


william,  August 27, 2011 at 8:33 PM  

the fall cycle of antm will be the all-stars cycle. it's going to be a hot mess. i am so there.

the new season of project runway is a-okay. all the people seem talented. give it a try (also, though i agree that mondo should've won, i do understand why the judges chose gretchen over him).

i've watched snippets of kntm. the thing that i find most odd is, like you mentioned, the way the girls behave in the house. the oldest girl usually has most say in who does what, and the younger ones just follow. that is so korean. and the lack of stupid (read: producer-made) drama is refreshing.

that 17 year old girl needs to die.

jeanny August 28, 2011 at 6:31 PM  

I am only in for the all-stars cycle if Elyse is back- if she is, I am SO there.

They've been re-running the Mondo season of Project Runway all the effing time, and I can't help but watch sections. I forgot how much I loved some of Mondo's challenges. I somewhat understand why Gretchen won, but I am still emotionally against her, no matter what.

KNTM is actually getting quite good now. And yes, that 17-year-old is just so awful. Ugh. She'll be in the top three, though, I think.

Rachel,  September 18, 2011 at 4:38 PM  

Never saw this, but did see the "reality" show Yes Chef which was a cooking competition. After watching a few cooking series like Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, etc. I was so shocked at how nice the contestants were to each other. One woman practically fainted because she felt she deserved to go home over her teammate. I have to admit it was a little weird and I felt like sometimes the kind words weren't genuine, but we'll never know.

jeanny September 18, 2011 at 8:35 PM  

Hi Rachel- I agree with you, there is a lot of false humility on the reality shows here. Rather silly, I think. I mean, yes, "Hell's Kitchen" is overmuch, but there should be a balance between totally crazy and totally timid.

I saw about five minutes of "Yes, Chef," and I have to say, I was impressed by the chef. He was strict but not mean (ahem, Gordon Ramsay). Of course, I only watched a few minutes, so I couldn't say for sure. :)