There are a few things you can count on when a gaggle of 18 to 24-year-olds gather to compete for something on camera. Body image will be discussed during someone's confessional. Doors will be slammed because of a dispute over phone time. Trips abroad will lead to hurt feelings over sleeping arrangements. And the word "fake" will get thrown around…a lot.
"Fake" often appears to function as a blanket slur to describe anything negative about anybody. And more than "conceited", "immature", or even "trashy", "fake" is sure to sting. Most contestants will make a show of being offended and flash on whoever said it, or burst into tears at being wrongly accused. No matter how they fight it, they have to do something: On reality TV, "fake" is a dangerous word.
Next to the definitive "I'm not here to make friends", "you're so fake" is a staple statement in any cycle of America's Next Top Model. That's at least partly due the bizarre standards Tyra Banks judges the models by, which include:
- Show the judges who you really are
- Be unique without being weird
- Be confident without being stuck-up
Anybody who's watched at least one full cycle knows personality can make or break a Top Model hopeful, and after 5 years and 11 cycles, some of the contestants have been watching the show almost constantly since they were tweens. That means they're aware of Tyra's emphasis on "realness" and the fact that she watches footage of them in the house. This makes "fake" a dangerous insult, as directing it at a girl in good standing can cause Tyra to question their credibility, and therefore their adherence to her twisted code of behavior, and therefore their viability as a top model.
Paris Hilton's My New BFF brought the "fake" debate to a new level when Paris commissioned her pal, Perez Hilton, to interrogate the contestant and report back on who was the fakest. (Is it time to feel sorry for him yet?) After polling each contestant about the fakeness of their competitors, Perez did a presentation ranking everyone in the house from realest to fakest. Since the contestants chose who'd be on the chopping block, frontrunners were at the greatest risk, including the bubbly Onch Movement.
What's so fake about Onch? Some haters said it was fake for a boy to wear make-up. And even though poor Onch washed it all off at the elimination to prove his realness, Paris cut him. (Sadly, Onch was probably the only contestant who could have raised P. Ho's damaged standing had she dubbed him her BFF. More proof that Paris Hilton is physically incapable of making good decisions.)
It might be safe to assume that the girls' discomfort with a boy wearing make-up was rooted in ignorance. But they were also put off by all his camera time, claiming he was constantly trying to be the center of attention. And with the mini-fame Onch has earned with his accessory line, mentions on The Soup, and Chris Crocker lawsuit, he's proven those girls had good reason to want him gone. Onch is, afterall, really good at being on reality television. He's dramatic, he's likeable, and people watch to see what he'll do next. Is that what makes him "fake"? Like "bitch", is "fake" just a way of taking strong people down a notch?
Maybe fakeness has less to do with dishonesty and more to do with performance. If contestants are threatened by people who play to the camera, calling them "fake" is akin to calling them out on performing. If it becomes obvious to the judges, producers, and viewers that they're performing, their days in the competition are numbered. Personally, the "fake" contestants tend to be my favorite. I don't care if they're dead boring when the cameras are off, when they're on my TV I want them to be funny, combative, adorable, unstable, or all of the above. I also want those "fake" people to win instead of coming in third place every time so that some blank, uncontroversial, "nice" person can take the prize.
In conclusion: Tyra Banks is crazy pants, Onch should have been dubbed Paris Hilton's BFF in the first episode, and people are free to call me fake if it means they think I'm winning something.