A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality series gives new meaning to the adage "Beauty is skin deep." It examines the inner workings of a modeling agency, and -- surprise, surprise -- reveals it as a harsh, ultra-critical world. And, beautiful as they may be, its ruthless, competitive inhabitants aren't very appealing. Of particular concern: The show reinforces many of the negative body-image messages that the modeling world is known for (very thin women are referred to as "Pillsbury doughboy" and "fat cow").
What's the story?
In THE AGENCY, viewers meet the men and women who work at Wilhelmina, one of the most successful modeling agencies in the fashion capital of New York City. Through its doors glide stunning Amazons determined to make it in fashion; the agents they meet inside are the gatekeepers who decide who's in or out. Of them all, Becky Southwick is the harshest, an equal-opportunity critic who spews venom even at models who seem beautiful beyond belief. What she values, she says, is \"tall, skinny, and can walk like demons.\"
Is it any good?
While there's something strangely appealing about taking a peek behind the curtain -- what makes for a good walk, how a simple trim transforms one guy's look from good to great -- The Agency unfortunately reinforces stereotypes, both about the modeling industry and about what its "experts" consider to be acceptable standards of beauty. Despite the industry's body mass index controversy, thin is still very much in vogue. The show also unearths double standards: The agents are shown more than once discussing how the male models are too thin, whereas the women almost always can't be thin enough. What is clear after just a few episodes is that there are very specific, even mysterious, conditions to which a model's look must hew.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rarefied-but-brutal world of modeling: How different are its standards from the real world? Which is more valued -- inner or outer beauty? Why? And for that matter, who's deciding how beauty is defined? Why does modeling seem so appealing when it's so competitive and cutting? And how do the modeling world's values trickle down to popular culture?