Ah, to be young, rich, and ridiculously good-looking. This is the 'plight' that befalls the models in MTV's 8th & Ocean.
Ah, to be young, rich, and ridiculously good-looking. This is the "plight" that befalls the models in MTV's 8th & Ocean, a reality series about beautiful people working to make names for themselves on the runways of Miami Beach and in magazines around the world. Brought to you by the creators of Laguna Beach, 8th follows a group from the prestigious Irene Marie modeling agency as they live together in "model" apartments, frolic in the sand, party like the stars people think they are, and occasionally attend photo shoots.
The show is all about "growing up." Referring to the difficulty that 21-year-old blonde Sabrina is having with her twin sister Kelly's modeling success, Irene Marie posits, "She's definitely got a physiological issue with sibling rivalry." Home schooled in Kansas City, Britt is in Miami for her first season. She admits that she can't dance only because she and her new friends are going to a hot South Beach nightclub. Britt takes Sabrina to a meeting of Model's [sic] for Christ, where the stunning ones discuss where Jesus fits on the runway and other concerns that would never enter the heads of those of us with less ethereal mugs.
The tolerance the models extend towards mortals filters through the show and the DVD extras. In the "Advice from the Experts" extra, Mia, an IM booker, explains that "a lot of guys just walk in and want to be models... I would say personality is important." Okay, whatever. If that's true, then size really doesn't matter. In her casting tape, Brianna explains that there's "nothing to do except go out." Finally, some refreshing honesty. If we're watching this show, we want to see pretty people doing pretty things, not True Life: South Beach.
Thus we learn that growing up beautiful makes life "different," but certainly not harder. 8th teaches that beauty makes one's leash fantastically long. The threats lobbed by the Marie's employees, who function as the model's pseudo parents, are astonishingly idle. In a voiceover during the season's opening scene, another IM booker named Susie explains that the models need to work to live. "No jobs, no apartment," she says sternly. Yet Traci, whose struggles to land jobs become a plot point, never appears in danger of losing her place.
Partying is the major plot point. Even with MTV cameras following them, the children have no trouble partaking in Miami's renowned nightlife. That 19-year-olds get into clubs is nothing new, but it's disturbing that they didn't even think to hide their transgressions. Innocent Britt had probably never seen alcohol until her first day on the set, yet there she is, partying for the world to see. What happens in Miami stays in Miami, except when you have a film crew trailing you 24/7.
The most enthusiastic flouter of the rules, however, is Vinci, IM's most requested model. He blows off casting calls as if not showing up is actually his job. After he misses yet another, Mia demands her apathetic client call every morning at 9:30. Or else. The next morning, when he doesn't call, he's challenging her, and the larger world she represents, asking, "Or else what?"
Of course, the threats are empty. IM doesn't cut Vinci; her minions just complain about him to one another. Even the fashion houses don't seem to care as he continues to book gigs at a pace that's only equaled by his inability to show up for past ones. During his appearance on TRL that appears on the bonus disc, the VJ glorifies his behavior, explaining that it's just "Vinci being Vinci." Why? Because the kid is money and everyone knows it. When he does manage to get out of bed and strut down the runway, he wins an award for the "best model." IM booker Suzie ecstatically calls Mia; Vinci flashes a beatific smile and returns to chasing girls or whatever else his little heart desires.
The only reason IM enforces anything is when beauty is potentially compromised. Early in the season, Sabrina develops an acne problem so bad that the ladies at IM refuse to let her go on casting calls. When she flouts their command and goes anyway, Suzie gets as mad as she does all season. After all, Sabrina is "ruining her chances!" This, in the world of IM, is Def Con 1.
If there's a silver lining in 8th, it has to do with these very pimples. The twins are essentially the same person, except one has a superficial and extremely temporary imperfection. Yet Kelly is a raging bitch, constantly berating her twin because she can't get jobs. After Suzie's call leaves Sabrina in tears, the working one says, coldly, "We are not the same. Get it through your head... literally." Amid all the backstabbing, lying, and cheating in reality TV history, more painful words have never been spoken. By the end of the season, however, the tables have turned. Sabrina's face clears and she's suddenly the new, hot product, while her sis looks in from the outside. Thus, in a world of vicious superficiality, the show gets in a little jab about karma.
Even with this life lesson, one would never confuse 8th with a moral dictum. But that's the point. The brilliance of the show is that somehow, Adrian can say things such as "This is one of the other hottest spots that I personally fell are the hottest sports in South Beach," and it's actually charming. After all, there's never been anything wrong with a little, good, clean, beautiful fun.