HOW SUPERMODELS ARE LIKE TOXIC ASSETS
July 16, 2010 9:42 AM   Subscribe

There is very little intrinsic value in Coco Rocha's physique that would set her apart from any number of other similarly-built teens. 'When dealing with symbolic goods like “beauty” and “fashionability,” we would be hard pressed to identify objective measures of worth inherent in the good itself.' 'The social world of fashion markets reveals how market actors think collectively to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. And this social side of markets, it turns out, is key to understanding how investors could trade securities backed with “toxic” subprime mortgage assets leading us into the 2009 financial crisis.' 'In 2002, a tall and skinny 14-year old girl competed in a dance contest in Vancouver, Canada. There she encountered a modeling agent, who asked her to consider going out for modeling jobs. Today, the 22-year-old Coco Rocha is celebrated as a “supermodel”'.

'Coco is what economists would call a winner in a “winner-take all market,” prevalent in culture industries like art and music, where a handful of people reap very lucrative and visible rewards while the bulk of contestants barely scrape by meager livings before they fade into more stable and far less glamorous careers. The presence of such spectacular winners like Coco Rocha raises a great sociological question: how, among the thousands of wannabe models worldwide, is any one 14 year-old able to rise from the pack? What makes Coco Rocha more valuable than the thousands of similar contestants? How, in other words, do winners happen?'

'The economist John Maynard Keynes likened finance markets to casinos, in that both are based in speculation. To illustrate, Keynes drew on newspaper beauty contests from the 1930s, where readers were asked to rate the contestants, but with a catch.'
posted by VikingSword (60 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did you yourself click on that Coco link to her website? Because 1) it resized my browser and 2) it induced an epileptic fit. So I'm going to go with FUCK YOU COCO.
posted by spicynuts at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I should have issued a warning on her site - I included it because it's her "official" site. Maybe not wise. If mods want to remove it, I'm cool with that.
posted by VikingSword at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2010


It isn't physique that sets people apart in the world of fashion. It's a willingness to put up with the constant attacks on one's body image coupled with a lifetime of dehumanizing exploitation that sets people apart.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I liked the New York Fashion profiles:

"KNOWN FOR - Pout, Walk"
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Could one of the mods insert a warning after that first Coco link please? I clicked on it to find out who she was and woah, my eyes are still hurting.
posted by ceri richard at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2010


I'm not with Coco.
posted by barrett caulk at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pastabagel, I think you should read the article. That's not what sets supermodels apart - pretty much all serious models show "a willingness to put up with the constant attacks on one's body image coupled with a lifetime of dehumanizing exploitation". You are shortchanging yourself and the readers of your comment by taking the most lazy and superficial take on this.
posted by VikingSword at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


how, among the thousands of wannabe models worldwide, is any one 14 year-old able to rise from the pack? What makes Coco Rocha more valuable than the thousands of similar contestants?

I'm going with arbitrary decisions of the people who dictate random, absurd cartoon versions of what's going to be fashionable to people who throw ludicrous amounts of money at clothes and makeup to make themselves feel like they're the cultural elite.
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


how, among the thousands of wannabe models worldwide, is any one 14 year-old able to rise from the pack? What makes Coco Rocha more valuable than the thousands of similar contestants?

Her awesome name?
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'd always wondered about this. I mean, you can walk down the street any old day of the week and see a lot of girls who are more conventionally attractive than the average model (subjective, of course, YMMV). Of course, the look many of these designers want is "walking clothes hanger," so looks don't always matter as much as having the "right" figure.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how (if?) she got permission to use Heartbreaker like that.
posted by jquinby at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2010


A very interesting article about something I know virtually nothing about. But it makes sense. If there is nothing actually differentiating things people come up with reasons to differentiate - and usually luck determines who the winners and losers are.

Except they sort of distorted Keynes view on the role speculation plays in investing. Both Keynes and Graham believed that in the short term markets are speculative, but in the long run valuations revert to intrinsic value. You see this in ephemeral pop culture phenomena like "supermodels" = there is no reason why one model is "Better" than another, so they can go as quickly as they came.

Keynes link here
posted by JPD at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


High finance = selecting supermodels? The fact that this even rates passing consideration shows how little we have understood about the economic crisis, and how effective the perpetrators, and the governments they've purchased and installed, have been at keeping us from the truth (which is that we've been pwned by the financial industry and will continue to be pwned by them for the foreseeable future)

Further meme abuse:
"What makes Coco Rocha more valuable than the thousands of similar contestants?"

I've worked close to the advertising and film industries, so I have a little insight (and of course an opinion). Beyond having a look that grabs someone's interest initially, the prospective supermodel has to have the drive to put up with all the BS on the way up, has to show some professionalism in terms of showing up, staying fresh and responding to photographers and stylists over some brutally long shoots, AND has to contribute something - personality, attitude, ability to act - that inspires photographers, and the couturier clients AND all of this has to translate to the printed page.

And I still don't see the connection to toxic assets. Maybe if someone can point me to some glossies of a CDO modeling the Fall 2008 line of subprime loans, I'll understand better...
posted by Artful Codger at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her awesome name?

I wouldn't be surprised. Would Chanel Iman be as cool if her name were Sally Smith?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:13 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


We see such effects in fields ranging from consumer fads (think Atkins—everyone knows a meat-and-cheese diet isn’t healthy for you!), science (like global warming), and technology (VHS beat BETA in the video market, though BETA was a superior machine).

Is the author implying an irrational adherence to the idea of climate change by lumping it in with Atkins and VHS? Weird.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:14 AM on July 16, 2010


DU: "Her awesome name?"

That was my gut instinct too. "What do you expect Coco Rocha to do with a name like that?"
posted by boo_radley at 10:15 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What do you expect Coco Rocha to do with a name like that?"

Be an exterminator?
posted by spicynuts at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


High finance = selecting supermodels

I don't really think that's what he's saying. I'd describe it more as "A desire to be 'popular' can overwhelm rationality" and he shows how picking models for shows is based on nothing more then popularity, just as markets have shown that during certain periods price momentum (aka Popularity) can also drive decision making. The difference is that in modeling the bubble that gets created impacts a small cohort, while in finance it impacts us all. Its the same sort of evolutionary adaptations at work though.
posted by JPD at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


After watching a few seasons of America's Next Top Model over my shoulder or as I passed through the room where it was playing*, it seems that a lot of being a model is the ability to become unhuman. Human folks smile with their whole faces. Normal humans walk places with whatever pattern suits them. Regular humans react to rooms full of people staring at them and shining lights at them. As a model, your emotions are limited to your eyes (often smiling with your eyes, or "smize" as Tyra says), your walk must be semi-mechanical and very regular gait, and you ignore the world as you strut down the catwalk. When taking pictures, normal humans will pose to display some emotion, often joy or happiness, with their limbs embracing family and friends or placed casually near their bodies or on adjacent items. Models must make contortions look natural, their bodies becoming not just a triangular hangar for clothing, but an art piece that accentuates certain details of the fashion or product. If you want to be a model, cast aside humanity.

* I sat down and watched a parts of a few seasons with my wife, but the banter began to bore holes in my head, and after a while, the models-in-training all blended together. Now I'll see what screencap, write-up or animated gif from fourfour (possibly NSFW) is making my wife laugh hysterically.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:19 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I didn't understand in this article is why toxic assets in the real estate speculation market snow-balled the way supermodels do. The article explained why people go with Coco against their better judgement, because it helps them cast the other models they want. Why did people buy subprime mortgage securities if it was really against their better judgement? What is the advantage?
posted by mai at 10:19 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still don't see the connection to toxic assets.

The connection is people were buying CDO's and their ilk because everyone else was buying them. And once people stopped buying them they declined in value below what they were ever actually worth (although in some cases they actually were worthless).

People did this because to quote the immortal Chuck Prince "As long as the music is playing you keep dancing" or the other great line in reference to guys doing things they knew were stupid but were in theory unlike to implode for several years "IBGYBY" - I'll be gone, you'll be gone
posted by JPD at 10:22 AM on July 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why did people buy subprime mortgage securities if it was really against their better judgement? What is the advantage?


Because if you didn't you got fired - because the only thing that mattered was your P&L that month and how it compared to your peers.
posted by JPD at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


2nd Artful Codger. Looks get you in the door once, maybe twice. Your professionalism and behaviour in an emotionally stressful and physically uncomfortable situation is what gets you the callbacks. It may seem arbitrary from the outside, and certainly luck has a part in it, but like most endeavours success in fashion is made by forging a network of supporters who each benefit each other through thick and thin. For models, being a professional means you must always, always, always be on-time, look fresh, handle heat, cold, water, uncomfortable clothing, horrible shoes, ballerina-style poses, bizarre instructions (issued sometimes dozens of times) and yet still be able to look exactly as the AD/photog wants you and yet, while all of this is happening, you can add your own creative flair to a session to give it that final ZING that sells product.

It's fucking hard work, and I have enormous respect for these people -- many of whom are not only drop-dead gorgeous, but also whip-smart managers of their own careers.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:24 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


mai: "Why did people buy subprime mortgage securities if it was really against their better judgement? What is the advantage?"

I think the idea is that people try to balance a portfolio, so in addition to safe, low return investments, they also want somewhat riskier investments that have the potential to deliver a much higher rate of return. The subprime mortgage-backed securities fit that need, but they were much riskier than advertised.
posted by mullingitover at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2010


C'mon folks, no analogy is going to be perfect, but it's worth examining the social dynamics of crowd behavior when it comes to choosing assets in unstable markets. This is a pretty decent take on what happens in the modeling industry and there is broader applicability here. JPD has touched on some of it - really, it's best to dig just a bit deeper than the first passing thought. I would think that many here would appreciate that what applies to models applies to all "winner take all" markets - in the arts in particular... actors, writers, directors, musicians etc. There are of course also differences. I for one believe that the article author underestimates certain intrinsic qualities that do in fact set apart the winners from the losers - while crowds overestimate these differences, the author here underestimates them, IMHO.
posted by VikingSword at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2010


I think the idea is that people try to balance a portfolio, so in addition to safe, low return investments, they also want somewhat riskier investments that have the potential to deliver a much higher rate of return. The subprime mortgage-backed securities fit that need, but they were much riskier than advertised.


no not really - because the reason why CDO's were created was to make lots and lots of highly rated securities and very small amount of super risky securities. Part of the reason why so many of the banks ran into trouble is because they got stuck with the really risky bits - but the banks were ok with that because they were making a ton of money selling the non risky pieces that in theory was a multiple of the potential loss on the small pieces. The vast majority of "toxic" assets only yielded a tiny bit more then traditional AAA securities. Of course then people said "Oh its super low risk so I'll buy it with a ton of leverage"
posted by JPD at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Could one of the mods insert a warning after that first Coco link please?

PRETTY PLZ.

I've done some (small-time) modeling and there really is no accounting for how designers choose their models. I'm a "big girl" in the fashion world (size 10) and when I went for a show casting, the agency director told me I'd be lucky to get two "looks" (outfits). I got five. There was only one girl who had more than me, and she was much more your stereotypical "model" (tall, blonde, Russian). The "star" model of the agency? (5'11", size 2, blonde, blue eyes) Had a whopping one (1!) look in the whole show.

Absolutely no accounting for taste. I was told that I was too big by the agent, but then by the designers I was told that I made the clothes look good and I had a great face. I had a designer talk to me and lament that she didn't have anything "plus sized" or she really would have liked to use me. You absolutely have no idea what's going to do it. And really, all it takes is one famous designer to hire you and then you're the "It" girl. Such a crapshoot.

So, from my limited experience... I don't understand this girl's aesthetic appeal. Obviously she's good at her job, but I don't really grok what designers are after with her face - which doesn't "do it" for me in any way. But hey, she got her foot in the door and now she's got a pretty good career until the next "It" girl comes along. She'll eventually go out of style as quickly as she came in.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"What makes Coco Rocha more valuable than the thousands of similar contestants?"

If it were easy, everyone would do it. Not everyone can do it. Ergo, there's a skill involved somewhere in both being a model and selecting a model.

I recall a line from a song that said a certain woman, "... had a nightclub walk that made grown men feel underage."

At the same time, I know a very attractive woman that has terrible overpronation of her ankles. In flats, she's awesome. When she walks in heels, she looks like a newborn giraffe. She's a supermodel from the ankles up.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2010


“Ooh, like she came in and I was like, in my head I was like, ‘What trailer park did she come from?’” (This might sound particularly cruel, but rest assured it’s a pretty routine way for people in the industry to talk about bodies as a car mechanic might review an engine.)

Yeah, it sounds cruel because it IS. Just because someone is jaded by their contact with the industry doesn't make their comments any less cruel.

I love high fashion, but the way they treat their models is atrocious, and language like this is just the beginning.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


If it were easy, everyone would do it. Not everyone can do it. Ergo, there's a skill involved somewhere in both being a model and selecting a model.


RTA - he looks at the entire pool of models who walk in Milan - so you've already identified who can do it. But then out of that pool a very small % of models get the vast majority of "looks". His cohort isn't all models - it is all models who are clearly qualified, and the distribution is not remotely normal.
posted by JPD at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


For models, being a professional means you must always, always, always be on-time, look fresh, handle heat, cold, water, uncomfortable clothing, horrible shoes, ballerina-style poses, bizarre instructions (issued sometimes dozens of times) and yet still be able to look exactly as the AD/photog wants you and yet, while all of this is happening, you can add your own creative flair to a session to give it that final ZING that sells product.

Very true. I've never been asked to do anything too extreme, but none of the work that I did was particularly "easy." Also, it's worth mentioning that you mess up once - and that's it. The fashion community is very insular and word gets around fast if you make a mistake. You might get a second chance if you're well respected, but really, no one is going to hire you again if you ever have so much as one bad word against you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2010


I would just like to point out that the term "Super Model" is (always has been, always will be) kinda dumb, and thus difficult (for me at least) to discuss with a straight face. It's like something you'd expect to come from a focus group comprised mainly of eight year old boys.
posted by philip-random at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2010


After watching a few seasons of America's Next Top Model over my shoulder or as I passed through the room where it was playing*

Anyone know if it's America's Next Top Model or Canada's Next Top Model that has the "judge" dude who dresses like Sun Ra's crazy aunt and the annoying guy with the Bart Simpson haircut? Man I hate those shows.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a way to make a living. Hard, perhaps. so, too, coal mining. I would be interested in getting a full list of those deemed super models (no plain old models, please) and seeing how many marriages they go through to get some idea of how their professional lives affect their personal lives. Yesterday we worried about teacher burnout. Do models get this too?
posted by Postroad at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2010


Anyone know if it's America's Next Top Model or Canada's Next Top Model that has the "judge" dude who dresses like Sun Ra's crazy aunt and the annoying guy with the Bart Simpson haircut?

I believe you are thinking of The Js- Mr. Jay and Miss Jay.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"What do you expect Coco Rocha to do with a name like that?"

Be an exterminator?


Yeah, I was thinking "scuttle out from the dark ominous gap between the sink cabinet and the side of the bathtub and scare the bejeezus out of me when I am nekkid and vulnerable and half blinded by shampoo in the shower?", actually.

posted by elizardbits at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2010


a New York casting director of 14 years explained his initial reaction when he first saw her for show castings back in 2005: “Like Coco, urgh!” Making a sour face, he continued, “Ooh, like she came in and I was like, in my head I was like, ‘What trailer park did she come from?’”

A Wall Street derivatives trader of 14 years explained his initial reaction when he first saw sales pitches for CDOs: "Like, CDOs, like gag me! Like, barf...like, half these people, like what trailer park are they from, like you know i mean like how are they going to afford to pay their mortgages like you know?? UUUURRGGHHHH"
posted by spicynuts at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it were easy, everyone would do it. Not everyone can do it. Ergo, there's a skill involved

This doesn't follow at all. Not everyone wins the lottery. There's no skill involved.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


spicynuts - you kid but if you took that sentence and turned it into bro talk you'd be pretty close to reality.
posted by JPD at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2010


RTA - he looks at the entire pool of models who walk in Milan - so you've already identified who can do it. But then out of that pool a very small % of models get the vast majority of "looks".

Yes, but what's the point? That everyone is foolish to think she has any value at all? That it's all just an exercise in subjectivity?

*Of course* it's an exercise in subjectivity. But there is value in being able to, over time and in different frames of scale, deliver and/or subjectively suss out which particular set of variables can be assigned value.

Otherwise, there would be no such thing as art. Or music. Or cuisine, for that matter.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nobody can "pick" a supermodel, for the same reason nobody can just "pick" great sure-fire investments.

There are all the qualities that you look for: appearance, poise, work ethic, etc. But you do the same for investments. P/E ratio, growth/demand opportunities, legal issues, etc.

But the one thing you can't predict is who or what the crowd will pick. Investments do well because other people invest in them, and the share value rises. Other people should be picking them because they are good, solid investments, with emphasis on the basics. But that's not what makes a stock pick "hot". Some stocks (or bonds, or derivatives, or real estate or mutual funds or hedge funds..) become white hot, and that makes them hot investments. Other people flock to them for reasons unknown. They think they are hot, and it's a self fulfilling prophecy.

Models, the same way. The photographers, the agencies, the magazines, the advertisers. They can pick anyone they like. But the aggregate selection is unpredictable.

And, like stocks, one day someone realizes they aren't really worth that much, then nobody wants them anymore.
posted by Xoebe at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2010




spicynuts - you kid but if you took that sentence and turned it into bro talk you'd be pretty close to reality.


Yes I was conflicted between going that route or going with the completely farcical route. I figured the farcical route would be more LOLZ-y. Trust me, a lot of my friends are commodities traders. I use them for their expense accounts mostly. (Well, not so much anymore).
posted by spicynuts at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2010


This doesn't follow at all. Not everyone wins the lottery. There's no skill involved.

Interesting ... a strawman argument + conflation of topics. That's a real skill you've got there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2010


I modeled (very briefly) for Union Bay in the 90's. It was sort of a fluke - I had a model friend who got me in to the 'audition'*. I'm not the most attractive or (God knows) the most fit guy out there, but the 'scouts' liked something about my 'look', so they chose me over a room full of good looking, chiseled, and subsequently very pissed off guys who were very obviously more experience at this than I was.

It was a really awful gig. Jumping around like a well-dressed marionette, smiling until my face hurt, squinting into the sun because 'the light was good', being clucked over and pawed at by a small team of 'handlers' all day - doesn't sound that hard, I guess, but it was much, much more difficult than I had thought it would be. The pay was unreal, but at the end of the shoot I decided that I never wanted to model again, and I haven't.

All of which is to say that from my perspective, the "willingness to put up with..." factor figured very strongly in quashing my desire to be a part of that industry. I feel that it takes a very specific personality type to succeed in that industry, and, evidently, a fair amount of nepotism and luck. I had the nepotism and luck going for me, but, God help me, I'm too lazy to be a model.

Also - fuck Coco Rocha's website.

* Which was really just an hour of sitting around in a hotel while a gaggle of 'scouts' stared at the group of hopefuls I was with.
posted by Pecinpah at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]



But the one thing you can't predict is who or what the crowd will pick. Investments do well because other people invest in them, and the share value rises. Other people should be picking them because they are good, solid investments, with emphasis on the basics. But that's not what makes a stock pick "hot". Some stocks (or bonds, or derivatives, or real estate or mutual funds or hedge funds..) become white hot, and that makes them hot investments. Other people flock to them for reasons unknown. They think they are hot, and it's a self fulfilling prophecy.


that's sort of the point of the exercise though - you don't worry about the crowd and eventually the crowd finds you. That's the very nature of value investing as practiced by Keynes (just to bring it back around). He tried to figure out what the crowd wanted and realized that was impossible - so he just picked the things he cared about and figured often enough the crowd would find him.
posted by JPD at 10:59 AM on July 16, 2010


Black and white is very popular because people like it that way. I mean, casting issues as black and white. Models are exploited, it's a hard living, there's racisms, misogyny and other isms and anti-isms. All true. And there is also creativity and beauty and plain fun. All mixed together.

A recent example. A well-known fashion photographer is doing a shoot. Beautiful young models, pounding music, and a lot of laughter. He's shooting for a jeans company. He starts with a few conventional poses and ideas, and then moves on to the wild stuff. The best of the lot: the model lies on the floor in a sphinx pose propped up on her elbows. She's naked. Her jeans are in a pile next to her - you really can't tell what the freakin' jeans even look like. Inserted in her butt crack running down all the way is a row of fresh strawberries, very red against her white skin.

Everybody at the agency loved the strawberry pics. Picture that on a billboard with the name of the jeans company in the corner. Of course, much as they all loved the strawberry pic, they went with something safe and conventional. Le sigh.

Now, as an observer you are not privy to people's intimate thoughts, but hard as you looked and with as cold and objective eye as you could manage - well, it was impossible not to notice that everybody including the models had a ton of fun. Now maybe they're great actresses and after the shoot they go home and cry, but really, it's not always like that. And yet, it was all there in that shoot: the good with the bad and in-between. Maybe we can't always only get the good without some of the bad. We can only try our best.
posted by VikingSword at 11:23 AM on July 16, 2010


Interesting article. I must admit that I had zero interest in the modeling industry until two years ago when I was stuck at a hotel with only 20-some cable channels, 16 of which were ESPN-related (or so it seemed). I'm used to sleeping with the TV on (usually Nick at Nite or TVLand), so I left the Oxygen Channel on, which was running some sort of America's Next Top Model marathon. Once I started paying attention to the proceedings I was fascinated. I found the various challenges ridiculous, but still kept watching to see who won. And I found out that I have absolutely no talent in determining "model" features, because every girl I thought was a shoo-in got eliminated early in the competition. Yet I was amazed at what the proper make-up, lighting and camera tricks can do to an otherwise unremarkable visage.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:23 AM on July 16, 2010


Is the Tipping Point Toast?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The difference is that in modeling the bubble that gets created impacts a small cohort, while in finance it impacts us all.

I had to re-read this sentence five times before I realize you didn't mean "financial modeling." I need to take a break from Excel.
posted by mullacc at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2010


how, among the thousands of wannabe models worldwide, is any one 14 year-old able to rise from the pack?

Like any very other competitive job, I imagine: Natural talent, drive to succeed (maybe from the parents in this case), and luck.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:30 AM on July 16, 2010


I do think this is an example of horrible, inhumane behavior though. it just shouldn't be legal to torture a metaphor like this.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:31 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Economists study how people assign value to arbitrary objects, only to find that people are illogical, arbitrary and very human-centric in their responses. Is this a surprise?
posted by doctor_negative at 11:31 AM on July 16, 2010


ZenMasterThis, that's a great link, worthy of its own FPP.
posted by VikingSword at 11:33 AM on July 16, 2010


Models are sucessful because they are intresting looking. I heard Elle McPherson being interviewed by David Letterman - answering the same question - why this small group of models that are widly sucessful? The reason she said was that they were all slightly off kilter - and that if they were any more quirky, they'd be unattrative. They were the right side of ugly.

Connecting the modelling world to the banking crisis is at once tenuous and obvious. Any market can get wildly out of control in relation to the underlying asset when greed, social pressure, and giddiness over come simple common sense. Tulip bulbs anyone?
posted by helmutdog at 11:44 AM on July 16, 2010


mai: Why did people buy subprime mortgage securities if it was really against their better judgement? What is the advantage?

Because subprime mortage securities were practically REQUIRED to be part of any AAA-rated offering as a result of collusion between raters and sellers. IOW, if you wanted your investment to appear "safe" you had no choice but to include subprime mortgage assets in it somewhere (which of course made it inherently unsafe).
posted by coolguymichael at 11:54 AM on July 16, 2010


Because subprime mortage securities were practically REQUIRED to be part of any AAA-rated offering as a result of collusion between raters and sellers. IOW, if you wanted your investment to appear "safe" you had no choice but to include subprime mortgage assets in it somewhere (which of course made it inherently unsafe).

no that is factually incorrect.
posted by JPD at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2010


how, among the thousands of wannabe models worldwide, is any one 14 year-old able to rise from the pack?

I don't think it can be done intentionally. That is, I think it's much easier to understand that "any one [particular] 14 year old" has no guarantees, but the fact remains that the fashion industry chooses 14 year old models all the time. They have a constant supply, but like a stream of water you can't know which molecule will float to the top.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2010


ZenMasterThis, that's a great link, worthy of its own FPP.

Previously.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:29 PM on July 16, 2010


Elyse Sewell had a great blog where she talked about being a model - she's the contestant from ANTM season 1 who, memorably, told Tyra Banks that modelling was for genetically fortunate monkeys.

I say 'had', because she stopped updating it without warning a while back. Worth a read, though.

Also, hilariously, she's the next entry down on that fourfour link.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:30 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is the Tipping Point Toast?

I just want to say that one of the reasons why I still have a lot of respect for Gladwell is stuff like this:
For his part, Gladwell is diplomatic. "Duncan Watts is exceedingly clever, and I've learned a great deal from his research," he emailed me. "In the end, though, I suppose that I feel the same ways about his insights as I do about Steve Levitt's disagreements with me over the causes of the decline in violent crime in the 1990s. I think that all books like The Tipping Point or articles by academics can ever do is uncover a little piece of the bigger picture, and one day--when we put all those pieces together--maybe we'll have a shot at the truth."
I know that sometimes in the context of his writing, he's less humble... even sweeping, breathless, and bombastic. But I've got Watts' Six Degrees too and while it seems clear he's more methodical and deeper inside the research he's discussing, in some cases he's doing pretty much the same thing. I wonder if it's mostly that if you want to write books that get people's attention, it helps to adopt an assertive rhetoric and conclusive narratives.
posted by weston at 11:08 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


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