There was a time when the aggressive badness, terrible messages about women’s bodies, and general free-floating unhingedness of the hour-long ads from Victoria’s Secret used to pummel my soul. But I am a veteran of two Underwear One Cannot Wear specials now, and I believe I have developed a bit of a protective skin.
So here, as I prepare to dive in, I say do your worst, Swimsuits in which One Cannot Swim Special, (which you can STILL watch in its entirety, you lucky dog you) you shall not break me.
Will there be runways? Will the models demonstrate how to delicately flick sand out of one’s suit crotch? Will the Angels wear wings or fins or what? Let’s find out together, shall we?
Hey, there are models again! Adrianna Lima! Candice Swanepoel! Lily Aldridge! Behati Prinsloo! Alessandra Ambrosio! Elsa Hosk! Martha Hunt! And Jasmine Tookes! And Puerto Rico playing itself!
Maroon 5 will also be there! I keep thinking we’re done with Maroon 5, but here they are again. Take a bow, Maroon 5. Juanes will also be playing.
OK, so based on the opening credits, Victoria’s Secret has wisely dropped the pretense of a fashion show, which was always a little flimsy.
So pretty much the premise of the show is “Wireless Internet out? Hey, masturbate to this!” We’re not even past the credits and I’ve seen enough arching backs to tucker out an entire yoga class.
Lily tells us we’re here in Puerto Rico to shoot a swim campaign and then, over lots of arching footage, the other models tell us that we’ll see behind the scenes of this historic shoot. Models drinking coffee! Models lounging by the pool during their time off! Hey, wait. If you’re working on a swimsuit photo shoot and you’re by the pool in a swimsuit in your time off and someone is filming you, is it really your time off?
Oh, and now we’re all arching to “Run the World (Girls),” which I’m sure is exactly the feminist moment Beyoncé had in mind. Ladies, don’t forget to run yourself some major paychecks and the right to vet photographers for creepiness.
Lily says the swim trips are “epic and legendary.” Then she looks at the big wide sea and declares it “the perfect Instagram picture.” So that’s where we are, kids. We also learn that this is more laid back than The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Well, of course you can lay back; you don’t have wings to get in the way.
OK, then it’s time for Lily to lightly purse her lips while being in a series of swimsuits, some of which make it on camera and some of which do not.
Photographer Russell James tells us that here at Cocoa Beach, it’s all about the drama of the shapes of the boulders complimenting the shapes of the girls and good lord, it really is just a lot of arching and softcore porn posing. That can’t be the whole show. Look, I like looking at pretty ladies as much as anyone, but really? This is the whole show? No wacky mix-ups or car chases or anything? This can’t be the whole show. Lily got a little scratch on the rocks. She’s bleeding. Will they be dipping her in the water as sharkbait? No, instead Lily will be facing her fear and posing on a bigger boulder while the 11,000-person crew applauds. Hooray, Lily!
Oh, hey, a bondage bathing suit. Thanks, Lily!
Lily had an amazing day! Puerto Rico is beautiful. Kids, if you want depth, you’re going to have to look at the water.
Behati is also happy to be here! She likes seeing culture! She’s getting a tour of Old Town San Juan in a classic car. She’ll be taking pictures, because there is no other way to experience things. Joan, Lily’s guide who looks suspiciously like a model, says that it’s Puerto Rican culture to “be vibrant.” And now they are taking pictures of each other. At least they are not Instagramming their food. Yet.
Behati says she likes to take pictures of local people and things that inspire her. And then we see her taking a picture of Joan. God, this show is trying to break me in whole new ways. Behati gets to learn a traditional dance of Puerto Rico! Conga drums! Shaking!
Oh, Russell wants “the ultimate underwater bikini shot” from Lily and Alessandra. Oh, right, Russell is the one who likes to make the models do difficult stuff while he does not.
Only underwater doesn’t work — Russell blames “Mother Nature,” and I am beginning to suspect that he blames the woman a lot when things go wrong — so they arch in the shallows. Alessandra declares them “Mermaid Angels.” Please, please, please have the models kathwomp down the runway in wings and mermaid tails next year.
To the sound of “Shake it Off,” we hear that they are shooting a couple thousand pictures a day on this thing, and we also learn that getting the cover of the swimsuit catalogue is as big as opening the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
So pretty much right up there with developing the Salk vaccine. (Sorry. The sheer breadth of this show’s dumb is making me crabby.)
Sweet Mithras, we’re only 15 minutes in. I think I might miss the runway show.
Anyway, all the ladies want to be on the cover, and they will do difficult and dangerous shots to get there. Sounds like a healthy atmosphere! On that note, Candice says she loves shooting with Russ because he pushes her. Russell says Candice is special because she’s nice and ferociously fit. I’ve got my eye on you, Russ.
Candice shoots in a pink bikini, but — Whoops! — she forgot her top. It’s weird that no one on the crew noticed that oversight. We learn that Candice thinks of herself in the third person while shooting. While Russ thinks of her as a cat. Harrumph.
We’ve pretty much entirely dropped the pretense that this is about anything but masturbation fodder. Do they even bother to make swimsuits to sell? Candice says she tries to be good and get all the shots.
Wait, WAIT. Martha says they’re now shooting the Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy Lingerie commercial. WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING? AM I SUPPOSED TO BE OBJECTIFYING WOMEN IN LINGERIE OR SWIMWEAR?! I, much like Russ, need some clearly defined boundaries.
It’s Stella’s first time! She’s killing it! It’s totally different because now we are arching on sand.
Dear God, when is the commercial break. Oh god, wait. The commercial break is for Viagra, because of course iit is.
Jerome Duran is shooting, and he gives off a way less creepy vibe, so there’s that. One of the models says she’s trying to give off a “warrior princess” vibe. Somewhere Lucy Lawless just threw an axe through a wall.
We’re getting into a speedboat. Behati says we’re getting ready for the Maroon 5 concert. You know what you and I are getting ready for? Some fast-forwarding. The models say it’s their favorite band. So that’s nice.
Wait. WAIT. This is Maroon 5 lip-syncing on the sand in front of a giant M that is ON FIRE and also they are surrounded by bonfires.
The only audience seems to be the eight models who are well back from it all. For real: What audience is this for? Who is meant to be enjoying this? I hope it’s not you, because I am fast-forwarding the daylights out of this. Arch, Maroon 5, you bastards. Arch!
Thank Minerva, it’s time for a commercial break and — son of a bitch, it’s for Victoria’s Secret. So they paid for an ad during their show that is an ad. It’s like Ouroboros, only way dumber and the arching goes the other way.
I’m having an existential crisis over why I agreed to recap this. Did past me hate present me?
Now we learn that being one of the most photographed women in the world is only sometimes awesome, because sometimes people are creepy! OK, at least we have acknowledged that. A model whose name I refuse to scroll back and look up says Victoria’s Secret turns you into a star overnight.
The models say they can get self-conscious and judgy with themselves, and also that they are always learning in the University of Life.
Stella and Martha are meeting two other models for a yoga session. Which they are having for entirely spiritual purposes. They are trading poses? Candice is good at yoga! Oh, and we take a refreshing spiritual pause to learn that once you become a part of Victoria’s Secret, it just “becomes a part of your lifestyle to stay fit,” and it’s definitely just that fitness bug and certainly no one is ever ever ever pressured into unhealthy eating patterns!
Ugh, the perennial “The Models are Just Healthy” segments are the most egregious part of these shows. It would be one thing to simply ignore the rampant problem of eating disorders in the modeling industry. But to bend so far over backwards (on a boulder by the beach) to repeatedly push the lie that the only thing that ever happens is a deep desire to be healthy is just flat-out, clear-eyed evil. You know what you assume most straight gentlemen are doing to themselves during this show, Victoria’s Secret? Why don’t you go do that too?
Oh, being healthy is just about confidence! The models eat! And one of them looks away as the other speaks, briefly too bowled over by all the untruths hanging around to be able to make direct eye contact with anything.
Behati is on Caracas Beach, letting us know the deep dark secret that she is free-spirited and bohemian but also sexy. Thanks for being brave about it, Behati. Behati models “grown up” swimwear with no sides and more bondage straps. She’s very proud.
Russ tells Adrianna and Joan that today they will be working with horses. And also that one of the horses is wild and unbroken. This seems scary to the models, but it doesn’t seem to occur to them that it might be out of line. I’m beginning to suspect that these ladies deal with a lot of assholes.
Anyway, ha, ha, it’s only a tiny pony.
Dear god, we are only halfway done. I just want to read some Dorothy Parker and then go into the light.
So there’s a pony and a horse and models and Russ and it rains a little bit and then it stops and WHO IS THIS MEANT TO ENTERTAIN?! Who is getting something out of the mind-pummelingly dumb parts with talking? Why not just put on ‘80s synth music and have the ladies writhe around? SOMEONE TELL ME WHO ENJOYS THIS.
The models are in a Jeep, going to see Juanes! Hey, it looks like other people came to this concert. But I’m still fast-forwarding it.
Wait. WAIT. Did I just see a shot of models rocking out while playing Mah-jong? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. It was dominoes. Models love dominoes.
Another Victoria’s Secret commercial, because no one anywhere has any shame at all. I think all our shame fell into fracking sinkholes.
We get a notice that the Swim Special will continue, using Maroon 5 as bait. Good luck with that.
20 minutes to go. We can get through this. The models are cutting fruit and pretending to spontaneously make healthy fruit smoothies.
No, we fucking can’t get through this. Holy balls.
One of the models says “Look how tiny those bananas are!” a phrase that may have passed her lips before. We pan down to a tasteful shot of a model’s underpants — er, of a nearby blender — as she suggests adding some chia seeds. Remember when chia was just for growing leaf hair on bric-a-brac sheep?
Anyway, smoothies are so healthy that not one model thought to put pants on before running down to get some. Everyone leaves Jac to clean up. Adorable! One day Jac will murder them all. A papaya stuffed with chia seeds will be the last goddamned thing they will ever see.
Jac says “Whenever I travel for Swim, I kind of know that I’m going to a place I already know.” What? Don’t worry, she’s just making the point that all these eternal beaches are exactly alike. Oh, um, and the crew. And the spirit. It’s like going home. I guess she’s still out of sorts from scrubbing out the blender.
Jac says that a photoshoot in Paris is different. “More of a struggle.” Thanks, Jac.
Russell James says Jac is a great person and also drop-dead gorgeous. Jac arches in the shallows, then squats alluringly in the surf. That’s going to be some serious sand in the crotch, there, Jac. Your bikini has no side barriers whatsoever. Have the older models help you.
Jac is 20 and from Poland. She went to a casting at 13 and became a model. And, now that we’ve gotten to know her as a human being we see some shots of Jac where they couldn’t manage to fit her head in. Jac tells us that it’s all about being fit now — in fashion and the commercial world. Only fit body shapes, throughout the entire industry! Yep yep! Sweet holy Artemis, let all this scrambling be because of a giant lawsuit. Jac feels great because all her friends look “healthier than they used to.” And I’m sure she would be willing to sign an affidavit to that effect. All these models are fit fit fit and very healthy. Fine. Enjoy that. I’ll be over here thinking about Gina Carano.
Sax music! Models emerge from changing cabanas in — wait for it — bikinis!
Candice and Arianna say “You’re the bombshell,” “No YOU’RE the bombshell” to each other. And then they talk about Alessandra’s classic black light-bondage swimwear that rests tastefully just above the pubic mound. Oh, this is the part where we pretend that the models choose their own swimwear. Bleaaarrrrgh.
Arianna loves tiger prints and Brazilian-style bikinis (no, not that kind of Brazilian) so that she doesn’t get too many tan lines. Say, will there be an excuse for some tit shots soon? You betcha.
Wow, just some serious T&A here. Oh, and the third naughty little implication of the night that the models might be a little hot for each other. Victoria’s Secret, I say this as an actual queer woman: Fuck you.
El Yunque rainforest! The two models who have come here are so happy to get away from the hustle and bustle. And maybe to pose on rocks by a waterfall. So much arching — holy buckets, one of them actually did a Tyra Banks booty tooch. Ms. Banks, I take back everything. Well, OK, not everything. But several of my more pointed comments about your tooch teachings.
14 minutes to go. TIME HAS STOPPED.
You know what? The commercials don’t know who the hell watches this either. But they’re pretty sure they need sleeping pills. I can’t pretend the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
Oookay. Some poor production assistant had to dye a volleyball net neon pink and four of the models are playing while wearing bikinis and aviator sunglasses.
The models say it’s very Top Gun, but someone dropped the ball on song rights, so we’re listening to Fake Kenny Loggins. The song seems to be called “Playin’ with the Boys.”
The models chest-bump as Alessandra tells us that what you do at the beach is have fun with your friends. And then the two winners kiss a trophy the size of the Stanley Cup.
You know those mandolin slicers? That’s what this special is doing to my soul.
Time for Elsa’s shoot! She starts out by peeking at us from behind a tree. She’s wily, that Elsa. She’s the one I pick for my side in the event of a complete societal breakdown. Which this show is doing its damndest to speed along.
Elsa used to play professional basketball in Stockholm. WAIT, ELSA! I want to talk to you. But no, we have to hear from Russ again, saying that Elsa just goes at it like there’s no tomorrow in photo shoots. He really respects her commitment. Elsa, in what is not her native tongue, says that she never intended to be a model, so becoming one has been “surreal.” WAIT, ELSA! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!
A Victoria’s Secret exec says we have another dream girl on their hands. Elsa says that if she hadn’t become a model, she wouldn’t be here and would never have gotten to see such a beautiful place, and she is grateful.
ELSA! COME BACK ELSA!
Everyone claps as the photo shoot ends.
The models are done. Time to put on cut-offs and bikini tops and go see Maroon 5. Are we meant to believe that Maroon 5 set the giant M on fire again?
Who am I kidding? Of course they did.
I, like Elsa, am grateful of the things around me. Case in point: The fast-forward button.
Oh, wait, as the song goes on, all the models walk into the firelight and tear Maroon 5 to pieces with their teeth and hands.
No, wait, sorry, they’re just model-dancing.
Well, that was appalling. I don’t even know how to sum it up. Women were in bikinis to be ogled, but we pretended they were just there for the Art. And in between was some of the worst filler since Admiral Nelson got stuffed into a brandy cask. I wish to challenge whoever scripts these to hand-to-hand combat. At least we can take comfort in the fact that Elsa is probably in on the joke. Call us, Elsa. We just want to talk.