It is typical of Redmon’s and Sabin’s approach that they simply let those comments stand without investigating: The doc does not include any narration and does not directly judge the participants. No need with Arbaugh, who is all too happy to hand over the rope with which a viewer can hang her. Back at the lavish modernist house she owns in Connecticut, she appears as a confused narcissist ready to share anything, including photographs of a benign growth removed from her abdomen and her own sad video diaries from her modelling days.
Perhaps she is merely a cog in a large machine operated by society’s glamorization of youth, but still, she openly lies to prospective models, telling them nobody who goes to Japan runs into debt. Meanwhile, having been promised work that never materializes and signed contracts that can be terminated for any reason including the slightest weight gain, both Nadya and her roommate are sent home about $2,000 in debt.
Arbaugh yearns for a child, but one presumes she would never want to see it treated like this. The directors of Girl Model have said in an interview they are surprised by the media’s characterization of their documentary as an exposé, having intended it as a study of two characters whose parallel lives intersect only in the moment of scouting. Indeed, a scene where Arbaugh actually visits the models’ apartment appears as staged as her concern about the place. Typically, she takes no action. If the documentarians are not to risk consignment to the same ambivalent category, they should be embracing the notion their film is an exposé and be giving us more information onscreen about some of the allegations it implies.