CMT has wrapped up round two of its Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search. The show goes like this: founder and original Coyote Lil picks five women from her franchise of bars to pair up with newcomers and vie–as a team–for $50,000 and the title “The Ultimate Coyote.” What does it take to be the ultimate coyote? It takes dancing, singing and entertaining. It takes teamwork as the “veterans” are expected to train the newbies from the ground up. But above all, it takes the ability to sell obscene amounts of liquor to a crowd thirsty for a lot more than booze. And these women are good at it.
The final episode allows the women to recount all they’ve learned from Lil, weeping as they recall how far they’ve come in their training, how much they’ve learned about themselves and each other as they’ve stayed up late, practicing country dances on the tops of bars and fancy bottle-tossing tricks that show off their bartending skills. These women understand their own experience through a postfeminist lens, remarking on how Coyote Ugly allows them to be all that others have told them not to be: loud, sexy, bossy, and physically aggressive. They can be dancers and singers even without making the ever-elusive big time.
Indeed, the women featured on the show include Sally, who made it through several rounds of auditions for the lead in Coyote Ugly, the movie, and Bri, who was rejected, just barely, from American Idol. Maria’s been dancing since she was a little girl and teaches at a studio in NYC. Before joining the cast, Molly was a world-champion level figure skater who, time running out on her own career, coaches little girls just embarking on their own sequined dreams. The insistence that success means being on display renders these women particularly vulnerable to, or, depending on your point of view, particularly capable of, “success” at Coyote Ugly.
These women are no slouches, and the show parades them around as role models of strong, independent women. And yet this shiny postfeminism cannot fully obscure the ways in which women’s bodies pressed into service for someone else’s big bucks isn’t really “post” anything. What ultimately makes the Ultimate Coyote is her ability to SELL by putting her body on display and marking its availability. Lil tells the girls on night two of the finals that what really counts is selling, is money. And Maria and Regan are the undisputed champs here. They push the $20 calendars, demand that patrons buy drinks for the bartenders too, playing on the expectations of men that they’ll be able to score after the night is over, especially if the women are drunk enough. The two women clinch their victory with a dance that ends with them pouring water over each other in their white “I Heart NY” t-shirts. As Lil rightly notes, “Everybody likes water.” And she’s right. We do. And they win. But the Coyote Ugly franchise are the real winners here, having recruited these talented women to work for them, to recruit others, and to convince each other that real growth, independence, and self-determination come from selling your heart out. For someone else.