Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bread and circuses

Tonight I did something I'm ashamed of: I watched two episodes of Project Runway. Well, I read while they played on the TV, but I looked up a lot. Bless me, Readers, for I have sinned and I feel unclean. I hate reality television, even something as "positive" as this, someone will get a lot of money and a start in fashion from it and no one has to eat bugs or cheat on their loved ones or set fire to themselves. For every supposedly positive thing that reality television promotes--rooting for a fan, an underdog, rewarding some talent--there is something dark and horrible, because in the end we are all waiting for someone to crash and burn on national tv, and we all know that the most talented (whatever that means) is not going to walk away with the prize (Clay Aiken, anyone?). I got sucked in because of the first challenge which was to make dresses using only material that they had ripped from the dorms where they are staying. I love a good challenge esp. of materials, and in my mind I was imagining what I would make under the same restraints. On the one hand it seems unfair because they have so little time and in the real world they would have a staff and time to make these things, but sometimes the most imaginative work comes from the limitations (view my other blog) and in life you do have to judge your own skill, your time and your budget and decide what can realistically be made, not just what you'd like to make given a perfect world. My college had a pretty good endowment and we had fairly luxurious budgets to work with as designers and good shops with a kind and experienced costumer (love you Red Queen!) and a good wood shop staff. Then you hit the real world. I've been in shows designed by new college grads who aim too high--forgetting that they don't have the time, support or budget of school. I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of budgets and time and what I can do. I always joke with small companies that I make three designs--the design I'd like to do had I time and staff, the design I could do with some help, and the design I can do if I get no help whatsoever. Oddly enough, I've only gone over budget when I had the most money. But I digress. The judges are not designers I admire and I didn't agree with their assessments, but the prettiest dress did win. The one that lost really lost because she ran out of time and I felt sorry for her, but I did understand. She was also the least interesting person, if you know what I mean and that really brings us to the crux of the matter. THESE ARE NOT REAL. Decisions are made based on ratings and sometimes someone quite terrible and talentless is left on the show to "Spice it UP." Crash and burn time. The ratings come with conflict and if they were all just really nice people with really good sewing skills then who cares. They milk it sooooo much. Dear God, it could be 20 to 30 minutes shorter if they didn't play for the suspense. Is the step forward line going to be in or out this week. How much humiliation and stress can we pack in? I thought Miss America pageants were sad, but at least you counted down the losers and there you were. The last two standing were number two and number one, not the winner and the loser. Oddly enough the second challenge was to make a dress for Miss USA or America (I forget which) to wear at the Miss Universe (but I'm still not seeing Venusians represented there!) pageant. This time it was partners and the two most horrible people ended up with each other. I think the one's designs have consistently been awful and he is an arrogant jerk, but she and he stayed on despite Bravo running a viewer poll in the middle (for something that was filmed and in the can months ago) and the loser was one of the best designers who overstretched himself. He had a tall model and Miss America was short so his hemline was raw BUT he would seldom if ever face that kind of problem in the real world, what a growth spurt? He was sweet and sad and needy and of course they had a clip of him saying how his mother had thrown his designs on the floor when he was 14 and he was trying to prove himself to her just minutes before he lost so that we would really SEE his pain and humiliation PLUS he probably wouldn't give the great fireworks that the other two will give in the weeks to come. And that's what it's really all about, isn't it? Watching HUMILIATION. Watching another human being squirm and being glad it's not you and feeling safe and smug and secure on your sofa while someone SUFFERS. I can't stand it. Not in any medium. I'll watch gory films, violent films, tragic films and poignant films but I can't watch humiliation because I FEEL for them. I know what it's like to feel so embarrassed you wish the earth would swallow you and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. The loser said he felt shame. Isn't that the saddest thing? Why should he feel shame? We should be ashamed for wanting to see it. We don't shame our prisoners. We didn't shame Ken Lay or Tom Delay for that matter but we shame these poor idiots on tv. I can't even watch The Office because the embarrassment factor is too high. I feel for those characters too. And that brings me to what kind of person goes on these things in the first place. What kind of need is there to do that to yourself--because if you really believe in yourself then you certainly don't need this show to tell you your good and you'll be happy whether you get a show in New York, or simply sew for friends and get compliments on the street. Yes, being handed a show in New York for a few weeks of no privacy and possible humiliation sounds like it's easier than slogging for some horrible boss who'll steal your work but it's not. And it's no more guaranteed than the slogging way. Talent alone will never get it and neither will hard work, despite the lies that we tell our children. There isn't a guarantee anywhere but there are ways of trying that don't require your soul and your dignity.

Is Running Man far behind?

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