Which came first – the reality TV show or reality? Sometimes I’m not quite sure.
Participating as a voyeur in other people’s lives – watching them lose weight, survive on desert islands, swap wives and attempt to woo fashion industry professionals – is sort of fun. We ask questions in private like “Will the chunky guy go back to eating excessively?” “Will the villainous bunch of survivalists win, or will the heroes who always play it safe?” (We keep our fingers crossed for the contestants with the attitudes so we can hate them more and are guaranteed good office fodder later.)
Finally, while watching the popular fashion show where mostly young designers compete, we look for the scapegoat because we always have to pit forces of evil against someone young and pretty.
We’re all sort of suckers for this stuff, but sometimes there’s a line that gets crossed. Don’t blame Project Runway for all of it.
The Project Runway producers are only doing their job editing the show to make you feel one way or another, cutting out pieces that really happened and obscuring them somehow behind a dramatic lens which makes us tune in weekly. We’d be bored stiff if they didn’t.
But here’s where we really pay attention, when Gretchen Jones, Project Runway’s only sustainable designer, advances each week and our love affair with her becomes difficult at times thanks to careful editing on the part of the show. I guess I also find it hard to digest comments I’ll see on the show’s Facebook page when reality junkies (the likes of which perhaps never make it out of their parents’ basements) say things like, “When Time Gunn yelled at her it made my whole week!” or “Did you see how robotic she was talking to her mother? Like she couldn’t care less!” or one of my favorites, “Time for the bitch to go home!”
Who are these people who can freely dish out comments like that or pretend to understand anything about a young woman who gave up everything to be on this show? Social media, in conjunction with bad behavior, allows anyone to say whatever they want without full commitment to what they’re actually writing. Imagine saying the same things you write in conversations with actual people?
Everyone knows I love the girl, but maybe this is a long look at a woman’s right to be strong and straightforward in American society. Are we really that scared of it? And if a woman like Gretchen does make dumb mistakes because of the pressure of TV and losing everything, are we really that mean that we can call her out as a bitch? A villain? I like to imagine if Gretchen acted like Cassanova and threw a fit on the couch because people didn’t like her designs, she’d be despised too – but that cute accent and being gay makes him exempt? Is it because she’s a woman? Inquiring minds want to know.
For Gretchen, this faux reality just might bite, but we know she’ll stay strong and hopefully we’ll see the bad ass bitch make it to the end.
Top Image: Lisa Warninger