Saturday, September 5, 2009

Project Runway hates on weird

Last night I caught up on the first three episodes of the new season of Project Runway. I'd heard it was pretty much the same since moving from Bravo to Lifetime, but I think they've made some unsavory changes in a misguided attempt to please a perceived new audience (or not misguided, I don't know America). One is that all the challenges seemed very girly; PR has typically mixed girly challenges (red carpet gowns, clothes for moms, etc.) with sort of gender-neutral, if not macho, challenges, like designing outfits for sporting events or out of car parts or something. But maybe that'll change over the course of the season.

The more disappointing change was a fairly overt, I thought, disapproval of the weird. The cast is very usual-suspects for the most part: attractive gay men of various degrees of flamboyance, cute, funky young women, a couple of older women, the token "dude's dude," etc. There are usually, also, a couple of more "out there" designers with more of a kooky vision. These people don't tend to win but they are given a chance. This season, however, the footage was edited in such a way as to make these two people seem intolerably annoying if not outright insane, and to boot, despite decent showings, they were the first two kicked off.

This really bothered me for a couple of reasons. (I mean, as much as I'll allow TV, which kind of fundamentally sucks, to bother me.) One, I'm sure these two designers (a woman named Ari who was into highly conceptual, functional, futuristic garb and an Asian with a mohawk named Malvin who was less off the charts but still weird by TV standards) represented themselves exactly as they are on their audition tapes. Why were they cast on the show at all if the judges, producers, etc. have no tolerance for the weird? It was almost like they wanted to make an example out of these people, like, Heads up America, weird doesn't sell. It basically seemed mean, like agreeing to a date with someone just to stand them up.

Secondly, the same guy was in the bottom two both times, and both times squeaked by, even though he was evidently incompetent and had nothing to offer, besides being normal, at least by fashion standards and in comparison to the Exemplars of the Weird. This guy, Mitchell, made the wrong size dress in the first challenge, so he had to basically throw the extra material (which was sheer and nude like stockings) over his model; there was little to no actual sewing or design involved and it didn't even look sexy. In the second challenge, he made an incredibly sloppy looking pair of shorts (both oversized and way too short) and a too-tight t-shirt, created for a pregnant woman; Heidi herself said it looked like she had sewn them ("And I can't sew."). Both times, Mitchell was saved by Ari and then Malvin saying too much about their krazy koncepts. The gang called their designs "bizarre" and "unwearable," when truly they were rather more wearable, by virtual of actually being clothes, than Mitchell's less-than-half-assed piles of scraps.

Mitchell finally got booted in the third episode when he was named "team captain" of a two-person team and did essentially nothing, but at least admitted it. His partner actually won the challenge but he still got voted off.

What the hell, Project Runway? Did he know somebody or what? If "there are no excuses on Project Runway," what's your excuse for keeping this chump on as long as you did when he displayed zero evidence of talent, skill or dedication? I've half a mind to boycott this shit. Someone has to stand up for the weird.


  1. man...that asian dude sucked and deserved to go. his weirdness had nothing to do with it. but he was clearly delusional. i didn't see the first episode. that white dude's ideas were good. that shorts outfit would've been cute if he made them better.

  2. in the past, the weird have also been good and they've been recognized for it. so far the weird have designed like ass.

  3. "Shorts" is not an idea. Both his outfits were absurdly incompetent. I read somewhere he had never even seen Project Runway ... and when he found out what it's like, he was like, Gulp. Clearly he didn't know you have to make your own clothes, not just "design" them.

  4. My main point being, I strongly dislike when words like "weird" and "bizarre" are used as pejoratives. The judges weren't even saying "That's poorly constructed" or "That looks ugly," they were saying "That's weird and I don't understand it." As though weirdness itself were a bad thing. You dislike his clothes because you think they look bad; that's a different story.

  5. CT, I'd agree with you. Sell your outfit as a Chicken and Egg and you're bound for disaster. In #2, Mitchell's styling stood a chance. I still argue that he really just should have been the first to get the boot. Ari's design was kinda cool.

    On a more personal note, I hope you don't boycott, because then I'd lose my snug time.

  6. I was shocked that they kicked off the two more "conceptual" designers in the first two episodes! The language they used to do it was the strangest and most scary in the first episode, I thought. Then, in the second, I was pulling for Melvin, purely based on how much fun it would be to see his take on upcoming challenges, even though the "egg" seemed to fail. But then, they cut him too, while keeping the incompetent guy, who also seemed like a jerk. I think they keep the jerks around to keep the friction in the group, and Melvin was no-friction: walking on a cloud of compassion and trippiness. But, then, they did "award show," "maternity for models," and "beachwear." Nothing strange at all. I guess what I am saying is: I agree with you, and really hope it gets better! I am missing last season's people. Although I really like the girl who won the maternity challenge.

  7. Heather, thanks, I was feeling very alone and weird myself, with everyone giving me WTF looks.

    Several people seem interesting/competent but no one sticks out yet for me as someone to love.

  8. I have heard that a lot of the "safe" choices have to do with the fact that Project Runway is now on the network Lifetime (it was on Bravo until now), which most people equate with bad TV movies starring Tori Spelling and other post-menopausal crap.