October 29, 2010

When "Project Runway" went from Bravo to Lifetime...

... this was all so predictable. Spoilers after the break and — presumably soon — in the comments.

I think the whole season has been soap opera. All dreams and journeys and men pushing back the strong woman and labeling her a bitch. You can see where the climax is on that story. It's a long hard struggle, but in the end, the climax belongs to the woman. On Lifetime. There were 3 gnomish little men and one giraffe-y woman, and the woman was stomped to the curb over and over. But in the end: Triumph!

But Tom And Lorenzo say it's about commerce:
[T]his was about Nina and Michael and in many ways that judging session was representative of an ongoing conversation in the fashion industry in light of the collapse of the economy. Namely, should the industry move away from a focus on theatrical high-priced luxury goods and fantasy clothes and should it embrace a more downscale, less complicated point of view? 
I wouldn't leave Heidi out of that. She may have taken Mondo's part in the big fight over who should win the show, but look at her line of women's clothing at Amazon. It could hardly be more "downscale" and utilitarian.
It's a discussion worth having and there are points to be made in favor of each side, but the bottom line is, this is a design competition and something of a game show. 
Yeah, Heidi kept saying it's a style show, but don't just hear what she says says. Look what she does. I'm talking about the oversized hooded ponchos she thinks will be snapped up by the Lifetime crowd.
... Despite the fact that they literally could not describe Mondo's collection without using the kind of language reserved for winning designers ("He's incredibly creative and talented.") the ONLY arguments made in support of Gretchen by Nina and Michael were "It's on trend" and "I can sell these garments." Pardon us for being purists, but what appalling arguments to be making. This is what happens when a show goes from ELLE Magazine and the Banana Republic accessories wall to Marie Claire and the Piperlime accessories wall. Project Runway was never cutting edge even on its best days, but the dumbing down of the brand has been a distressing thing to witness....
We think Gretchen is a talented designer and we think that there is a market and a customer for her work. We just don't think she'll be able to excite the public and interest the press the way that Mondo will....
I loved Mondo and assumed he would win, but in retrospect, I can see some problems. He was an extremely reserved person, and at the finale runway show, he seemed confused and close to breaking down. He seemed oddly numb. Also — I was willing to accept this particular man in shorts — but what sort of man wears shorts when he has big, scabby sores on his leg (as he did at the reunion session that preceded the judging)? Considering that he's HIV-positive, this was a disturbing showing of disrespect for other people. And listen to his confessionals: He was very self-absorbed. That was kind of endearing, but in the long run, you might not want that person to take on the work of carrying the banner of your brand name.

Finally, never forget that the show is edited to create a narrative and keep people watching. Gretchen won the first 2 competitions, and if that had kept going, the season would have been boring. The 3 guys — Michael, Andy, and Mondo — were selected as good foils for her, and the competitive tension was built around that. They pushed Gretchen around with criticisms and placement in the bottom 3 to wring melodrama out of her. They tried to make us love the 3 guys, and Mondo's rise to the presumed winner was the story they told as they beat Gretchen down. They put the reunion show before the final judging, which exaggerated her aloneness, while Mondo had his pals hugging him (despite his scabby leg). Gretchen got called a "bitch." Everyone out on the street, we were told, wants to know: Is Gretchen really a bitch? That was the narrative. And that narrative needs to end with victory for our heroine. Maybe it was too abrupt to be believable, but I think it was all in the script, perhaps from Day 1.


Scott M said...

Passive entertainment is so Industrial Age. That being said, I'm still going to give AMC's "Walking Dead" a shot on Sunday night. My only concern, from a genre perspective, is that it does well and spawns enough copycats that entertainment consumers will have zombie fatigue by the time they get World War Z done next year.

chuck b. said...

That thought about the economy is exactly what occurred to me.

I could tell Gretchen was going to win by the judges' prolonged discussion. They were letting us know they agonized over not awarding it to the fan favorite.

But her collection was so boring. All that brown? Raise your hand if you want a lot more brown in your closet.

chuck b. said...

Otoh, I liked the hats.

Also, I think it's hard to make the argument that one designer is more self-absorbed than another.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

You'll know the show has really gone over to Lifetime if Mondo starts stalking Gretchen now. Because on Lifetime, that's all men do.

Ann Althouse said...

*Raising hand.*

Dust Bunny Queen said...

While I thought Mondo's clothing was interesting and some pieces really fabulous, mostly it looked like clown garb and really....who is going to want to wear his items on more than just a rare occasion.

Gretchen's items in the collection made a cohesive statement. The colors were somewhat the same but the fabrics and textures were completely different and varied from item to item.

My husband made the comparison of Mondo to Gretchen(yes, he watches with me) that it is like the fantasy concept cars that the auto industry used to put out. No one really expects to have the fantasy car, but some of those elements eventually make it into the 'street' product. Mondo is the fantasy concept car and Gretchen is the 'street' commercial vehicle.

I seriously got tired of all the freaking staged drama. Heidi got a bug up her butt about Gretchen and you could just see the venom in Heidi's look when she was caught off guard..... I think that part was real. Two control freak bitchy women on one show.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I would totally BUY and wear Gretchen's line. Mondo....not in a million years.

Fashion is good and the runway stuff is usually over the top sylistically, however as Nina pointed out......she has to eventually SELL this stuff.

Ralph L said...

I hear UPS is hiring (but their men wear shorts).

Andy really disappointed--all gray and green and boring--after putting out some freaky stuff earlier. At least no one was all black as in previous seasons.

I'd have liked to have seen the rest of Michael's collection.

LL said...

First, at some point last night I did think that Mondo was going to lose. It would have been too predictable if he won.

Second, WTF was Andy wearing? Those pants and then the clunky untied high top basketball sneakers. The bottom half looked like he was 500 lbs.

I swear at some point when the judges were deliberating, I thought I saw Jessica Simpson eating a KFC chicken wing. Was I just imagining that?

LL said...

How strange is it that (so far) most of the posters on this thread are men (myself included)?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Raise your hand if you want a lot more brown in your closet.

Well, I have a couple of tea party events to go to, so I could use some more brown shirts. They get dirty so fast, what with all the hippy-punching and curb-stomping.

deborah said...

Interesting insight on engineering Gretchen from day one, but I don't quite see it being a done deal. If Mondo were the obvious winner, he would have won. If it was so close, they could righfully throw in 'the down-trodden woman triumphs' (on Lifetime) as a deciding factor. And as you also said, his being HIV positive and not taking care with his sores, etc., could be a legitimate factor.

When all of Mondo's models came out at the end, it did look like a circus, and he had blatantly disregarded Nina and Michael by keeping the little headdresses, and then bringing the bubble dress back up on for the judging was too in-your-face I loved Mondo, too, and his aesthetic, and think he's the most talented, but I think Gretchen won on other terms. I do think Mondo thought he had it in the bag, though. :(

ronald said...

I found Ms. Althouse your commentary on last night's project runway finale to be very interesting and probably very accurate. However, you lost me when you choose to give you opinion on Mondo's "scabby Knees" and their relationship to his health. I'm sure,as a person with HIV, Mondo is will aware of the methods of transmission. I don't believe he would but himself or his fellow competitors in any danger. Your statement was out of line, irresponsible.

Jason (the commenter) said...

The judges didn't so much like Gretchen's clothing, as they liked her styling. They hated her clothes when they saw them with different styling. Just as some of the contestants were bad designers but good dress makers, Gretchen was a bad designer, but a good stylist.

The thing is, even Gretchen didn't like her runway show. She said she didn't believe in her styling (which is what she won for) and admitted styling her clothes the way she did only to win the show.

She's an obsessive conformist, and has been throughout the entire season. Maybe she can make Michael Kors happy when he's sitting in front of her giving her criticism, but that's not what the real world is like.

And let's talk about brands. Mondo, and even Micheal C., built brands on the show. There are people who will hunt them down and demand they make clothing. Gretchen, on the other hand, destroyed her image and any possibility of having a positive brand by behaving the way she did.

If someone owned a dress made by Gretchen, they wouldn't be able to tell anyone about it, because so many people hate her. Red paint might be thrown at them, no matter how nice the dress was.

And saleability may trump creativity, but if you can't build a brand you have nothing.

deborah said...

"And saleability may trump creativity, but if you can't build a brand you have nothing."

I can't quite remember her reply when during the reunion she was told she was called a bitch, but I remember she apologized or made excuses, and that disappointed me. To build a brand, you also have to have some sort of signature personality. I'm sure there have been many temperamental female designers. She'll need her personality to bargain, direct, create drama, etc.

Enough of the nice-nice. It was a contest, and she had the killer instinct. I salute her. Besides, both of her co-winners stuck up for her.

Jason (the commenter) said...

deborah: Enough of the nice-nice. It was a contest, and she had the killer instinct. I salute her.

When she put herself in charge of a group they came up with the most mediocre crap imaginable. Why? Because she agrees with people so they like her.

And she LOVED the clothes they made, until the judges told her they hated them, at which point she started hating them too. She's a weak person, not strong!

When people call her a bitch, they don't mean a strong woman, they mean a whiny bitch. When people complain to her face about things she's done, she cries because they are hurting her feelings.


Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: All dreams and journeys and men pushing back the strong woman and labeling her a bitch.

What a lazy reading of the show. It was the women, not the men, who hated Gretchen. Hell, on the final episode women were attacking her and men defending her. Mondo even called HIMSELF a bitch.

And Gretchen wasn't strong, she was weak. A strong woman would never cry over not being liked, she would revel in it!

Ralph L said...

I wonder if Mondo would have won if he'd left off the Carmen Miranda hair thingies. I was surprised he wore a nice suit and his best hairdo to the runway, unlike Seth Aaron last season.

Joan said...

DBQ: I would totally BUY and wear Gretchen's line.

You need a good look at those clothes. A couple of the dresses were fine, yes, but I don't believe you would buy that line. That first jacket, OK. But you're not going out in granny panties and a lizard smoking jacket with nothing underneath... you're not wearing granny panties, ever. No one is. And those blouses that looked normal from the front? They were all backless. Where do you wear them? And do you really want pants and skirts that make your hips look bigger?

I actually liked the prints, but I hated what she did with them. The jewelry evoked a craft fair. (The judges hated it in the previous episode and loved it in the finale...).

Whereas Mondo's clothes, as with all runway shows, you strip off the runway drama and are left with serious, solid, versatile pieces.

Fred4Pres said...

I miss football on TV, but I have still not renewed it since summer. I make up for football by going to some of the games and the radio.

Paul Snively said...

Of course it's in the script. My wife, who is an actress, has astutely observed that all "reality TV" means is that the story is written by the producers and editors instead of a writer.