On Wretched Gretchen and the Finale of ‘Project Runway’
Thursday’s final-winner reveal makes the case clearer than ever.
Gretchen Jones won? Talk about someone spinning dross from gold. OK, this is TV, not a discussion of nuclear waste or how to intercept terrorism or Sharron Angle’s white-woman racism. But I’m a confirmed Runway fan — and this year you may consider my sadness/fury/revulsion to be duly registered.
The wrong person won. I mean, I’ve hitched my stitches to the show through the years — during its imbecilic jaunt to La La Land (has anyone ever looked less comfortable in LA than Tim Gunn?), even during those seasons that pomposity cases like Christian Siriano took all the marbles.
But Gretchen Jones?
Lord, let us pray. May we please just get the Apocalypse over with?
My problem with Jones winning is partly that, yes, the woman came off as so hateful — not to mention treacherous, sneaky, snappy, snarky and underhanded. She was the Pol Pot of Season 8.
I do understand that Project Runway is a competition, and that some of us on this difficult and crowded planet simply can’t compete unless their trigger-finger is on a nuclear device every 20 minutes.
In Jones’ case, if there was at least some coherent talent there — real talent, a sense of individuality, something beyond the mercenary and the cunning — then maybe I could overlook her unpleasantness.
An even bigger issue, though, is that the extraordinary debating marathon that raged the Hundred Years War between the Project Runway judges — Heidi Klum and guest Jessica Simpson, favoring Mondo Guerra; and Nina Garcia and Michael Kors jonesing for Jones — actually told us more about the judges, about the serious challenges facing the show, than about the designers themselves.
Maybe I know nothing about fashion. Maybe I should stick to calling out Rethuglicans for ruthlessly destroying our country. But watching Project Runway on Thursday night, watching Kors yabber on and on and on about what’s hip, hot and happening right now, listening to the man kvetch, whine and moan about Guerra’s clothing being “too young” when Kors himself is a patently over-bronzed and tubby 51, made me wonder if a generation gap is starting to brew on the show — if a generation gap is already in evidence.
Does that sound ageist? You bet your bippy it does.
I realize perfectly well that age has nothing to do with the ability to identify and promote that which is fashion-forward. But something about the judges’ blather this year, especially everyone asserting the better knowledge of what is young and trendy right now, made me think to myself, “Hey, Nina, you’re 43!” and “Hey, Heidi, you’re 37!” I shouldn’t even be thinking in those terms, right? Why did it feel with all the judges like the lady doth protest too much?
Perhaps the seeds of doubt were planted throughout the season, and were ripe for picking.
After all, it was more glaring than ever this year that the judges are as inconsistent in their tastes, standards, demands, reviews and expectations as Christine O’Donnell’s claims of being chaste (sorry, I mean, chased). Kors, Klum and Garcia were, more often than not, beyond inchoate: “We want this and now we want that” one week became “We want that and now we want this” the next. They were whimsical, fickle, tempestuous, amorphous, contradictory and impossible. No wonder half the contestants on this year’s Project Runway looked like they wanted to slug someone. If Lifetime wants to produce reality-TV shows about King Henry VIII, Catherine the Great and Margaret Thatcher, let them at least be up front about it. (You can draw which judge parallels which tyrant any way you want.)
The press release announcing Jones as the winner of Season 8 included this copy:
Narrowly beating out fellow designers Mondo Guerra and Andy South, Jones ultimately won with her bohemian inspired, fashion-forward collection that won the praise of host Heidi Klum, judges Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and guest judge, Jessica Simpson.
There isn’t much spin in a centrifuge.
What happened was Klum and Simpson went to bat for the superior Guerra and ultimately caved to Kors and Garcia. Why I’ll never know. Maybe because the producers demanded a lowest-common-denominator winner?
But as Adam Lambert learned, it’s probably better to be a runner-up on one of these programs than to win.
Leonard Jacobs is the founder and editor emeritus of The Clyde Fitch Report.