Sunday, May 18, 2014

The more you know...reality television edition

Reality television is not supposed to teach us anything. Not really. That's not why these shows were created. The premise of every show seems to be either "let's throw a bunch of strangers into a house, RV, kitchen, sewing room, jungle, or wherever else we feel like and see what happens" OR "let's film some family we deem weird or odd or stupid living their lives and sort of poke fun of them but really they're in on the joke (sort of)." You know from day one who the villain is and who you're supposed to cheer for. Even before hashtags became a thing we were always "Team Someone"; Twitter just made it more public.

I have watched a healthy amount of reality television. I was a huge Real World fan in the early years and I've been known to indulge in the Real Housewives of New Jersey. My second favorite reality tv show is Project Runway. It would be my favorite but Mondo didn't win his season and Anya won hers. I question the validity of a show that allows those two things to happen. While I don't think any of the shows I enjoy or hate watch aimed to teach me anything in particular, I've learned a few things from watching, intentional or not:
  1. In a group of seven strangers, there will be one total tool, a virgin, and a girl who falls in love with everyone. (The Real World, 1992-1994 and 1998-2000 - the only seasons that matter)
  2. If you're on a show that's premise is based on the fact that you can design and construct a garment, you should probably have basic sewing skills. (Project Runway)
  3. Additionally, if you claim to want to be a fashion designer you should probably know some fashion history. It might be cool to know designers like Chanel and Valentino. (Project Runway)
  4. It's okay to cry when a person you don't know but admire dies. (The Real World - San Francisco)
  5. "Make it work" - always listen to Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn will never lie to you. (Project Runway)
  6. Glen Hetrick's eyebrows deserve their own television show. (Face Off)
  7. Every design must look expensive even if you are using place mats and garbage bags. This is the gosepl according to Nina. (Project Runway)
  8. Ve Neil and I should be best friends. (Face Off)
  9. Never get into an argument about politics, race, or poverty with people you've only just met and have been forced to live with for a year. (The Real World)
  10. Michael Kors was a stand up comic in another life. Or he's just really good at reading people. (Project Runway)
  11. How to make prosthetic pieces for creature effects. (Face Off)
  12. That I probably shouldn't live in New Jersey. And if I ever do, I should always focus on living within my means. (The Real Housewives of New Jersey)
And most importantly:

“Honey, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?"

If you've never seen RuPaul's Drag Race than you are missing out. As any fan of the show knows, the fabulous RuPaul signs off every episode with the above line and follows it up with "Can I get an amen?" I'm fairly certain that everyone watching the show shouts out "Amen" in response. It's just what you do.

If you're not familiar with the radiant RuPaul, watch this video for "Supermodel (Of the World)":

RuPaul's Drag Race is my favorite. It's genius - the premise of the show is that a group of drag queens compete against one another to be America's Next Drag Superstar. What could be better than that? From RuPaul and her girls, we've all learned the true meaning of the word "reading" and how many levels of shade actually exist in the universe. I've also learned a ton about makeup application (which I will never use but it's interesting) and how to perfectly execute an eye roll.

RuPaul is actually one the reasons that Drag Race is so popular and easy to watch: she's genuinely a good person, cares about the competitors, and while the critique may be harsh, it's meant to make the queen in question a better performer. I'm not 100% certain but I think when RuPaul laughs a drag queen in training gets her first wig. Joining RuPaul at the judges' table are Michelle Visage, a singer and radio personality, and Santino Rice, a Project Runway alum (season two - one of my favorite seasons). The trio is joined each week by some fantastic celebrities like Bob Mackie, Jackie Collins, Linda Blair, Khloe Kardashian, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sheryl Lee Ralph (to name a few). The final say is always RuPaul's but the judges' comments are always a treat.

The challenges are always odd and inventive and the runway portion of the show never disappoints. To say that every drag queen is unique is an understatement. This season's cast featured some gems - Milk, Vivacious, BenDeLaCreme, even Laganja (although I could not have taken another episode with her - she should change her name to Laganja Drama). My personal favorite is Bianca Del Rio. Her wit, style, and "realness" is refreshing. Bianca is not on the show to make friends - it's a contest. She's there to win. Thankfully, we have seen a softer side of Bianca emerge over the end of the season (acting as almost a drag mother to Adore and Trinity) and you know Ru likes her winners to be glamorous, talented, able to read a person, but also nice and caring. If Bianca doesn't win, I predict there will be a sequin riot at RuPaul's front door. Incidentally, Sequin Riot would also be the perfect name for a punk band fronted by Adore Delano. Adore, if you're reading this you should seriously consider the band as a career pathway. I will be your tour manager and help you sew costumes.

The crowning of America's Next Drag Superstar is this Monday. In honor of my favorite, Bianca Del Rio, I have created a cupcake that I'm tentatively calling "Rolodex of Hate Marble Cupcakes" - the swirl evokes both the spin of a Rolodex and the black and white wig she wore in episode six.

Maybe the real lesson of reality television is that you need to get out there and do you. Be creative, say ridiculous things, hone your Tim Gunn impression, make the world a more sparkly place - get out there and do it.


Bianca Del Rio image
Cupcakes by me

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