I think I’ll start by getting the spoiler alert out of the way. This post contains spoilers for last week’s episode of Project Runway. If you haven’t watched it, but would still like to do so with an element of surprise intact, then stop reading and come back later.
Still here? Swell.
No discussion of the new season can appropriately start with anything other that “Oh, thank God you’ve all come back!” Insofar as I tried to warm to the “All-Stars” filler season, seeing the old crew back again hammered home how mediocre the PRAS experience ended up being. Having Heidi, Tim and Michael back made the deficits of not-Heidi, not-Tim and not-Michael obvious. (Especially that last one. Egads, Isaac Mizrahi was such a dithering twit as a judge.) I would rather just wait a little longer between seasons if it means we’re spared any more dishwater-dull placeholders, thanks all the same.
I also think some of this round’s designers are more skilled than we’ve seen in recent seasons. I particularly like Ven, though I am beginning to wonder if his elaborate folds and dramatic draping aren’t becoming a little bit one-note. I also like Christopher, because he is: 1) talented, 2) seemingly genuinely nicer than most, and 3) cute. And of course, I already know who I hate — I will clap my hands in childlike glee when insufferable prat Gunnar is sent home. I also hated Lantie (and really, honey, it would probably have helped your chances if you’d watched an episode or two of the show before signing up, since you were completely clueless about what you had gotten yourself into) but she’s gone, so… good.
Anyhow, what made last week’s episode a little more interesting was the departure of two other designers. Of course I refer to Andrea and Kooan, who both decided to leave of their own volition. Watching the reveal that the former had slunk out in the middle of the night and then the latter’s announcement to the assembled workroom that he was heading home also, my immediate thought was “Look at that! Contagion, right on national television!” Seeing benchwarmer Nathan start bawling and talking about his desire to leave too only reinforced that impression.
By contagion, I refer to the increased risk within a community (particularly adolescents) for suicide following the suicide of one of its members. (It was this phenomenon that was wickedly spoofed in the pitch-black 80s satire “Heathers.”) I saw it firsthand at a previous job, when several members of a local high school sports team committed suicide over the span of a few years, and one can find numerous examples in the media. It is plausible to suspect an element of contagion in the recent rash of suicides by adolescents bullied for being (or being perceived to be) gay.
Before I continue, I should probably stipulate something, what with this being the Internet and thus the hope for a common-sense, good-faith reading of what one writes being ridiculously naive. I obviously do not think the departure of two no-talent contestants from a fashion-based reality show is anything like the tragedy of adolescent suicide. Conflating the two would be glib to the point of monstrousness, and using the one as a low-stakes illustration of the other does not mean I think they are in any way equivalent. If you think I think so, then I urge you to back away from your computer and make arrangements to take the air in a restful location. Seriously.
That said, I couldn’t help but think that last week’s episode really was a penny-ante study in the effects of contagion on a particular population. Here you had a small group of people under pressure, whose only peers are also their competitors, and for at least a few of whom there must be feelings of being inferior or unappreciated. Add in the presence of the media (strongly suspected to be a major factor in suicide contagion) literally recording every minute of their lives, and there you have it. All it took was one of them to go to trigger another’s similar decision, and a third to voice similar thoughts. I don’t think it gets more classic than that.
Anyhow, that was my armchair psychological analysis of last week’s episode, with an even higher tempest:teacup ratio than usual. Obviously the phenomena aren’t entirely parallel (and, once again for good measure, there is no comparison between the mild bummer [if that] of the one and the horrible tragedy of the other), but watching the domino effect of Andrea’s departure made the show a bit more interesting than the usual drama of wondering if Nina will inexplicably like something god-awful because it’s “editorial.”