Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E9: "American Girl Doll"

When you watch Reality TV, you should inevitably grow to like or hate some of the contestants. It's down to the editing, to who they are as people, to how talented they are or aren't, and any number of other nebulous factors. I think this can bring out the best and worst in us as people, which is the point. It's the same way those of us who are sports fans engage with sports. You develop attachments to teams and a deep passionate hatred of other teams; generally teams that tend to beat your team. All of that is just my long drawn out way of saying that Sandy going home this week made me indecently happy. I almost feel bad about this fact, but not quite. And if that makes me a bad person (and I fully recognize that it does), then oh well.

Before we get into the episode, allow me to say that Sandy is by no means the worst person we've seen on Project Runway. After all of the anger and yelling we had last season, I actually welcome her particular brand of annoyance. I found the way I hated her to be rather soothing to be honest. But with that being said, I still hated her. And after 9 episodes, I finally put my finger on the main reason why: It isn't just about the fact that I don't like her aesthetic and don't think she deserved the wins the judges gave her early on, it's mostly that I find her to be ridiculously entitled in a fashion that I will always find problematic. Specific examples to follow, but first let's get down to business.

This week, the designers are taken to an American Girl Doll store where they all fall into panic attacks over how creepy dolls are. Or maybe that was just me... But dolls are freaking creepy. And the fact that these dolls (which I had never even heard about prior to this challenge) all have elaborate and often depressing back stories didn't help my unease at all. I was just waiting to hear about the little Native American doll who had to watch her mother be brutalized by the White Man and who's father died of small pox. But the creepy surrogate children only serve as inspiration for the real challenge which is to design a modern look for a real live girl. And I like that because my favorite PR challenges always are Real Women, or Menswear, or just something that isn't about standard "design something for your model to wear" challenges, and "design for kids" is right up that alley.

The designers are also randomly assigned dolls (inspiration) and children (models) this week, which is great since it eliminates the possible sadness of a kid being left out. I think that that's the hardest part of any of their real women challenges: Schoolyard pick just isn't the way to go for these types of things, and I'm happy to think that after 13 seasons, the producers have finally learned that.

After a little chat, some background on their doll's depressing stories, and getting their new models' measurements, it's off to Mood. This is where we get the first glimpse of Sandy's overblown sense of entitlement. Korina is getting fabric cut by one of the peasants that work at Mood when Sandy walks up and puts in her own fabric order. Korina points out that she was in the middle of telling the young lady what she wanted to get cut and Sandy just shrugs it off with an "I know, I just want to tell her what I want and go off to get more things" kind of reasoning. I find this problematic on multiple levels. First off, you don't interrupt someone else. Sandy could have just as easily taken her fabric with her and come back to have it cut at a moment when no one was busy engaging the young lady in her services. She could have gotten in line behind Korina, or anything other than jump ahead of her. I'm also bothered by the manner in which her actions reduce this employee to nothing more than a servant who has to take her order and have it done by the time she returns. It's a part of the lady's job, but anyone who's worked retail knows that that can feel dehumanizing in a lot of ways. And all of it speaks to Sandy's general sense of "What I want or feel as though I deserve is paramount." She says something in a confessional about Korina just never liking her from the start, and I'm left thinking that that might have something to do with the fact that she's a selfish and entitled little brat. But who knows.

Back in the workroom, everyone gets to work, and Kini is of course super fast with everything. If/when he makes it to the finale, I'm assuming he'll be one of those annoying designers who has his entire collection finished before Tim shows up for his visit. Tim pops in and starts dishing advice like its no one's business. He tells Sean that he likes his look but he should probably kill the idea for the fringe on the back of the vest. Sean heeds his advice. He also tells Char he's not a fan of the fringe on her dress. Char doesn't listen. Project Runway history tells us that the contestant who listens to Tim is safe or in the top 3 and the contestant who doesn't is in the bottom. So we'll get back to that.

Tim also tells Sandy what we've all been thinking for weeks and weeks now: He doesn't understand her aesthetic and doesn't understand why the judges like it so damn much. Sandy, with a blank look on her face that might rival Alexander's, basically shrugs it off as nonsense and keeps doing what she wants because she believes in herself. And when you believe in yourself, no one else's opinion matters, right guys? .....Guys?.....

I also want to take the time out to mention that Tim tells Korina he thinks her look might be a bit too grown up and Korina responds with a kind of "But you know how kids are these days, Tim!" statement. I found this hilarious because earlier in the episode she admitted she wouldn't know the difference between a 5 year old and a 15 year old. So clearly she's grown a lot in her understanding of children over the course of a few hours. Good on you, Korina.

The day ends and everyone goes to bed. The producers do a lot of fancy cutting here. A lot of the designers appear to be talking smack about Sandy and her response to the critique she got from Tim. Meanwhile, in her own room with Emily, Sandy is having a breakdown about how mean people are to her. But here's the thing, if anyone had been mean to her during this challenge, I didn't see it. Did I miss it? Did the producers edit it out? Or is it just another false freakout by Sandy? The second of the season I might remind you. I'm inclined to believe the latter. The designers don't like Sandy, that much is certainly obvious in a number of ways, but I don't think anyone in the workroom is actively mean to her. And while she's freaking out, she mentions over and over again how much she feels like the designers don't give her the respect and kindness she "deserves." So again we go back to this point about her somehow feeling entitled to some ridiculous level of respect and going to pieces when she feels like she isn't getting it. I'm over it. When someone yells at you and insults your mama, then you can cry and be a baby on screen. You can't go to pieces because a designer pointed out that it's rude of you to try and jump in front of her in line at Mood.

Next day! After waking up feeling reset and back to herself (not sure that's a good thing, but whatever), Sandy and everyone else head back to the workroom. Sean decides that what's missing from his look is a peace sign on the back and he quickly adds one...kind of. It's a peace sign that's missing one of the little legs on the bottom. But I'll give him a pass because he's handsome. You don't have to be smart, honey, just pretty.

Off to the runway. Elizabeth Moss is guest judging and since I want to be Peggy Olsen when I grow up, that makes me so happy! She's cute as a button! And smart! And she actually isn't afraid to give a less than positive critique which I always love in a guest judge.

Korina: Cute if a little boring. It’s a kid’s dress so I don’t want to be too critical, but I do think the silhouette is a little simple and boring. But I appreciate the amount of work I know went into it, so I give it a thumbs up.

Sean: This is way more boring than Korina’s. I think it’s well constructed, but wow, I’m falling asleep over here. I expect more from him.

Amanda: Ok here’s the deal, the textile on the dress hurts my eyes a little bit, but I do agree with her that the dress and the jacket match perfectly and I think this is really cute. I love it in spite of myself.

Alexander: I like it more than I expected. I don’t think there’s much Design to it, but I feel that way about much of what we’re seeing today. I like his prints together, and I think it’s cute.

Char: This is the look, so far, that I think has the most “Design” to it. And I like it for that reason. I also think there’s something about it that reads as being a little costumey, but that’s just me.

Sandy: Ugliest thing we’ve ever seen on the runway? Because that’s what I’m going with. That was just a no. God I hate it so much!

Kini: His point that the dress looks like an American Girl dress is spot on. It’s what I like the most about it. It’s well made and designed to be sure. It might be too “grown up” but I honestly didn’t have a problem with that. I like it a lot. 

Emily: I think I want to like this more than I actually do. I like her aesthetic a lot, and I love the dress, but the crocheted top looks off to me. It looks backwards for some reason, and the two pieces don't really appear to go together. 

 Korina, Kini, and Char are in the top; Sandy, Sean, and Emily are in the bottom. So Sean followed Tim's advice and found himself in the bottom while Char did her own thing and was finally in the top. I'm just going to leave that observation there for you guys. As expected, the judging skews a lot towards how fun and youthful the looks are or aren't. One thing I really loved about the judging this week, aside from the fact that I actually agreed with all of it, was when the judges got to Korina; you could really tell that she put a lot of thought into the dress. The peaks of yellow under the squares, and why it was yellow and why she put it there was really ingenious when you hear her explain it. Also, someone, I think it was Zac, points out that Char's dress is a costume that translates into real life very well. Like it could be worn in the same spirit as the kid who wears a superman cape to school, and I agree with that fully. 

A lot of people point out that Sandy's look isn't age appropriate at all, and she says over and over again that she hears them but doesn't agree. Here's the thing, I think there's a fine line between not taking criticism well and believing in your design. I don't know where that line is, but I feel like Sandy crossed over it this go around. I don't know if that isn't just because I hate her, but either way I left this critique feeling like she simply wasn't willing to admit that a viewpoint other than her's is capable of also being valid. I think this also has to do with her response to Tim's critique and her statements last week about not wanting to be compared to another designer. As established in the comments of the last recap, I didn't hear those comments when they were made in the last episode, so I'd love to hear how some of you guys felt about Sandy's responses in this week's episode when viewed through the lens of her comments last week. 

Kini gets his second win, and this time its a win that can be free of the stigma of having to share it with anyone else, so good on him. He's also inducted into the double win club, which might not mean much this season as Korina's the only designer with only one win. This brings up something I was thinking about a few days ago: over the course of 9 episodes, we've only had 5 different designers pick up wins. I haven't complained about the judging lately because I do feel like it's finally evened out to the point we were expecting earlier on in the season. But do we feel like the lack of distribution of the wins this season is due to bad judging or due to a lack of evenly distributed talent? While I can admit that I don't think Amanda or Sandy deserved either of the wins they got, I also don't think any of the designers who've gone home thus far deserved wins either. Maybe Fade, but I'd have to go back and look at all of his designs to be sure. And as we get closer to the end, the gulf between the designers talent wise seems to be growing. At this point, I think we can all recognize that Char, Alexander, and Emily are just hanging around and waiting to be sent packing. And none of those eliminations will feel shocking when they come. My point being, maybe it's time to look back and re-categorize our opinions on those early episodes? Maybe the judges weren't trolling so much as seeing something the rest of us were just missing until now?  I don't have the answers to that one, but in the mean time I'll just be happy that my least favorite designer has been sent packing. Smooth sailing from here on out, guys. 

Thought Facsimiles:

--At some point during Tim's visit to the workroom, Alexander gives us another blank deer in the headlights look. Never change, Alexander. Never change. 

--There was a lot of focus on Sean this episode that made me really worried he'd be going home. I was so ready to just have an entire writeup that read "Fuck this shit!" but luckily didn't have to resort to that. He reminds me a lot of my handsome British husband from last season: He's not really capable of being safe. He's either winning or he's in the bottom. So hopefully there's less being in the bottom from him going forward. 

--I think it was Char who said that there weren't many curves on a child's body and that made designing for children difficult. I was left thinking, "As opposed to your full figured and curvacious models?"

--News Flash: Amanda, queen of fringe, loves Char’s fringe vest. Show of hands who’s surprised by that?

--Has anyone seen our erstwhile leader around lately? Julius, where are ya, buddy?  I don't have a problem writing up every week (really I'm having the time of my life and not at all interested in giving up the task), but I certainly miss you in the comments.

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