Saturday, March 27, 2010

Girl Crush

As much as I love men - and I do - there are fabulous women who hold a special place in my heart. This isn't, like, an ode to my mother or anything like that...she's wonderful, but applying the term "girl crush" to my mom raises my eyebrows, at the very least. The girl crush is a special category, reserved for fabulous strangers and acquaintances who make your heart soar with the possibility of one day being as awesome as they are.

I'm not talking about women who scare you into striving for awesome. As much as I admire her chutzpah and ferocious bob, Vogue editrix Anna Wintour's reputation is that she is a mean, scary woman. A bitch, if you will. (AND YOU WILL.) Women who produce results by intimidation can be inspiring, but there's also something less accessible about them. If I'm afraid to knock on a woman's office door to say hello, then she's not inspiring me...she's making me uncomfortable.

So the women I get girl crushes on are amazing, but in a fun way. For example: even though she's sort of a fictional character, I loved Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia. Hilariously histronic emotions, deeply felt care, and an I-don't-give-a-fuck re: being liked attitude that is utterly charming. I can't tell if I have a girl crush on Meryl - although she's undeniably awesome - or on Child, but the intersection of the two is just so much fun to watch.

That's the thing about girl crushes. They're so much fun to watch. I've palled around with some of my girl crushes; there's a feisty writer/photographer who shares my irrational hatred of pants and can wrestle most of her skinny hipster dude friends to the ground, and just watching her in action at a bar or a party is such a pleasure. She'll say the most outrageous things, wear the cutest outfits, goad the bouncer into letting her and her fourteen closest friends in for free, and shark someone at pool once she's in. It's just so exciting!

Girl crushes are, by their nature, a fickle mistress. If I was tighter with this girl, I would see more of her vulnerabilities. Maybe she gets homesick, or rampantly PMS-y, or is an unrepentant dishes-leaver. But because I only see her when she's at her most incandescently fun, she's like a beacon of awesomeness. Girl crushes give the illusion of being dependably good at being great: your intellectual flames are never sleepy-eyed over the cornflakes, your party girls are never wearing sweatpants for a Saturday night Twilight marathon, and your career inspirations never accidentally pour Diet Coke all over the photocopier's command center. I mean, they do, but because they only present the appealing side of things, you never have to see them being klutzy and sweaty. You just see the shiny side of things. The fun, smart, strangely-bespectacled side of things.

It's not just "girls" who fit the bill - women of all ages are entitled to the mantle, and it's good to have a roster of girl crushes. On of my former girl-flames was a sassy professor who dressed in jewel tones and told her class, "I'll take you from Moses to Mel Brooks, if you let me," which is just an awesome thing to say when you think about it. Or a Nia instructor in Stratford, who is appealingly human when she dances, and therefor seems to transcend the whole glossy-dance-instructor stereotype to become gorgeously relatable. It can be anyone: a waitress who understands your gluten sensitivity without being a diva about it; an author who wrote a book about your very favourite city and who has a great haircut; an acquaintance who has mastered the who-cares school of dressing to a degree that you find yourself envying her snowpants.

I think the real appeal of the girl crush is the perceived confidence. As someone who often feels unsettled in her own skin (like, you know, most human beings), the illusion of boundless competency and confidence is intoxicating. The fact that it's a mirage is sort of beside the point, since girl crushes are more about fun and inspiration than following a particular path to a particular destination. It's about seeing your world through fun, funny, smart, competent lenses.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

High Society In the Gutters

Back when I was in my early teens, I used to read the glossy fashion mags - Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair - with the sort of curiosity that made them more pornographic that relatable. Is there anything less accessible to a twelve-year-old girl that fashion spreads featuring $5000 couture gowns and lavish, drippy photoshoots of someone's Hamptons summer "cottage"? As an easily impressed twelve-year-old girl, I was absolutely gobsmacked with the type of glorious, frothy fashionable lifestyles that were depicted in those pages. They seemed both completely alien and 100% attainable.

Fast-forward fifteen years. No one reads anymore, an reality television has supplanted even scripted shows as vectors for smooth, honeyed lifestyles. The most popular reality TV tends to be the shows where something is at stake - a modeling contract on America's Next Top Model, a record deal on American Idol, a pile of money on The Biggest Loser, Bret Michaels on Rock Of Love - but even those are losing ground next to the aimless drama of the Fancy People Reality TV.

I guess it would have started with Laguna Beach, which was supposed to be a slice of reality to offset the hype of The O.C. Both shows dealt with typically dramatic, wealthy and attractive high school students in SoCal; the better one had Peter Gallagher's eyebrows, but Laguna Beach went on the spawn The Hills (the post-high school spin-off), which begat The City, where the action moves to New York. All were/are sort of watchable: the people are attractive, but the "drama" mostly involves people drinking cocktails in futuristic vodka bars an having stilted conversation on windy patios. Plus, as more of the girls got plastic surgery, they became harder to tell apart on a cursory glance.

The success of the Laguna Beach offspring clearly gave someone pause, because the viewing public has now had High Society inflicted upon its corneas. High Society was designed to be a glimpse in Tinsley Mortimer's fabulous, glittery life. Tinsley is a newly divorced handbag designer who runs with New York's jet set, and the show revolves around her search for love and happiness. I guess if it had a thesis, it would be, "Can money buy you happiness?" which manages to be both trite and dated. Um, hello? World-wide recession? The general distaste the public is developing for massive, disgusting, unnecessary expenditures? Please.

This show is the worst thing to be broadcast on TV, ever. The characters - people? players? What exactly is the preferred nomenclature for folks who appear on reality television? - are repulsive. In that many, many people who appear on reality television are not exactly Girl Scouts, the general level of awfulness found on other shows is kind of understandable: they're reaching for a golden prize. The High Society folks, on the other hand, are just showcasing themselves. And boy, is that aquarium filthy.

Tinsley herself isn't so bad: a little naive, and clearly scripted to seem relatable to twenty-something viewers despite being in the process of divorcing her husband of fifteen years. No, it's her friends that are the pits. Jules Kirby and Paul "PJC" Johnson-Calderon are tied for last place: Kirby announced that she's not really interested in gays, or Jews, or black people...or anyone who isn't a white man, really. She also told the cameras that she feels okay with using the n-word. She then went on to say that she'd like a job at the UN. PJC, her nemesis, is a hyperactive brown gay man who has already thrown a drink in a woman's face, stiffed his mother for $25,000, been to rehab (twice!) and announced that he'd really like to settle down and start a family. Immediately after saying that, he chucked a can of beer out his limousine's window.

The show is a trainwreck. I can't imagine wanting to be on it, to be associated with it. Having seen two episodes, I can safely say that I won't be returning. In order to watch a show, people need to be able to relate to what's happening on the screen. I know, I know: TV is all about escapism and fantasy, but even the fluffiest, most elaborately glam shows have something you can like about them. Maybe it's an insecure character, or a funny sidekick, or a great friendship. Maybe it's good writing. Maybe it's being able to identify with someone - which I think explain the popularity of the interminable Hills, which always seemed to me like the girlfriends people who have no girlfriends would want.

But High Society is different. There's no heart. There's no real point. I mean, Tins, you seem nice and everything, but as a woman in your thirties, it might be time to get real. You claim - on camera! - that your marriage ended because your name started showing up in newspaper gossip columns. That seems...willfully, almost myopically, innocent. I'm no marriage counselor, but if my wife had the same priorities as Heidi Montag-Pratt, I'd be asking some serious questions. Maybe it wasn't so much the pictures and the gossip column inches as the fact that you even cared in the first place.

I've wasted a lot of internet inches on this sucking black of hole of a show, and for that, I apologize. Just consider this a warning, for anyone who's thinking about taking a gander: High Society is bad for you. Do not go there. Stay in your middlebrow society. Hell, read Vanity Fair for all I care. Just, please. Don't encourage these people.