Archive for February, 2010

Bravo, Bravo!

February 19, 2010

Reality shows generally operate under the same formula: take an uneducated blow-up doll and give them their own soapbox. On this soapbox, this uneducated person will undoubtedly say horribly stupid things and we, the viewers, can laugh at their ignorance and in turn feel better about ourselves. It’s not rocket science. It’s reality TV.

But in recent years, Bravo has given the reality television genre a much-needed makeover. For starters, they’ve veered away from the usual reality show target i.e. a twenty-something and have graciously given the spotlight to middle-aged men and women. Genius and largely unprecedented. Secondly, reality shows main focus is to propel relative unknowns into reality TV stardom. Their focus is to get people exposure based on a reality show, not any kind of legitimate career. This totally sucks because it gives unecessary fame to gross people like Paris Hilton, the girls of The Hills, Kim Kardashian and Tila Tequila.

Bravo flips that around and bases their shows around a professional whose career is already established (Millionaire Matchmaker, Kell On Earth, Flipping Out). These people are successful, rich, articulate and quirky. They’re doing their reality show not to gain infamy but as a way to boost business and feed their ego. This goes against what many people believe to be what reality TV is all about: making dumb people famous for nothing outside of doing their own reality show. Their “reality”, by the way, is largely indebted to their reality show. When Kim Kardashian is filmed doing a swimsuit shoot on Keeping Up With The Kardashian, it’s safe to assume that she landed said shoot based on the exposure and high ratings of her show. Without it, the only thing Kim Kardashian would be booking is starring roles in her own sex tape.

Obviously, Bravo isn’t perfect (Nor should they be.)  The Real Housewives franchise, for example,  is built around entitled narcissitic rich people of little redeemable intelligence. (Exception being the New York cast. Jill Zarin and Bethenny Frankel aren’t stupid.) Like Paris & Kim K., many of the Real Housewives have parlayed their reality show fame into record deals and clothing lines.

But Bravo shows are smart. They’re edited brilliantly.

The Real Housewives of Orange County could’ve been produced as simplisitic, light and frothy.  The message could’ve been just like the other reality shows that feature oppulent lifestyles: “Rich people are undeserving of their wealth and awful people.” And granted,  it is like that sometimes. But it’s mostly just really depressing brilliant social commentary. These women are fucked up and sad. Seriously, if I had their lives, I would keep a camera crew far away. They expose so much of themselves that it can be almost uncomfortable to watch. It’s compelling stuff. You almost empathize with them. And that’s what Bravo wants you to feel, that’s their point-of-view.

Kelly Cutrone is so brilliant, she gives me chills. Her perceptive behavior towards fashion culture is so spot-on and refreshing. It’s like she’s this outsider that was given a VIP pass to this insane other world. It’s the antidote to the equally-entertaining Rachel Zoe Project. Unlike Rachel Zoe, Kelly Cutrone acknowledges the ridiculousness of fashion designers and her job. Does that mean she’s not gonna flip her shit over something as silly as a misplaced guest list? No but at least she’ll have some perspective while doing it.


It’s like Russian Roulette but with penises.

February 15, 2010

Who wants to play Chat Roulette with us?

I was introduced to the website, Chat Roulette, today and I fear that my life will be no longer the same. It’s a self-professed “service for one-on-one text-, webcam- and microphone -based chat with people around the world.” What that loosely translates to is “a website where you can video chat with sexually-deviant freaks, 12 year-olds and lonely old people from anywhere in the world.” The concept is so simple and yet so compelling. If I wanted to (and I usually do apparently), I could go on Chat Roulette right now and video chat with some guy masturbating. I could laugh awkwardly, send him lurid messages and by the time I felt any shame, I could “next” him and move on to the next person. This website works on so many levels. For starters, it’s the “unknown” factor that is perhaps so intriguing about the site. You have no idea who you’re going to meet. Most of the time, it’s the stereotypical creeper; an oversexed frat boy drooling at the possibility of seeing teen flesh or an overweight balding man offending you with his ugly throbbing cock. But some of the time, you’ll come across like-minded individuals who will share in their disgust over the undesirable men and women showing skin.

But if anyone claims to be repulsed by the dirty things they’re seeing, they’re not exactly being truthful because it’s a big reason as to why people go on Chat Roulette in the first place. They want to see the big fat guy in bondage so they can laugh about it with their friends on camera and have the satisfaction of feeling “normal.” However, us “normals” are the ones getting titillated by the site’s obscenity and coming back for more. It taps into our voyeuristic and curious side, a side that I thought had been already thoroughly exploited by the internet but obviously not enough.

The website also reminds me of that insane MTV dating show, Next. The one where a gaggle of twenty-somethings hang out on a bus. Each person gets sent out to go on a low-budget date with some stupid loser from Orange County and runs the risk of getting axed or “nexted” if they  aren’t to their date’s liking. It’s so demeaning because people are often “nexted” on the spot, based on their physical appearance. Chat Roulette works in a similar way (hence, the “roulette” I suppose).  If someone doesn’t look appealing to you in the first 2.5 seconds of a chat, you can immediately “Next” them and be sent to another random stranger. Most often, people are “nexted” the second their picture appears. Meanwhile, the spurned folk are left to sit back and wonder, “What was so offensive about me that made you want to end the chat before it began?”  In the words of Cher Horrowitz, “That’s way harsh, Tai.”

The site also lends further credence to my theory that all these social-network sites have kept us more connected on a superficial level with one another. However, when it comes to creating any substantive bonds, they’ve made us so socially inept and alienated that we would rather spend our Saturday afternoons watching a stranger from Brazil jack off into a cup than meet an old friend for coffee.


February 8, 2010

I’m in the middle of reading Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, and it’s raised some interesting questions for me. Before buying the book, I had the most basic knowledge of both Patti Smith & Robert Maplethorpe. I knew that Patti Smith was a cult rocker who made the seminal rock album, Horses. And I was aware of Robert Maplethorpe’s revered status as a homo-erotic photographer. But beyond that, my knowledge was limited.

An interview with Patti Smith in (what else?) this month’s Interview implored me to read the book.In the article,  she talks about the gentrification of New York City and the correlation between poverty and life as an artist. Normally, I would roll my eyes at such tired topics but Smith’s eloquence struck me. The book, so far, is interesting. It definitely romanticizes life in the “old” New York, living hand-to-mouth but making beautiful art with your cute creative friends. It’s kind of all the old cliches about artists rolled into one memoir but for some reason, it matters more coming from Patti Smith’s mouth. Maybe because she has the talent (musically at least) to back up her words.And it gets me thinking about the relationship between money and art. In the 70’s, I feel like it was almost necessary for an artist to come from a rough impoverished background. It gave them the tragedy that would be deemed necessary to fuel “great art.” But I’ve always had a problem with the idea of a starving artist. Why can’t an artist eat caviar instead of canned beans?  An artist’s upbringing plays a pivotal role in their work. It acts as their point of reference, it’s what they know. But why is one upbringing more valid than the other?

But then I think of today’s new artists and I see a definite change. Photographers like Ryan McGinley and Jack Seigel certainly don’t seem starving. Quite the opposite, they appear always well-groomed, fashionable and as attractive as their subjects. And for some reason, this bothers me as much as the concept of the starving artist. Maybe its fear of nepotism, an easy ride, whatever. I feel like the bougie socialite, the person that picks up a Holga camera during their photography class at Crossroads High School, is the new modern artist/photographer. These kids also have a strong relationship to the internet and post photos taken on their expensive cameras of their jaunts to Europe, party photography, etc. Robert Maplethorpe didn’t have access to the internet and if he did, he sure wouldn’t post pictures of his nights at Misshapes. Or maybe he actually would.

This rant has no real cohesion. No concrete conclusion. And I normally loathe talking about things of this nature but I just Youtubed so many episodes of Autopsy Presents, ate so much Nutella and I can’t sleep. So there you have it.