Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kanye, Serena, Joe Wilson - Can Project Runway Redeem Our Manners?

It almost sounds like a joke. Kanye West, Serena Williams, and Joe Wilson walk into a bar ... oh, forget it, nothing good will come of that.

This past week we saw all three of them behave horribly, whether it was West storming on stage to grab the microphone from a winner at a music awards show, or Williams swearing at and theatening a judge at a tennis match, or Wilson shouting a lie at the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. USA Today put them together as the main story on its web site today (see image, right), and properly raised the issue of what we accept in this country as appropriate public manners.

The answer seems to be a lot of bad stuff. Just look at the people calling our president a Nazi just because he wants everyone in the country to be covered by health care, or the people at the recent Million Moron March making jokes about Ted Kennedy's death. In politics, we've come to accept this behavior as part of an anything-to-win mentality, and in the rest of society (sports, film, television, etc.) it has become part of an acceptance of whatever celebrities do.

Now, awful behavior in politics is as old as the American Republic, and anyone who paid attention in civics or history class remembers presidential candidates being accused of fathering illegitimate children and worse. ("Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha!") However, the resurgence of such misbehavior (mostly, but not exclusively, on the conservative side these days) should not be accepted by good adults.

As for non-political poor manners and lack or respect, well, that's exemplified by the trashy reality TV craze, in which producers seem to pick the worst housewives of various cities to see what types of fights they can get into, or competitors treat each other terribly all for the hope of winning the show's prize or becoming marketable personalities after the reality show's over. Or the enjoyment of the show seems to rest on seeing amateurs humiliated by millionaire judges

One thing I happen to like about the current season of Lifetime's Project Runway series is that there isn't the rampant back-biting and childish bitching that has characterized a number of contestants in previous seasons. When there was conflict, as in last week's episode where the contestants teamed up to produce their outfits, it was a natural outgrowth of the challenge and it also directly showed the team members' professionalism -- and the two contestants with the worst chemistry were among the lowest-rated teams that week. In previous years, the bad boys and bad girls often seemed to end up winners.

I may have spoken too soon. Who knows, it might just be a fluke that Project Runway doesn't look like Real Housewives of Hollywood this season. If the ratings dip, the producers may well decide they need "more conflict!" and amp up the stupid-factor. But for now, I'm going to enjoy them behaving like adults. It helps restore my faith in people, and helps me forget about transgressors such as Wilson, Williams, and West.
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