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The Unbearable White Mediocrity Of Project Runway

Have you been watching Project Runway? I doubt it since they have a viewing audience of Bobby and myself since moving to Lifetime. Still, we enjoy the show since it’s a mindless, creative answer to reality competition.

For those missing out, the current season is business as usual as not-that-great designers attempt to showoff to high fashionistas and celebrities within short time frames and with ridiculous assignments. It’s good, clean fun. However, this season there’s a twist: a set of twins are competing and stirring up drama by repeatedly helping each other in challenges by using each other as sewing assistants. It’s real weird.

If you care, spoilers ahead.

The twins – Michigan based white girls Claire and Shawn Buitendorp of the brand Shock & Awww – are two “cool” twentysomethings who, according to them, create edgy fashions for celebrities. Their looks aren’t that terrible, outside of the world of the show. On the show? Bad. They’re rushed, derivative, and without the sort of point of view that’s necessary to get ahead in fashion, on or off a television show.

Their looks are so bad that the duo have individually landed in the bottom for more than half of the season, one of them making it into the bottom for half of the season. One of them has nabbed high marks for two pieces but that was strictly because the other twin had to bail her out. It’s an ugly combination that represents so many things, from obnoxious white girlisms to a strange superiority complex that should excuse their being so overwhelmingly OK because they are “smart” (i.e., white). It’s getting very uncomfortable.

What’s worse is that these two girls are taking up space with their twinny symbiosis, sending queer and of color designers home for missteps while they have been offered salvation because they’re raking in drama (which, ironically, is coming to a head with the queer and of color designers left). There is both a laziness and entitlement for their okayness that the show is complicit in and it’s no longer cute or funny or making for good television or fashion: it’s just wrong. These girls are not good designers individually and should thusly be dismissed. They’re the classic white girl villain trope in real life, these people who smile and tell you how lovely you are to your face while double crossing you behind your back. No, they aren’t selling anyone out to law enforcement or putting anyone in danger but they are inching closer to the finish line while minority designers – most notably, people like Sentell, Aaron, and ChaCha – are sent home. It reeks of the backstabby conspiracies akin to white women screwing over Hillary Clinton.

There’s also something else afoot that reality shows are increasingly running into: these girls have been on reality television before – to great (“great”) success. They were formerly contestants on a 2015 VH1 show called Twinning. Word of this has been circulating Runway boards because the duo actually won the series. This shouldn’t disqualify you from another show, no, but they are already quite lucrative and shitty to begin with: they’re taking space from voices and points of view worth a shot just because they make “good TV.”

I get it, I get it, I get it: reality television isn’t real. I’ve worked in the business and have seen how the pig is made, typically where OK white voices are given more credence than OK non-white voices. It’s a shame representative of who is in control of these situations (White people.) and how the trickle down of non-diversity in television and fashion production yield to more same-sameness of mediocrity instead of more critical thinking, chance taking, and pushes for change.

It’s just a shame. These girls suck and, despite appearing cool, they are not. They are the curse of white mediocrity defined. They might as well be distantly related to the Taylor Swift, Tomi Lahren, or the Trumps.

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