Friday, October 22, 2010

Lessons Learned From Project Runway

It is easy to bash fashion-y “girly” things like Project Runway. They are trivial and silly, not nearly so meaningful as something like, I don’t know… football. More than that, they are for girls, so not interesting or important. But I think the show is interesting and chock full of lessons if you focus on the process and not the outcome.

Tiny Daughter and I have become addicted to Project Runway, mainly because we both love pretty clothes and Tim Gunn. But a careful reading reveals how much a show like this can teach about the creative process and how to go for your dreams while still treating others with compassion. Yes, it is a reality show and heavily edited. No, I don’t think it really shows reality but here are a few of the topics that come to mind as teachable moments, times when we have hit pause to discuss what is happening and how we would like to be treated in such a scenario.

Showing leadership
Showing compassion
How to realize that you are not the center of the world and other people have legitimate feelings, too.
How to pick yourself up from a failure and to learn from it.
Winners aren’t the ones gossiping. They are the ones working on their own goals.
There are many sides to a story and everyone can be a little bit right and a little bit wrong.
Bad behavior doesn’t always mean someone is a villain; sometimes it just means they are human.
Forgive people for what they say when they are tired and stressed.
Stay true to your own creative vision.
How to work as a team.
Your way of doing things is not the only correct one.
How to admit that you misjudged someone and apologize.
Laughing at someone’s tears is not nice!
Accept people for who they are even if it is very different than you.

Not bad for a trivial fashion show. Those are just the ones that come to mind right now. I am sure there have been others. The most heartbreaking thing about this season is seeing the pain so many of the designers bear from not being accepted by their families because of their homosexuality, even when they work in an industry where many of their peers are also gay. Last night, watching Michael Costello break down because he was afraid to admit to his family that he failed was tough. Without making it to the finals he felt he could not prove to his family that he was successful in his chosen life and that they would try to force him back into a heteronormative lifestyle. Even with a supportive partner he did not want to face them.

Another contestant Mondo Guerra, announced his HIV positive status on the show. You could see the there-but-the-grace-of-God-go-I horror on the face of almost every man there. To a person, everyone offered him compassion, support, and encouragement. To see him again last night with his family, who clearly still wish he had grown up to be a construction worker was discouraging. They love their talented son, but they have never stopped reminding him that he did not turn out quite the way they hoped.

Twice we have also seen loving supportive gay relationships. I am glad they showed that things are not always gloom and doom. There are people out there who will love you for who you are. We will value our loved one for who they are and not for who we wish they would be.

When we first started watching PR together, I was a little concerned that it would focus too much on the material and vain. Quite to the contrary, I cannot think of any other show that we watch that has offered us so many good opportunities to talk about our values. People still tease me for watching it because it is “silly and girly” but I won’t be apologizing for my interest anymore.

On a personal note, it is time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself because of my differences with my family. My family is disappointed that I no longer believe in God. There is tension and disapproval because of that. My wound over that is not as special as I would like to believe it to be. Some of these people face constant criticism from their families because of who they are. One of them lost his access to his child. What the hell am I complaining about?


  1. I'm very anti-'reality' show, and my BFF loves them ALL. When I watch something with her, I chose Project Runway. Originally watching under duress, I've come to enjoy it. It is actually less edited-for-the-stupid than most of them, and has a lot of good qualities, as you pointed out. I saw the Mondo-HIV show - very impressive all around. However, Models of the Runway = awful!

  2. Bev, generally I hate reality shows as they like to feature the worst of human behavior. I can't think of any others I watch right now. Maybe Iron Chef occasionally. I think PR is an exception beacuse it tries to promote creativity rather than screwing other people over.

    Models of the Runway was more like a typical reality show - vapid people being mean to each other for very little reason or benefit. I'm glad it's gone.

  3. I have also become a PR addict (though we pronounce it "pwoject wunway"). I watch other reality shows, too, including Top Chef and Survivor. I don't think PR would be as effective without Tim Gunn. He's such a lovely, loving presence--and funny! But he is such a good spiritual guide for the group, leading them back to being kind just by his example. I've often thought I needed a bracelet with WWTGD, to keep me going on a good path.