My heterosexual credentials are solid. I was in a fraternity in college. I served in the Marines. I went to war. I have, on occasion, kissed girls. I own a Rottweiler. My favorite drink is whiskey. (Which is not to say that gay/bisexual men can’t do these things, but they’re typically associated with straight men.) And yet, I love “Project Runway.” What gives?
The notion that straight men can’t watch and enjoy “Runway” because it’s about fashion and therefore “gay” needs to be blown up, and I’d like to supply the C4 and detonation cord. At my most meatheaded, I’m happy to point out that there’s plenty of eye candy to ogle on the show, from the models to host Heidi Klum to the two or three designers that I end up pulling for merely because they’re attractive and I’m extremely shallow.
But even the “hey, the chicks are hot” or “my wife makes me watch it” defenses do disservice to the show, as it’s one of the few reality competitions that fixates on the talent of the competitors and their creative process rather than the quips of judges or a live audience that brays at the slighest hint of criticism. Tim Gunn accomplishes more with a frown and silence than Simon Cowell’s most searing critique.
Granted, there are times when us red-meat-eating straights are bound to roll our eyes at a fabulouthhhh designer (I still want to throw Season 4 winner Christian Siriano off a tall building) or the emotional peccadilloes of the contestants. During last night’s Season 6 premiere, for example, Ari chose to meditate rather than sketch out a design, challenge-winner Christopher cried or came close to crying no fewer than three times, and ex-meth addict Johnny broke into tears and wanted to quit because he was faced with the enormous pressure of designing a dress — as if that were the sort of challenge he couldn’t have foreseen. But these are the foibles that make the show entertaining; there are characters to hate, characters to laugh at, and characters you want to take out to dinner and make slow, passionate love to (hello, Irina). That’s quality television, people.
So let’s shelve the macho pretense already. “Project Runway” is the apex of reality television, and I’m not sorry for liking it. It’s the closed-minded simpletons dismissing the show as “gay” who owe an apology.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some Wham! records I need to go listen to.