Thursday, February 01, 2007

da bear

and other fables

Why would someone such as myself, a completely irrational champion of the underdog have a soft spot for da big bad bear? Hint: I'm a Cubs fan.

The first fable : chipmunk & bear

I dislike bullies as much as I dislike spoiled brats. Both boys behaved badly. Both were ignorant and intolerant of each other.

But I'm old school. I'm the type who believes in "pitch in and work / work until it's done / learn on the job / you shouldn't have to be told what to do and you certainly shouldn't have to be told more than once / shut up and get me a latte you weenie." Michael's behavior would have made me feel like boxing his ears. And I'm against corporal punishment.

Even so, it is much easier to feel sympathy with Michael what with him being young and sweet and a cute widdle chipmunk and all.

Whereas John was all sweaty and unshaven and blustery. Hard work and experience isn't pretty and charming much of the time.

Most viewers appear to feel this way, based on responses I've seen.

John could learn a lot about style from some of the other designers, including Michael, from whom he did discover that a paint technique with a rag will induce vomiting.

But Michael really missed a unique opportunity to learn from John's skills. Plus John's got that intensive midwestern work ethic that runs so deep in the culture that it is a religious practice, one that is both a virtue and an affliction.

Still, wouldn't you want to hire the type of person who would lay the floor on the diagonal because it looks better that way even though it would take more time -- and then bust his butt to make sure it is done on time?

The second fable : mice & men

These two couldn't be a more perfect pair for reality telavision conflict. They are a version of the country mouse versus city mouse.

country mouse
Michael is the warm cuddly boy who names all the animals on his family's organic farm. In this modern version of the story the country mouse is the one who has the higher status and education and sophistication. This is more of a Martha Stewart upscale bucolic countryside than the more typical middle American rural world of Walmarts and McDonalds.

city mouse . . . or rat?
On the other hand, Big John is the tough guy from the city that gave rise to industrial meatpacking, with its (former) massive stockyards, a city that is still known, poetically at least, as the hog butcher to the world.

They make such great foils for each other and we can easily fit them into character types and story lines we are very familiar with -- that is why they are great for tv. We don't have time to get into the complexity of what they are really like. Ironically, reality tv is actually about finding the simplist fiction.

the third fable : boys will be boys

As for John's "living with the girls" comment. Believe me, one of the forms of homophobia I find especially vile is the idea that the worst thing you can say about a boy is that he resembles a girl. But here are my reasons for not getting too whipped up about this:

1. John obviously doesn't do a very good job editing what comes out of his mouth. In those interviews the producers work to provoke the cast members and John must have been putty in their hands.

2. It seems reasonable that a guy like John might walk into that room and make the snap judgment that he probably didn't have much in common with that group. The reverse would be true as well. What if one of the the other guys walked into a room full of John's (um, so to speak)? Okay, they might run for their lives, so that's not a good analogy.

3. His enthusiasm over Todd Oldham and Alexis Arquette is not what you'd expect from a homophobe. In his interview with BTD John talks about his gay friends. I might be totally off-base on this but I think his comment about "living with girls" was ironic. Then there is the fact that he compares himself to George Michael. Ahem. The problem is that he forgot that he wasn't with his friends so he wasn't in a position where he could get away with that kind of joke (i.e., the people around him didn't know him well enough to know his intent.) I suspect that he has now learned that lesson the hard way.

the fourth fable : simple folks
John's role (or stereotype) is the rough around the edges, working class Chicago bloke who knows a lot about construction, architecture, design -- all on-the-job work experience -- but he lacks sophistication, the kind of sophistication he would have if he were--or appeared--better educated, middle class, gay (or maybe not so butch) and from New York or LA.

After all New York and LA are the style centers. By the time the fashion trends reach Chicago they are officially over. Chicago is the big schlumpy worker in the middle. Statistically Chicagoans have broader shoulders than any other population in the world. Okay I just made that up. My point is that you could actually believe that might be true.

Chicago is not a place for fads. Midwesterners think it is unseemly to call too much attention to themselves. You are being a showoff. And you run the risk of embarrassing yourself. Just look what happened to John.
Now there's a lesson for the rest of you. Don't you go getting any big ideas about going to California and being on a fancy tv show. You'll just embarrass yourself and the family. Did you think about the family John? We pay the price. You don't know the kinds of looks we got at church last week. We may have to become Presbyterians.
Where in the hell am I going with this? Oh yes, I guess I'm just not that outraged by John. From the previews it looks like John is screwed on the flooring and he might get kicked off next week. So I thought I'd point out why I think John's probably an okay guy.

Go Bears.

added 2/7/07: for the fifth fable click here


eric3000 said...

I agree; I don't think John is homophobic. But I also don't think he was being ironic. He probably just doesn't like being surrounded by queenie guys. I think he chose the wrong profession.

thundercat said...

Kora & Eric ~ You're both right to a certain extent! I've known and worked with John for years, so I feel qualified to tell you what a fabulous post this was, Kora. Thank you for articulating some spot-on observations about John that I had been struggling to debate with posters in other forums.

John is not homophobic (more queenphobic as Eric supposed) and has lived an uncloseted gay lifestyle as long as I've known him.

Kora, you don't know how right you are about John not having a good brain/mouth filter. It was because of this that I was so fearful for him when I learned he'd been accepted for the show. I knew he would have no trouble holding his own with his design chops, but feared that he'd be vilified for an off-the-cuff remark that got blown out of proportion (much as the "living with girls" comment has). Guess it's good that he got that out of the way right off the bat, huh?

Anyway, thanks for being willing to look behind the character that Bravo creates/exploits and giving John a chance to show his quite refined aesthetic. He hasn't spoiled me, so I sincerely hope you are wrong in your supposition that he's next to go ~ I would hate for everyone to miss out on what he has to offer the world of design and reality television!

roorooB said...

It seems like there are a lot of really good designers coming out of Chicago now.

However, it also seems that lots of them went to IU. So ...

From a Trixie fan but nonetheless an IU grad ... um ...


*runs away*