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