(STOP MAKING SENSE. The panel is split between coherent thought and insanity and you might not be too surprised to find out at which side captures the day.)
Ugh, alright. Let's get this over with. Project Runway - I actually really enjoyed this season for the most part. I've said before I thought it was cast better than it had been in a long time. Things seems to be on track at the beginning. But then... the judging seemed to be totally crazy, the eliminations became just as bizarre the critiques, the 1-day challenges that produce less than ambitious designs were plentiful, and the usually composed Tim Gunn was using every new-media format available to call the production team out on their endless bullshit. His FB videos were astonishingly awesome, until one tirade after the "Jackie O.(MFG)" challenge, where he started naming the names connected to the offscreen fuck-up's, got the videos shut down for good. Tim was busy with the book tour and I think he also just got tired of talking about the season once Fashion week happened and he knew Gretchen was the winner. The damage was done though. We knew something was rotten in Parsons. Still there some good times to be had, mostly surrounding the solidification of Team Mondo.
So Mondo vs. Gretchen. There really was no contest, but the show insists there was, so let's dig in. Both there collections were fine, but come on! I wasn't even rooting against Gretchen. I found her high opinion of herself and her colorful commentary on everyone else's work kinda fascinating in a "what the eff makes you so special?" exasperated sorta way. And as the season went on, I understood more where her mental drama was coming from as it was revealed she was in debt and was not the upper class lady she so desperately wanted to be, and therefore tried to compensate for this shame by acting like the Queen of Sheba. Cool, I get it. And the judges really loved her designs in the beginning. But as the season wore on, she fell apart. Her clothes suffered. Her designs suffered. She had nothing left in the tank creatively by mid-season. In her last critique before the finale, she said as much. She was sick of the challenges! She wanted to go home already and make her damn collection and then come back and win just like she deserved to! But where was the output to back up the talk? It really wasn't there.
Then you have Mondo, who started out socially awkward and uncomfortable on the show, but then gained confidence as the season went on. He won three challenges in a row toward the end and could've easily won a fourth because his designs were WAY beyond what any of the others were doing. Not only that but he drew an amazing amount of love and goodwill from the viewing audience for (1) how he disclosed his HIV status, (2) his ability to see the goodness in Michael C. when everyone else teamed up with Nasty Poison Ivy to bully him for no real reason, and (3) his own far out there yet endearing personal style. Mondo was clearly the hero of the season, but his design skills were exemplary and should've made him the winner. Given who his competition was, this seemed like the only acceptable outcome over a MONTH ago. We were all just sitting through the last couple challenges waiting for the happy moment when he'd be crowned the winner. That's how head and shoulders above everyone else he was. He had no real competition.
But then heading into these final two episodes, I started to get nervous. Not because Mondo was faltering, and Gretchen was getting a second wind, but simply because I didn't trust the show to reach a logical conclusion. I figured P.Runway would be too in love with the idea of having "shocking" twist to be seen as unpredictable. I discussed my concerns with Sassy, who felt similarly. I could see how the show wouldn't be content with an obvious ending devoid of suspense. I could picture them sitting around a long table in a cramped conf room brainstorming. Couldn't the show have TWO winners if everyone already loved Mondo, and somebody else had the actual title? Wouldn't that get people talking in outrage? Wouldn't people be more invested if Mondo lost than if he won? The answers to all those questions is "yes." But that doesn't it make it any less ridiculous. So if you wanted me to talk about you, P.Runway, you succeeded in the short term, but this is the last time. We're through. I'm fed up with your bullshit.
And the straw that put the nail in the final broken coffin for me was the judge's final runway deliberation where Michael and Nina just went crazy. Those two made NO SENSE. I couldn't believe the animosity coming from Michael Kors toward Mondo's collection, and the support he got from Nina for Gretchen's collection. They hated his polka dot dress that much? They were that insulted that he wouldn't listen to them and chuck it from the collection, that they refused him the title? Even when Heidi and (random finale guest judge) Jessica Simpson both insisted they loved the dress, Nina practically spat at Heidi that she was a liar. This is coming from Nina, who audibly gasped in pleasure at Mondo's work back in the design-your-own-textiles challenge with his extremely high-waisted hiv-positive pants? Kors nastily challenged Heidi to actually go put on the dress. Then Jessica Simps mentions that Gretchen's clothes are all loose and Kors snaps at her "HELLO?? READ A MAGAZINE!" WTF? Somebody is off their meds.
(I think this is the moment where Heidi realizes from the insane shit coming out of Kors' mouth that she just can't win with Nina and Michael so adamantly against her. She kept her composure, but she sure wasn't happy.)
And then to make it even more bizarro, Heidi and Jessica Simps keep making salient arguments for why the season winner should be Mondo, and Michael and Nina go off the wall in their campaign for Gretchen, contradicting all their former critiques. Their battle back and forth would actually be compelling if both sides made sense. But they don't. I'm just gonna lift a paragraph from Laura Bennet's blog now because she sums it up perfectly.
"It’s like Nina woke up one day and took back everything she had said to Mondo all season — or all designers of all seasons. “Gretchen has no color, and we want color; no, we mean color was yesterday.” “That’s so mumsy, and we want youthful; no, it’s too youthful. Youthful is yesterday.” “That’s clothing, not fashion. This show is about fashion. Who wears fashion? It should be commercial! Fashion is so yesterday.” Mondo = Seth Aaron = what was happening yesterday. (By the way, Nina, way to support your choice just six months ago of Seth Aaron as the next great fashion designer.)"
Isn't that spot on? THAT'S what the real problem is. Taste can be subjective, but if you are a fashion professional, your argument for what you like and dislike still should be consistent with what you've been telling the designers (and the audience for that matter) what you've been looking for all along - for 8 seasons! Kudos to Heidi for sticking up for Mondo as long as she did. But it was a lost cause. As is, perhaps, the show in general.
In closing, I'll restate that I don't dislike Gretchen, because I know Anti-Gretchen sentiment is very strong. I don't feel negatively toward her for winning, nor for her superior attitude throughout the season. It doesn't even really bother me in this instance that the "season villain" won, like it bothered me with Irina a couple seasons ago. I wish Gretchen success in life, just like Mondo. Just like everybody! Everybody should live a happy successful life (well, if karma decides to kick Ivy in the ass, so be it) The show however, has lost any sense of internal logic and artistic relevance. It's one thing when you have a season where there are no super-strong stand out personalities or fashion points of view. Then you have to try to spin gold from straw. But this year the show had the chance to embrace a designer with an excitement around him the likes of which P.Runway hasn't seen since Christian Siriano in Season 4. The fact that they couldn't see that and capitalize on it, is bizarre. Let's face it, the show just cannot get its act together. And 8 seasons in, the panel is cranky and bored. Tim Gunn is at his wit's end. The producers don't know how to design effective challenges that encourage creativity. Even in a 90-minute format, they don't know how to incorporate AN ENTIRE ADDITIONAL SEASON-LONG CONTEST FOR THE WINNING MODEL into the frame of the show. Most egregiously, however, they don't know how to pick a winner. I'm not going through this again in Season 9. To borrow from some of the classic runway critiques, the show has made me question its taste level, it bores me, it gives me nothing I haven't seen before and doesn't leave me interested in seeing more. I'm sorry, Runway. That means you're out. Kiss, kiss. Auf wiedersehen.