The Night Top Chef Became Big Brother
Hello. My name is Joshua David Stein. I tuned in last night to the second episode of Top Chef Las Vegas, a show on Bravo and now, I see, a Gawker advertiser. Uh oh.
I suppose it's all fitting in the end. Top Chef like Gawker seems to have made a concerted effort to appeal to the mainstream. In our case—meaning Gawker's—this meant decentralizing the content from its Manhattan-based obsession. I like to think, however, that we haven't assumed that our new national audience isn't an army of fools. We've simply broadened the focus. Bravo, however, has premised its national appeal on the supposition that everybody is an idiot asshole. They may not all use Axe products, but they are all in need of the sort of oversimplified grande geste aesthetic that presupposes a lack of not only basic motor skills but any capacity for subtle discerning thought.
How else could one explain the elimination challenge, as essentialist and retrograde a premise as Robert Bly's Iron John? A boys and girls team for a bachelor and bachelorette party, really, producers, this is what you came up with? What are we, in summer camp again? Bring on the Gaga, let's make gimp bracelets, I'll fingerbang you on the bunk before lights out.
Though I find the outvictiming of the cast disheartening, in this case, the lesbians had a point. Not only is the challenge degrading to both women and men by using an entirely irrelevant biological difference to separate the chefs but also forcing them to cook for an even more insulting event, the bachelor/bachelorette party, nights that usually end with the groom being sucked off by a cheap hooker while his friends slap at her tits or with the bride-to-be wandering around First Avenue with a dildo stuck on her forehead, tit hanging out of a novelty t-shirt, shit-faced and smeary and probably crying.
I kept waiting for there to be some twist that would save the nominally gay friendly network from the mire of hegemonic reinforcement. Maybe the groom was really a lady? Maybe the lady was really a groom? Both seemed possible. But no. There would be no twist when the twist urgently was needed. But the real condescension wasn't even in the challenge. It extended to the editing. For instance, the battle of the brothers. Was it really necessary to cut to
Kevin Bryan every time Mike spoke and vice versa? Must you, oh Ghouls of the Cutting Room, force your narrative down our throats thusly!?!? We get it. They are brothers and are competitive and sometimes compete and use hair gel but not sun screen. And no, showing us a lez table bitching about your insulting challenge does not constitute a "framing of the issue in a way that is accessible to our viewers." It's more of asking the ADF's Special Events committee to plan a "Auschwitz Banquet" called "It's a Gas" and then filming the tears.
Now if I don't seem to mention much of the cooking it's because in this episode at least, it was mostly irrelevant. Eve went home, which almost redeemed the episode for she is the sort of opaque miserable old who makes everyone feel uncomfortable at a party. But other than that, the most bitter morsels weren't found in the kitchen and the most tasty morsels must have been left on the cutting room floor.
Video by Michael Byhoff.