For those of you who don’t watch “Project Runway”, don’t worry – I’m just using it as example, but damned if it isn’t a good one. I’m continually amazed at how people act so foolishly inappropriate when the rules of the game are so obvious.
So this chick Terri on the show had the same job as the eight other contestants: design a dress based on your sign of the Zodiac. Eight of the eliminated contestants showed up to help the remaining eight execute their ideas, and Terri was given Keith, an ex-Mormon with issues. Terri LOATHED Keith, and now she bemoaned her fate, even though he seemed to be compliant and willing to help.
Instead of making the best of it, she shut him completely out of the process, so he went to sleep on the couch in the “Project Runway” foyer.
Fast-forward to the end [SPOILER], where Terri’s dress has been singled out as not particularly good by the judges… and the first thing she does is throw Keith under the bus, claiming he abandoned her. Keith fights back – he had nothing more to lose – and by then, the judges are pretty much disgusted with the whole thing.
Thus, Terri is booted off the show, just one elimination away from having her clothing line featured at Bryant Park. Worse yet, her dress wasn’t even that bad, but the judges look at designing as a “collaborative process” and she obviously sucked at it. In essence, she torpedoed her own career because she couldn’t simply come to an agreement with Keith, whereby they would smile for the cameras, say “thank you, Michael Kors!” and move on.
Tim Gunn, genius
What makes this episode of “Project Runway” so interesting? Because you see the same thing play out in front of you time and time again. So much of life is a motherfucking game and you either play along with it, or you turn yourself into a problem. I see it every time I fly: someone at the security gate is trying to get through with a giant jug of hand lotion, and IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Play the game, lady! Move this line along!
At all my regular jobs, especially in the dot-com days, I’d see people fighting for little victories that they would win, but at a cost of months of ill will. Very intelligent folks would expend energy on tasks guaranteed not to be appreciated, leading to resentment on all sides.
Play the game! Or, more aptly, take Michael Jordan’s advice: “KYP! Know Your Players!” In other words, don’t whip a gorgeous no-look pass to a 7’6″ guy with hands of concrete.
Here in Hollywood, it’s something you need to take to heart every day. You may be crafting gorgeous scripts; you may put in little turns-of-phrase that exalts the writing into the heavenly canon… but if the plot takes place in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant or at a busy newspaper, you obviously didn’t read This Year’s Rules and you’re not playing the game.
By no means should this be confused with “mindlessly accepting every hand you’re dealt” or “walking in lockstep with the status quo”. There’s still plenty of opportunity for bloody insurrection – just not in the “10 Items or Less” line.
I’m sure this concept can be twisted politically, so that Republicans can say “Hey, we’re just playing the game! Don’t come crying to us! We don’t make the rules!” In some ways, I’d have to agree, except that “playing the game” only makes moral sense if entire swaths of people aren’t vilified in the process. The Willie Horton ad worked, and perhaps the gay-hating referendums of 2004 did too, but both were pretty bad for America.
I also take exception for the denigrations of things I actually love – like music and basketball – by those who call everyone else a “playa hata”. When the actual music and the actual basketball starts to suffer, then “the game” has become something else entirely, something that usually makes me cry on my pillow in a burst of effete, inconsolable snobbery.
But everything else? Play the game, fuckers! Stop trying to turn left from the right-turn lane! That suitcase is not going to fit in the overhead bin, asshole! Quit baiting the guy who signs your goddamn paychecks! Pass it to Serge Zwikker where he can actually catch it! And for god’s sake, unless you’re Picasso, smile nicely, survive and advance!