So, last week’s column certainly sparked some debate. That’s good. We like debate. But I think it might be nice to have a lighter topic this week. And when I think light, I think Rachel Zoe. I mean, homegirl has to be 80 pounds soaking wet, right? I’m not going to waste time talking about her weight, though. Rather, I’d like to discuss another part of her life as a celebrity stylist that seems equally hungry for substance, her TV show.
Before I walk you through the vapid wasteland that is an episode of "The Rachel Zoe Project," I should explain why I watched the show in the first place. At the risk of surrendering my very substantial street cred (go with it), I’ll admit that I've always found Rachel Zoe interesting in a shallow sort of way. She loves fashion; I love fashion. Her initials are RZ; my initials are RZ. She eats air for lunch, I eat -- oh, wait. I eat food. Darn. Okay, I said I wasn’t going to talk about her weight, so I'll stop now. Sorry. The point is, I watched “The Rachel Zoe Project” because -- while I loathe many things about the fashion industry -- I like all the pretty clothes. I thought Rachel's would be the perfect “guilty pleasure” show – pointless but fun. Well, after muscling through seasons one and two and attempting season three, I can report 50% success. It’s pointless.
Every episode of TRZP follows the same formula. Rachel freaks out because the dress/shoes/bag/jewelry that she wanted for Demi/Cameron/Eva/Kate has been lost/ripped/sent to another actress, and then she scrambles to find a replacement by kissing both cheeks of Oscar de la Renta/Michael Kors/Donatella Versace. Her husband, Rodger, complains that she works too hard while Rachel drinks a seemingly bottomless Starbucks cup of what must be diet water (oops, sorry, it slipped). Also, Rachel says “I die,” ”Shut it down,” or ”Ba-nanas!” every ninety seconds. That’s pretty much how it’s gone for three seasons. But even within this stifling formula, the latest episode of the show manages to go from vapid to offensive.
This week's episode begins with Rachel and her assistant, Brad, heading to Milan’s Fashion Week to “harvest” dresses for the Oscars. “Harvest.” That’s what Brad calls it. I love that Team Zoe refers to shopping with a word usually reserved for organ transplants and crop gathering. Perfect. So, Raych and Brad are packing for Milan where they will harvest dresses when the plot takes a gripping turn. Rachel decides to go to London with Kate Hudson before she goes to Milan with Brad. OMG! You guys! She changed her plans! Rachel and Rodger talk about this decision as if it has rocked them to their very cores. They are still talking about it when they arrive at the hotel in London, where Rachel curls up on the bed and watches Rodger eat waffles. Then Kate Hudson arrives, looking high as a kite, and Rachel spends the next 15 minutes embarrassing herself. She is so far up Kate’s you-know-what that one has to look away. Kate, on the other hand, is either so detached or so medicated that she rarely makes eye contact. The two attend a Burberry fashion show, after which Rachel delivers a moving and emotional account of her experience. She says, “That was one of those surreal moments. When you’re sitting there watching those beautiful clothes come down the runway on these girls and then all of a sudden Stevie Nicks starts singing. And I was like, Is this really happening? It was kind of major.” Wow! Models wore clothes at a fashion show and there was music! Major indeed! Speaking of which, according to Rachel, the following things are also “major”: her friendship with Kate, a leopard print coat, and Julianne Moore. “Kind of major,” “major,” and “beyond major,” to be exact. Now, be careful not to confuse things that are "major" with those that are “everything.” Rachel’s relationships with designers and the movie “Almost Famous” are “everything.” Which by definition means that they are also “major.” Got it? Keep up, people.
While Zoe’s vocabulary and perspective are contrived and annoying, it’s her ignorance that pushes the show over the edge. She explains her affection for men in turtlenecks by telling Kate, “I’m just a big old fag hag at the end of the day.” Fag hag? Really? If Pauly D from “Jersey Shore” called her that, GLAAD would crucify him. But reinforcing stereotypes is so fashionable, you guys! Evidently, so is insensitive narcissism, as evinced when Rachel demands Kate’s and Rodger’s attention to announce with all the drama she can muster, “You guys! I flew to London on a whim!” Kate tilts her head and coos, “You did. You flew to London on a whim.” Then the two women embrace. Beautiful. Rachel is an inspiration. She’s a hero to people everywhere who don’t have the courage to take a super fun and luxurious romp to London in the middle of the workweek. Where does she get the strength? The show was so absurd that, pretty clothes and all, I couldn't make it to the end.
Most people would agree that the last thing we need is another TV show promoting stereotypes and excess, and sadly Rachel Zoe has little to offer the public beyond fashion advice. But now that I’ve ripped into her, I have to cut RZ some slack. For all the moments when I wanted to scream at her, there was one moment in the show when I genuinely felt for her. Kate is trying to convince Rachel to take a tropical vacation when Rodger interjects, “If you can make her wear a bikini, I’m all for it.” A conversation ensues during which Rachel admits that she never wears a swimsuit. My first thought was, well, I don’t think Calvin Klein even makes swimsuits in toddler sizes. But then I watched the show again while I was writing this column, and I felt bad. I mean, of course the poor woman can’t wear a swimsuit in public. She’d be vilified for her body. I'd do it. You know I’d have her bony butt in a “WTF” post the very day the photos hit the internet, along with some snarky comment about how she needs a sandwich. I did it in this column. And it's not as if she parades around half naked promoting juice fasts; she isn’t exactly asking for it. You also know that I’d never get away with (nor would I ever think of) making fat jokes. So I'm an insensitive hypocrite, because just a few hours ago I was committed to the skinny jokes, and of course I have gone there many, many times in the past. I hate it when I’m calling someone out for being a jackass only to realize that I am being a jackass. So annoying. Still, all of my jackassery aside, I stand behind the assertion that "The Rachel Zoe Project" is insulting and desperate. But I must state for the record that, however indirectly, I learned something from watching the show. Sad but true. Damn. That’s major.