December 14, 2010


I’ve confessed many times that I tend to read magazines whenever I sit down to lunch. I like the fashion publications best because they are visual and don’t require much reading.

Because I like fashion and consider it an art form, I ordered a DVD called “Runway,” which I thought was a documentary about the design industry. I was wrong. I had ordered a TV Reality program and watched as the judges devised a labyrinth of tasks for the contestant, young wannabe designers, which challenged not only their skills but their temperaments. As these young people, filled with hope, found themselves being put to tests akin to water boarding, I wondered at the mentally of the program’s producers. Was the audience expected to be entertained by watching contestants being tormented by emotional stress? Was this some modern form of Roman Circus?

The last segment I watched before throwing the disk into its mailing pouch required the designers to work in teams to create a gown within a matter of hours. Personalities clashed, nerves frayed and I watched in shock as more than one contestant broke into mild psychotic behavior. Worse, before the final judging ended, each participant was asked to identify the weakest member of his team. I watched with chagrin as some participants threw their colleagues overboard without hesitation. A few agonized before making a decision but finally did. Only one contestant broke the cycle of cannibalism and sacrificed herself. “I’m the weakest link,” she said.

She was eliminated.

The design industry is highly competitive, the shows’ moderator explained. Anyone who would sacrifice herself for the good of others would not survive as a designer. 

The young woman walked away in tears. I can only hope the audience recognized she was the real winner. She exhibited humility, integrity and empathy under duress, pretty sterling credentials for a human being. As for the rest — those who created the show, participated in the judging and remained behind as contestants — they were the losers.