Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Quelle Dump...

(Rant alert...)
Move over Fashion Police – the Interior Design Cops may be gaining on you.
In news that stunned a nation already reeling from decades of listless tone on tone colour schemes and cold modernistic-style coffee tables, a German citizen was recently charged for threatening his neighbours with bodily harm unless they ceased and desisted in redesigning their digs forthwith.
According to police reports, the 45 year old man from Erkrath near Dusseldorf, pointed a gun at the teenagers living next door and told them – mach shnell! - to stop decorating, or (apparently) else.
The victims claim the man told them it was the noise that was bothering him, but I wonder… maybe the poor man finally succumbed to that famous last straw – in this case, an overwhelming surfeit of cable TV decorating programs.
I hear you Mein Herr!
Second to the top on my list of absolutely-the-bottom television show concepts is the recent spate of home makeover shows.
For the last few years, popping up all over the dial (not that televisions have dials anymore, but like the phone, we have yet to discover a new descriptor – plus, I like retro, so it’s all good for me) like an advanced infestation of toadstools, is example after hideous example of style gone wild. And now that Martha’s gone (or is she…?) who’s going to separate the Good Things from the beyond appalling, edging into horror show-enforced transformations?
Whether the format is agreed upon (Trading Spaces) begged for (Extreme Home Makeover) secret guerilla-style (While You Were Out) or force-fed to sloppy heterosexuals (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) like the face and body plastic surgery programs, the pay-off is all in the shocking reveal.
And sometimes it really is shocking and revealing.
Watching middle-aged ‘just plain folks’ transmogrify their neighbour’s basement or sitting room into a scene from the Arabian Nights, or choose a squid inspired ‘Under the Sea’ theme for their formerly lackluster (and formerly perfectly normal) bedroom, you start to wonder if the next DIY project will be a barb wire-topped chain link fence, or possibly a convenient weapons storage space complete with grenade launcher.
Seeing the poor saps uncover their eyes at the final moment and attempt to get their oohs and ahhs in place for the ever-present cameras, is an object lesson in the reading of mixed signals and shocked-into-rigidity body language.
(Tell me – what do you think a shrill scream followed by hair tearing, helpless sobs and cries of ‘Why? Why!’ means?)
But what were they thinking anyway?
How great a transformation could one expect with a budget of a thousand bucks, forcing the show-sanctioned decorators to rely on craft store stencils, poster paint, discontinued fabric swatches and orange crates to metamorphose a normal suburban rumpus room into a mini-Versailles.
But that’s the downscale programs; to really see what Zeller’s will be pushing next year with their in-house branded home accessories, get a load of the pricier shows – the ones that like to start with pity as a motivator (dead mothers, handicapped fathers – tragedy of any kind, really) where decorators tend to swarm in like locusts, destroying everything in sight (and taking some pretty mean on-camera digs at the state of their victim’s living spaces “Just look at the grime in this grouting! And the food they eat - it's non organic!”) before inflicting ‘Beach House in the Hamptons’ (plenty of pastel paint-chipped china cabinets and crackle-fnished iron bedsteads tipped onto unfinished hardwood floors) or streamlined sophisticated modernity (60’s hi-fi cabinetry shoved protesting upwards to a whole new level) into homes that were previously inhabited by people really only looking for a Barkalounger with a cup-holder, or possibly a larger fridge to display the kid’s art projects.
You’ve gotta give Martha Stewart credit; all her impossibly glamorous projects were done in her own home on her own time, and I expect that was half the pleasure: believing Martha was willing to wait for the milk paint to drip dry on her painstakingly reconditioned priceless Shaker porch furniture, or scouring the local hedgerows for just the right shaped twig to braid into a Thanksgiving centrepiece was easy… imagining the slobs who live next door magically transforming into the sort of folks who would either want to live that way in the first place, or be willing to maintain that level of chicken-breeding, tag sale-haunting, flower arranging perfection is ever so slightly harder.
Also, there’s a truism that seems to escape both the budget-priced and the upscale interior designers – when you update, refinish, or even refurnish an already attractive well-built and well-maintained space, you’re bound to get worthwhile results; slinging a can of Ralph Lauren ‘Hampstead Heliotrope’ on plasterboard walls, or thumb-tacking pleather fabric around the skeleton of an ancient Lazyboy with hopes of eliciting comparisons to antique, leather lined men’s club libraries, is far more likely to elicit comparisons to sow’s ears and silk purses.
And how long before all that glue-gunned swagging masquerading as elaborate draperies crumples into the heap of bargain basement material it actually is?
It’s really just a matter of time.
And hopefully too just a matter of time before we lose our endless appetite for makeovers – whether of humans or of houses.
When you look at them closely, the most consistent feature is the degree of self-shame required of the participants - whether sitting by quietly (what else could you do with a mouthful of sharp instruments and a dental dam?) as the dentist favours the home audience with a scathing review of your disgusting dental history... or the plastic surgeon squeezes and weighs your abdominal fat like a baker manipulating raw dough... or the interior decorator sweeps through your cabinets and cupboards with an expression of such contempt-riddled loathing you half expect to see a few dead bodies or at least some S & M sex apparatus lurking in their disparaged depths to tumble out - your role in all of this is to stand shamefacedly by, taking their humiliating criticisms as your due.
So really, the free makeover isn’t absolutely free – unless you consider your self-esteem completely worthless in the first place.

Come back Martha! All is forgiven!

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