While watching Bravo's new show "Eat, Drink, Love", the dialogue reminded me of a recent radio program I heard on NPR's Ask Me Another. On this NPR program, guest Michael Ian Black along with the host used "up talk" to deliver clues to the contestants who, in turn, responded in "up talk" with the answers, famous brand slogans. "Up talk" is the way teenage girls go up in tone at the end of every statement with their enunciation. Think valley girl.
One of the conversations early in Bravo’s new show between three of the cast members- Kat, Jess and Brenda - at Plan Check consisted entirely of such “up talk”. Obviously this valley speak along with the corresponding forced facial expressions was simply bad acting by these real people being "themselves". Or, at least one hopes this was the case. Despite conversations revolving around divorce and their jobs, as well as a lot of alcohol being consumed, the general tenor of the show was more consistent with gossipy teenage girls than with professional women. It's actually amazing that they still spoke to one another, rather than just stared at their smart phones.
Though between being fixated on body image and being fixed up, cast members did find time to make grandiose delusional comments about their imagined and tangential roles in the restaurant industry. For example Kat Odell, the editor at Eater LA, stated that she can "make or break a restaurant" with her coverage. While in another clip alluding to a future episode, Brenda, the publicist, proclaimed "I'm a fucking publicist, I will ruin you." Again such delusions of grandeur are extraordinary. In reality, the only thing Kat can probably make and break are her nails. Plus Brenda's repeated verbal diarrhea during the show really begged the question as to why would any one ever hire a publicist who doesn't know when to keep her own mouth shut? What wonderful irony.
Toward the end of the show, after Brenda's loose lips created more made for TV drama, Brenda notes "…because there are so few women that work in the food industry, we've become a very close knit little community.." While what she said may be true about kitchens; her comments don't reflect restaurant PR firms where women are well represented. Journalism too is another arena in which there's more gender balance, though using Kat and journalism in the same sentence seems somewhat oxymoronic.
This teenage and catty portrayal of such ya-ya sisterhood within food industry related jobs does succeed in doing one thing; it trivializes, rather than empowers, women in these variety of roles. Moreover the show reinforces stereotypes of LA being a superficial and flighty scene. Such a portrayal undermines the industry as a whole and, in particular, the hard work of female managers, chefs, journalists, and publicists.
In each of these roles, LA has an abundance of talent. In kitchens today, for example, across generations, names of female chefs that immediately come to mind are Susan Feniger, Suzanne Goin, Mary Sue Miliken, Nancy Silverton, Brooke Williamson, Nyesha Arrington, Giselle Wellman, and Kuniko Yagi. All receive the respect of their entire staffs due to their passion, talent and dedication to their craft. With such earned respect, gender distinction isn't necessary.
Then again Bravo is about drama, for obviously that's better for ratings. Though the demographic such "reality" shows appeal to seems a bit illusive...at least to me. Nonetheless, stay tuned for tomorrow night’s episode. Hopefully, it can’t get any worse.