Almost all the Project Runway faithful have been terribly disappointed in the judges over the course of this season. The judges, even Heidi, have become increasingly egotistical and not at all mindful of the impact their comments (supposedly well-meaning) have on very young designers. During the finale, they showed their true colors as self-aggrandizing, unimaginative boors. As Shannon mentioned on Facebook, I also resent a show that puts me in the position of having to agree with Jessica Simpson.
However, I do not watch Project Runway for the judges. I barely watch it for the designs. I watch Project Runway – faithfully – because of Tim Gunn. About a year ago, the Chronicle for Higher Education had a story about how Tim Gunn exhibited the qualities of the ideal graduate advisor. He questions, he challenges, he directs, and he respects the designers as he helps them to find their way. How many of us can only wish we had teachers who cared as much about their students as Tim cares about the designers?
We live in a culture that has lost its sense of civility. Our political parties have become sufficiently polarized to make compromise nearly impossible. Ad hominem attacks are the norm; we have become so desensitized to others that we do not bristle at just plain mean-spiritedness.
On Project Runway, the designers squabble predictably. Creative people living in close quarters in a high pressure, highly competitive environment will behave badly. This season, the judges fueled that nastiness, valuing the witticism of their critiques over their value for the designers.
Throughout this season, only Tim Gunn provided a model for integrity, professionalism, and human kindness. His words are thoughtful, and he listens. Tim is interested, genuinely interested, in the success of others. He is an admirable role model for all of us and should serve as a reminder that simply being nice, especially when we disagree, is a good thing – and not all that hard.
This world needs more Tim Gunns. The house next door is up for sale, and I sure would love to have Tim move in. Imagine what a neighbor he’d be! Thoughtful, caring, funny, generous, and kind. Yes, I want Tim Gunn to move next door. Or someone just like him.