On one hand, I’m reluctant to contribute more to the obsessive discourse about a certain type of New York white girl. But on the other hand, somehow not addressing this new and pervasive stereotype of young, female adulthood (or maybe more accurately, extended adolescence) further marginalizes the disparate and increasingly political voices of women my age.
I’d like start with a look at the critical reception of this show versus the show Girls, which are ostensibly about the same thing—the impact of class on the creative economy of New York, or to even take it one step further, how wealth creates a creative aura to promote its self-sustaining correlative between New York and artistic success.
First, the Internet is finally shutting up about Lena Dunham. The unprecedented publicity garnered by her television show could simply be attributed to the fact that this girl has probably had dinner with everyone at “important New York media establishments” at various points during her childhood. Meanwhile, Gallery Girls has mainly been received with shrugs.
Most interestingly, however, is the debate about representation that these two shows evince. Girls, a scripted, fictional narratively manipulated package of Lena Dunham’s megalomania is critically received as representational of my age demographic of women. On the other hand, Gallery Girls, while obviously not unscripted and rife with notable forced interactions between the two castes it pursues, is a docudrama. And yet, response by New York media establishments has been largely, “This is not what it’s like.” Gallery Girls girls are not representational of the prescriptive New York art world where young women are relegated to curatorial or administrative positions*. In fact, they are anomalies, and there are so many more hard-nosed go-getters out there that don’t need to use reality television as a launchpad for their careers in trafficking aesthetically pleasing tokens of class privilege. Which almost makes me feel bad for our Gallery Girls. Almost.
The source of this obsession with female representation is so obviously the paucity of female voice, particularly young female voice, in mainstream media. Where representational discourse gets it wrong is that one young female voice—particularly the white, wealthy female voice—can be representational. The fact that media response to these two shows sets up the dichotomy between “good” (representational, Girls) and “bad” (nonrepresentational, false, Gallery Girls) just illuminates the misogyny in a system of valuation where women are supporting characters to be one-dimensionally and universally portrayed.
PHEW. All that said, let’s take a look at these ambulatory nightmares and play by media’s reductive understanding of womanhood. Which is actually a harder task than you might think because is there any difference between these people? This show might as well be called “The Work of Art in the Age of the Mechanical Reproduction of Female Capitalism Machines.” Anyway, let’s countdown from least-worst to worst-worst, shall we?
Congratulations, Liz! If I had six bullets and seven Gallery Girls, you would survive. Young Liz is doing exactly what is expected of her—that is, being rich and drunk. Art just happens to be the mode of decadence she prefers. She’s also from Florida, which grants her some sympathy points in my book.
5-6. The Rest of the Blond Girls
A few months ago I realized that I have very few blond friends, and I theorized that it’s because I can’t physically differentiate between the fairest of the white race. How many blond girls are in this show? Two? I think it’s two. One of them is rich and one of them watches Giants games in a local Long Island bar with her father who probably wears a commemorative 9/11 first responders baseball cap. One of them interns at Eli Klein and one of them… does something else related to art? By the sheer ability of being indistinguishable from one another these two have escaped bottoming out at the worst of the worst.
Poor, perpetually harried Claudia. What happened girl? You’re a beautiful, stylish rich young woman with good taste. You were born to be a gallery girl! And yet, your “gallery” (read: high-end TJ Maxx) is failing and your “business partners” do not give a fuck. Claudia is by far the most clear-eyed about the art economy. Instead of being dazzled by audacious displays of wealth like the “Upper East Side girls” or committed to some false sense of aesthetic bravado like the “Brooklyn girls,” Claudia is pragmatic. We have a bill that is $85, and we haven’t made any money to pay it. This is cause for concern. Unfortunately, it’s this pragmatism that makes her the least compelling of this terrible gang.
I cannot lie. Maggie is by far my favorite Gallery Girl. Her particular brand of privileged, myopic cuntiness and its relation to the absurd is the stuff of academic dissertations. I could watch her teeter around Brooklyn (and I mean Brooklyn as signifier of Williamsburg) worrying about crushed glass and getting murdered for days. I think at some critical point in her development, Maggie got bitten by a growth-retarding spider, and now she’s doomed to spend the rest of her life looking like a 12 year old about to go horseback riding. Maggie is definitely one of the worst, but god, do I love her so.
It was obviously a real fight to death for our last two Gallery Girls, but somehow Angela managed to redeem herself by… I’m not really sure? First of all, Angela, you are not a model nor a photographer nor an outsider. You are a rich girl who is so astoundingly narcissistic that you can almost be categorized as your own medical disorder. Angela’s “high-concept” wardrobe (wearing petticoats as shawls and dressing like an extra for an X-rated version of Cirque du Soleil), her evenings out with “her gays,” and describing herself as a “maneater” when in reality she is so vapid and self-absorbed that it would be impossible to sustain any type of human relationship with her, really makes me wonder how she only ended up at number two. But then, then I think about…
I knew months ago from previews of Gallery Girls that Chantal would elicit the kind of revulsion in me typically reserved for matters of international importance. Her vapid affectation is endemic to the New York art world and white, hipster Brooklyn culture. What is wrong with her mouth and throat? Her practiced apathy is exhausting. Furthermore, because she is just so goddamn typical she doesn’t even warrant a reprieve from rage. I want to put her head in a vice and squeeze her brains out onto a canvas then shove it down Eli Klein’s throat.
*Not to undermine the importance or creative impact of curatorial or administrative work, but work within the power dynamic of artistic creation as important or elevated.