MRSA Is the New Black

If, like Jack, you’re going to leave Project Runway early, it’s best to do so with a trendy illness. Meanwhile Chris comes back for seconds.

BY Dave White

December 14 2007 1:00 AM ET

Remember HIV and
how people used to be scared of it? Those were the days,
running around being terrified of something that might
possibly kill you some day in the vague near or
not-so-near future. But then, weirdly enough, maybe
you’d live. Like for a LONG time. Like Larry Kramer.
He’s the author of the mind-blowing ’70s
novel Faggots, a book where all the gays in it are
never not engaging in anal sex with about 37 people at once.
And in the rare moments when they’re not doing
that, they’re scheming disco-y ways to
self-destruct. Anyway, that book and that guy are both
amazing. And Kramer more or less invented
not-dying-of-AIDS. He also invented AIDS activism,
which is why people get to not-die-from-AIDS for much
lengthier periods of time now. He even continues to
not-die-of-AIDS as we speak. But I’m off track.
I should be talking about Jack, the HIV-positive
contestant who’s been that way for 17 years.
He’s not dying of AIDS right now, but on this
week’s episode he gets the new thing that people are
totally dying of left and right, the superbug staph, a.k.a.
MRSA, which stands for…um…multiple
resistance staph…uh…amoebas. Or something.
Anyway, it’s serious shit, and if you get it,
you can die pretty quickly, which freaks me out
heartily, I must say. The other crazy thing is that it
seems to be everywhere and easy to get. You don’t
even have to be having gay sex to get it. So
I’ve decided never to leave my house again now.
Thanks, Project Runway. You feed my extreme
hypochondria the big stylish spoonfuls of panic and paranoia
that it needs to keep going. And failing a
plastic-bubble existence in my own home, I'm going off
to New Mexico to wherever that place is that Julianne
Moore ended up at the end of Safe, living in a
ceramic yurt that’s hosed down with rubbing alcohol
on an hourly basis. I’ll adapt.

But before we get
to Jack’s swelling and departure, I have to examine
another snippet of the opening credits. This season’s
really do seem designed to instill disdain and hatred
in the viewer, presenting even the nicest, most
talented, coolest contestants in the worst imaginable light.
Like the shot where Jillian is curtseying like a doofussy
6-year-old while Ricky and one of his most rotten hats
walks up behind her. His walk is either his
impersonation of John Travolta in the opening scene of
Saturday Night Fever or it’s his attempt
to come off “street,” or how he’d
teach the girls on America’s Next Top Model to
walk if only Miss Jay would just go ahead and ask
for his opinion already
about the way things
ought to be done.

The sun rises on
Gotham apartments, where Sweet P is busy fiddling with
something in a box and Jillian is grooving on a
croissandwich of some sort, squeezing a packet of
gloopy whatever onto it. Which reminds me of a recent
Chick-Fil-A experience. I ordered one of their breakfast
sausage-on-a-biscuit things, and the teenage counter girl
asked me if I wanted grape jelly with it. She held out
the packet of grape jelly for me as I stared blankly
back at her; she was all ready to let it drop into my
waiting palm like it was going to be the most natural and
obvious thing ever to just say yes to that, even
though I’d never thought about putting grape
jelly on a sausage biscuit before. I paused for maybe two
seconds and then did, in fact, say “yes”
back to her, because in those two seconds I thought
about delicious bacon swimming in deliciouser syrup on
a plate of pancakes and also about how I’m already in
the habit of piling the fried chicken on top of
waffles when I’m at Roscoe’s Chicken &
Waffles over on Pico here in Los Angeles. And then I pour
the syrup right on top of the fried chicken and eat it
all at once like that. So the step to grape jelly on a
sausage biscuit was really just a lateral one. I hope
that’s what Jillian just squeezed on her
croissandwich, some grape jelly. Everyone should know
how nice that tastes.

Cut to Jack
holding a wet compress-y thing up to his face and Kevin sort
of half-grinning at his misfortune. On interview cam, Jack
talks about what he thought was a pimple on the inside
of his nose, only it got worse. And now we see his
entire top lip swollen up bigger than when Goldie Hawn
got collagen pillow lips as a bit in The First Wives'
Club.
It’s pretty intense. The swelling
that is, not TheFirst Wives' Club. Or Goldie Hawn. He explains
that he’s had skin staph infections before and
he hopes that’s not what this is. Oh, and now
he’s also actually joking about getting his
collagen. So he and I are on the same page.

The next thing we
see, all the designers are seated at the runway.
Heidi walks out in her best PTA outfit: black-and-white
houndstooth skirt, black top. Like a smart field-trip
chaperone mom who backs out at the last moment and
sends the nanny in her place. Then come the models, a
bunch of middle-aged women wearing outfits that are way too
big for them. Also gross. Nearly every single one of
them is wearing something bland in a stupid buttercup
yellow color or some swirly patterned puke-fest. Oh
good, it’s another round of “design for the
‘everyday’ woman,” like they did
last year when Jeffrey made Angela’s mom cry. I
especially like watching them make the designers try
to make stuff for women who are bigger than models,
because you get to see them flailing. In the end you
also get to see who talks a good game about “making
all women feel beautiful” and who really means
it. Of course, I also like it when they just flat-out
say, “I don’t do plus-size,” or
something equivalently moronic.

It turns out that
all the women on stage have lost, in Heidi’s words,
“a significant amount of weight” and
that the shit-ugly outfits they’re wearing were
their favorites from before they were skinnier. I think this
is a lie. I think their favorite outfits were the ones they
had six sizes ago that they can finally fit back into
now. These tents were just tenty enough to cover them
and minimize the shame. The great thing now is that
they’ve all lost between 40 and 160 pounds -- each
one of them delivering their pound-lossage
announcement in a very host–of–Bronx
Beat
way. Even better, all of them have these
excited looks on their faces, like, “Get the fuck out
of my way! I’m going to go have
sex!”

The challenge is
to create a new outfit from the old, baggy, shapeless,
ugly one. Christian, on interview cam, says, AGAIN,
“Ohmuhgodumgonnadie.” So that
one’s gaining on “fierce” as his
favorite thing to say. But you know what happened to
the boy who cried wolf, Christian? He got wolfed in
the end. What if Jack decided to rub his MRSA all over you?
Where would you be then? Possibly almost gonnadie for
real, wouldn’t you? And speaking of Jack, why
isn’t he already running off to the doctor?
I’m having actual worried feelings for him.
He’s nice, and I don’t want his face to
fall off. He should be calling in the favor and making
Christian carry him in a tote bag off to the
ER, stat. That’s a medical word, by the
way,“stat.” I don’t know what it means.
But it’s what they say on Grey’s
Anatomy
when they’re not all busy calling
each other “faggot.”

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