A few months ago, Jackson West brought you a profile of a video producer who had recently been hired by Gawker Media to “produce, shoot and edit original clips” for the company’s snarky lifestyle blogs. I don’t know how that’s going; I haven’t seen an in-house shot video clip on any of the Gawker blogs that I read in a while. The only original video content that I regularly watch on a Gawker blog is the The Lady Bunch, a talk-show clip-show of sorts that’s been appearing weekly on Jezebel since the day the blog launched in May.
I suppose this is where I should note that The Lady Bunch is the *only* thing that has me regularly visiting Jezebel. The rest of the site is … well … I guess this kind of thing is someone’s idea of “what women want”, but my guess is that it’s actually what straight, gadget-and porn-loving dudes fantasize about women wanting. The Lady Bunch, meanwhile, actually offers a semi-cogent critique of the commercial products that are marketed to women in the guise of (and in lieu of) a legitimate femme-centric popular culture. Thereby, in a single feature, fulfilling what I imagine was the ostensible goal of the site in the first place.
Most episodes of The Lady Bunch (which are credited to someone named Slut Machine, who is also apparently the author of this blog) aim to give the working girl/gay man a highlight reel of the week’s greatest moments from the holy trinity of lady-aimed daytime talk shows (Oprah, The Tyra Banks Show, and The View). These highlights are usually assembly edited into a no-frills video embed, which is posted on Jezebel alongside Slut Machine’s inimitable written commentary. Sample blurb, sparked by an episode where Tyra offered recovering drug addicts makeovers:
“Tyra does so much more than eat comfort food and then bitch about people calling her fat. For instance, she gives people makeovers (weaves, she gives them all weaves!) to improve their self esteem. She had on some meth-heads who looked like total shit before Tyra sicced her team of doctors and drag queens on them.”
In fact, all of highlights of the highlights involve Tyra. Ms. Machine is obviously enamored with Ms. Banks, to the point where she repeatedly makes mention of loving “all 161 pounds” of the supermodel-turned-media mogul. So imagine her (and our) delight when all three shows ended up on hiatus this week, offering an opportunity for a look back at Tyra’s greatest hits.
The episode begins with Tyra on a medical exam table, making her patented “Tyra scared” face, and shrieking, “Tyra? Who’s Tyra?!?” This face returns when a male guest who appears to be a vampire sinks his fangs into Tyra’s neck, followed by a long shot of Tyra falling to her knees in an apparent mix of pain and submission. We’re then introduced to Zombie Tyra, who sits calmly with L.L. Cool J blankly discussing breakfast cereal.
This conversation seems to jog a repressed memory for Tyra; we cut straight into a montage of Tyra passive-aggressively “celebrating” her weight. Her real feelings of shame over her “161 pounds” result in a second montage, in which she progressively loses physical control. By the final two shots (in the first, an apron-wearing Tyra calls herself “fabulous”; in the next she declares, “Thank God for the Tyra show!”), Tyra has fully slipped into total delusion.
It’s with this episode that The Lady Bunch moves from service journalism (translation: you were at work when The View was on, so Slut Machine shows you what you missed, plus makes a joke about Mary Tyler Moore’s “BJ face” as a bonus) to Situationist detournement (translation: Slut Machine’s repurposing of these clips imbues them with new meaning). The snark mandate of a Gawker blog doesn’t often allow for subtlety or evocative ambiguity, but The Lady Bunch manages to pull off both, without sticking out like a sore thumb on its host site. In other words: Slut Machine is out-subverting the web’s top mavens of subversion.