March 20, 2012

Commentary: On The 'Queen of Mean' Jeff Lewis and Reality TV


It’s like watching a car accident - it’s awful to see - but sometimes you can’t turn away

I’ve been a fan of Jeff Lewis interior design work since I saw the first episode of Flipping Out. I’ve watched every episode, and have pretty strong opinions about the show, and the cast of each season. There aren’t many LGBT individuals fronting a television show, so like many other people, I’ve tuned in year after year, and week after week.

Reality Television


When we invest so much time watching a reality show, we feel like we get to know the people who are in the cast. I think it’s important to remember that we only see what the producer, director, and the network, want us to see. At the same time, each real person shows the camera and viewers at home what they choose to reveal.

Many of the real people who appear in reality TV shows say that they forget the cameras are there. If you were to see multiple cameras, bright lights, camera operators, sound engineers with boom mics above your head, mics and batteries attached to your body, support staff, and production assistants, around you - would you forget they were there? Look at the pictures, as somehow I doubt it.
  

It’s no accident that every reality show has a villain. The show wouldn’t be interesting if everyone was sweet and nice to each other. Producers and directors set up conflict on purpose, and let it unfold in front of the cameras, to get our attention and keep us interested.

Where would the Housewives franchise be without Danielle Staub and Teresa Giudice, Michaele Salahi, Jill Zarin, and Brandi Glanville? Probably very boring shows.


Flipping Out on Flipping Out


There’s no doubt in my mind that Jeff Lewis has a temper. I’ve seen his bad behavior chronicled for years. I think he has some warped ideas about people, and his employees, and his business management experience is non-existent. He’s the villain on his show, and I’m sure he’s just as aware of that as we are. I just hope that he does something constructive  to change his behavior

During the last season of Flipping Out, his partner Gage was in Jeff’s ear, talking about his co-workers, and Jeff’s employees. It’s only my opinion, but I think that Gage was manipulative and contributed to Jeff firing two of his employees.

Trace worked for Jeff while he was going to college, and we saw his graduation on the show. Jeff finally had someone in his office who had the technical skills Jeff was lacking, and he fired him because he designed a closet for himself at work. Jeff could have handled the situation differently, but in keeping with Jeff’s irrational decisions, he fired him on TV instead.

Sarah was Jeff’s assistant, and he was trying to mold her into Jenni Pulos. Jenni is bright, older and more mature, and has been working for Jeff for many years. Sarah was never going to be Jenni, and it was unfair and unrealistic of Jeff to have those expectations.

When you want to take your receptionist and assistant, who has no training in interior design, and tell them you want to make them a project manager - you’re setting your own employee up to fail. Jeff’s inability to have realistic expectations that Sarah could meet, resulted in Sarah getting fired on TV.

Let’s face it - a smart manager would assess their own role, and figure out why each employee is deficient in certain areas, and formulate a plan to address the deficiencies. An experienced manager knows you have to make adjustments to get the most from each employee, because a one-size fits all management style doesn’t work.

It isn’t effective to yell and humiliate every employee, while threatening that they’ll be fired. It’s horrible, and incredibly rude and disrespectful. When you do it over and over - it’s harassment, which creates a hostile work environment.

Jeff Lewis isn’t a smart or experienced manager, which results in him treating his employees badly. And Jeff’s bad behavior resulted in him getting a reality show, so he’s been rewarded for it. He’s gotten better jobs, and more clients, so from where he sits his bad behavior has been beneficial to his business.

I think that Jeff’s a very talented interior designer. As I wrote in my review - I also think that his bad behavior takes away from his good work.

There have been many articles recently about Apple and the Chinese manufacturer who makes the iPhone and iPad. The press has documented countless suicides, poor living and working conditions, and low pay at Foxconn’s Chengdu China facilities. Activists have demanded that Apple be a good corporate citizen, and address these problems. Don’t you think someone should be doing the same with Jeff Lewis?

I know I’m going out on a limb here, and I hope that you’ll indulge me. We’ve seen Jeff with his dad on Flipping Out, and we’ve seen him with his brother, and he seems to have good relationships with both. I know it’s been mentioned that Jeff’s mom passed away when he was young. I know I’m playing an arm chair psychologist, but I can’t help but feel that some of the anger Jeff feels he needs to inflict on the world, is related to his loss. I can’t help but presume that the reason he doesn’t have better coping skills, is because he was never taught them.

I know how traumatic it is to lose your mother, though I was an adult when my mother died.
I have friends who lost their mother when they were quite young, and I know that it’s affected them deeply.

I can’t make excuses for someone’s bad behavior, but I can try to understand it. As far as watching TV goes, I guess it’s like watching a car accident - it’s awful to see - but sometimes you can’t turn away.

The only conclusion I can come up with - is the same conclusion to my review of Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis.  The next iteration of the show should be titled  “
The Queen of Mean: In Therapy with Jeff Lewis.”

People can change. It would be good for Jeff, good for his employees, and good for the viewers. That'd be must see TV - for sure.


straight talk in a queer world.


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