As I watch The A-List: New York, a new reality series on the Logo Channel, I think back to a talk I once heard by an activist who spent his life advocating for the poor of Rio’s favelas. ‘Please don’t fight for the poor,’ he said, ‘because you think you should like them. Many of the poor I’ve met are not especially pleasant.’ If I extend that lesson to the The A-List I’m forced to conclude that vapid, self-absorbed, fashion-obsessed gay men should have as much a right to make me want to disown my species as anyone else.
And yet I watch. I watch.
It’s very pre-postmodern of me, but I always look for the moral center in works of art, whether high or low. In the case of the The A-List, this appears in the form of an avuncular figure, Mike Ruiz, a fashion photographer who wears tight tee shirts emblazoned with words like “Love Muscle.” Mr. Ruiz is kind enough to give modeling advice to the beautiful young men who seek his help. After criticizing one model’s portfolio for being “too Miami,” he sets up a photo shoot to give his oeuvre more of a New York edge. This involves smearing the young man’s face and arms with grease and photographing him while he evinces looks of world-weariness. I assume from this ritual that no one can make the A-list in New York unless he still manages to look alluring after having been run over by a cab.
Austin Armacost, aged 22, a “model turned fashion connoisseur” whose antics upend the other characters’ attempts to behave like self-contained professionals, reminds us that “We’re in the middle of a very fireblazing human rights movement right now, so it’s time that people see we’re not freaks or molesting young boys—we’re regular people too.”
Art, he suggests, should function as a mirror held up to Nature. For a man like me, a man not aging especially well, the mirror thing has gotten pretty old. Each morning as I stand at my bathroom vanity, I inspect myself and see my Human Nature just barely concealed by my age spots and thinning hair. At least on The A-List, the characters’ Human Natures spend a lot of time in the gym and look rather fetching parading about in yellow Speedos.
And so I watch, I watch, careful not to let this fireblazing human rights movement pass me by, as so many others have: the sagging pants movement, the tiny little backpack movment, the-rising-inflection-at-the-end-of-your-sentence? movement. I watch as I might watch a train wreck: awestruck, horrified, but still unable—OK, unwilling—to avert my gaze.