I’ll admit it: Fashion Police is part of my bad feminist DNA.
I can’t remember when I first started watching the show on E! Network; probably around the time that I graduated to expanded basic cable in my first apartment. I wasn’t much of a Joan Rivers fan, but I did like Kelly Osbourne, my favorite “character” on the now-ancient-seeming MTV reality show The Osbournes. I “won” her CD from a radio station in 2002 (along with Lindsay Lohan’s album… yes kids, that happened) and never listened to it, but I liked her anti-pop princess style and gothic Lolita-accented looks.
Over the years I’ve watched the show rather faithfully, especially during the spring award season. I’m a sucker for Oscar dresses, and have been ever since I was allowed to stay up late enough to watch it (1991, when Dances with Wolves took home the top prize). I judged each dress, from Bjork’s swan to Lupita Nyong’o’s red cape, on the same simple, vital criteria: would I wear that? The answer, in both stated cases, was a resounding yes.
Once I grew up and the world of critique and opinion became bigger and more accessible along with me, my view of fashion branched from my own impressions to that of the esteemed(?) Fashion Police panel. Kelly, to my surprise, usually agreed with me. She loved risks and ball gowns and the artistry in a handmade gown. Giuliana Rancic, who gave me uncomfortable mean-girls-in-6th-grade flashbacks, pretended to give compliments while cutting women down. Joan made jokes that were sometimes funny, often terrible. On those nights indulging in what I knew was trash TV, sandwiched in between The Kardashians. But it felt like it could be better. If Kelly and I could just bond over our love of Rihanna’s insanity and Sarah Jessica Parker’s inscrutability, we could make the show smarter. If we could just cut the fat-shaming from Joan Rivers and the underhanded shanks from Rancic, we could just talk about what was really important: dresses.
Because it is superficial and it is stupid and I will fully own up to it, but to walk the red carpet in a fashion statement of my very own is my life-long, undying dream. A show about that dream might not be Pulitzer-worthy, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love it.
With the passing of Joan Rivers and the reformatting of Fashion Police for this past award season, there was a glimmer of hope for a more modern, smarter take on haute fashion. Brad Goreski was a promising new addition, replacing the blah George Kotsiopolus with actual fashion industry insight and behind-the-scenes intelligence. He wasn’t mean, he was just knowledgeable, which was refreshing. I don’t have much history with Kathy Griffin, and from her short run she seemed capable, if not luminous. Unfortunately Giuliana was still there, first with her vendetta against Amal Clooney, then with the infamous pot-smoking comments about a young woman named Zendaya, who I’ll admit, I’m way too old to know anything about aside from the fact that she looked like an absolute goddess at the Oscars.
Really? I thought, watching the episode live. Shitty drug jokes when an African American woman wears a traditional hairstyle? They can’t do that, can they?
Apparently not. Or at least, kind of not. Kelly Osbourne quickly announced her exit, attributed to both the comments made on the show and her general unhappiness in the direction since Joan’s death. A week or so later, Kathy Griffin wrote a triumphant manifesto announcing her own exit. Meanwhile, Rancic remains, and if media reports are to be believed, the show is going on. Or maybe not, depending on which report you read. Either way, the opportunity to transform Fashion Police has passed. If the head mean girl has made it through this gauntlet of criticism, she’s not giving up her seat anytime soon. The formula of bullying over being insightful keeps working. And without any antidote, I don’t think I can keep watching, either. I can be a bad feminist, but I can’t have a lobotomy.
So I guess this is my exit letter to Fashion Police. So sad, dear red carpet cam. Farewell, sweet Kelly. We could have been so much greater than we settled on being. At least we’ll always have Lupita.