Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “Sexy People...” 
C+

Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “Sexy People...” 

A fun but not fantastic episode tonight. Chloe’s in full cartoon mode as she stages a temporary hostile takeover of People magazine using the same tools she did at Volvo, Dole, and Febreeze: chutzpah, whiteboard drawings of dicks, and, when all else fails, smackwiches. Chloe's idea of how magazine editors act seems to be an over-the-top take on Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada (herself an over-the-top take on Anna Wintour), and there's a definite streak of parody here. This makes for some fun situations, but gets a little too close to the line between homage and ripoff, and doesn't allow for any of the great unexpected plot twists that have been so strong with this show lately.

The Prada connection is especially clear when Chloe completely jacks Miranda’s ice-cold “cerulean” speech, with June on the receiving end as Anne Hathaway’s Andy. (They’re practically the same character, anyway—naïf apprenticing under legendary New York bitch, propensity for frumpy sweaters, giant, giant mouth.) Andy’s unwittingly wearing a shade of blue that, ultimately, Miranda selected for her; June’s got a strawberry beret, lip gloss, and Smints in her purse because Chloe claims to have picked them out for her. This is obviously nonsensical, because Chloe’s been in charge for less than a week and had no input on the previous editorial content of People. But I guess we can take the lack of logic as the writers wanting to do an homage to that scene so much that they hoped nobody would care that it doesn’t make any sense at all.

Understandable, because those speeches really tie into the themes of “Sexy People…”, which is all about objects, appearances, and context. Well, they also give Meryl Streep and Krysten Ritter an excuse to be utterly withering. (Which, frankly, Streep is a bit better at, though Ritter’s not bad—it’s just that once you’ve seen Chloe tranqing people at will, her more subtle shades of bitchiness seem underwhelming.) But the Big Idea behind both of them is that everyone’s affected by appearances, even if they think they aren’t.

The color of Anne Hathaway’s sweater, June’s sudden lust for JVDB upon seeing a mockup of him as People’s Sexiest Man Alive cover boy, Smints—all these things seem like free-will choices. But tracing back the Rube-Goldberg machine, it turns out that all of these seemingly personal feelings started when they were dictated by other people. To show that this is supposed to be universal rather than just weirdo June, her mom mirrors her experience—at first politely declining to comment on JVDB’s sexiness, then shown wearing bracelets popularized by well-known jewelry trendsetter People magazine, then reversing her stance on JVDB and encouraging June to bang him.

June’s sudden attraction to JVDB struck me as kind of a Duchamp thing, about objects and how we perceive them—the object itself matters less than the context it’s in. A urinal is just a urinal until it’s put in a museum and declared Art. Chloe is just some crazy chick (in a very flattering dress) until she starts firing people and is accepted as Boss. JVDB is just an objectively handsome friend until put on the cover of People and declared Sexy—at which point he starts triggering that Yac Yan da Businessman song that (hilariously) continues to be the show’s signal that June is turned on. Before someone told her he was capital-S Sexy, June rated individual chunks of JVDB’s anatomy well, but cheerfully ranked him as slightly less as the sum of his parts.  

But it’s because JVDB’s more than the sum of his parts to June that she doesn’t find him Sexy with a capital S. At the beginning of the episode, we see that June and JVDB’s friendship is now at a bringing-each-other-peach-smoothies stage; June’s way past seeing him as Dawson (another object) like she did initially. They’re comfortable together.

And the word “sexy,” at least in my experience, is usually a word applied to someone you don’t know very well—someone you know mostly as an object rather than a human being. Somebody who makes you a little uncomfortable. JVDB the human is very different from Dawson, or the next entry in the Binder Full Of Men June keeps by her bedside. (Allusions to June’s incredibly softcore taste in wank material continue to be very funny, by the way.)

This is confirmed when they actually kiss and the illusion’s shattered. And that’s even before it comes out that the vagina of People’s gloriously smarmy editor went with another cover boy (“The old gal hasn’t been wrong yet!”) and everybody forgets about JVDB’s poor gimmick-pet turtle, which is left behind at the People offices in probably the only time I’ve seen a turtle with a red balloon tied to it used as a symbol of objectification. But damn if an otherwise boring turtle with a balloon tied to it isn't about a thousand percent cuter than your average turtle—again, it's all about the context.

Stray Observations:

  • Speaking of past Sexiest Men Alive, did everyone see that insane Chanel No. 5 commercial? I guess Brad Pitt has a lot of kids to put through college.
  • Speaking of commercials (I watched this episode with the plebes this week—no more screeners): I guess People got a spot for letting themselves be made fun of… maybe it would have been a better idea to leave the Duggard covers out of the commercial.
  • Who’s sexier than JVDB, in June’s opinion? Gosling, Beckham, Costner, Kanye, Cowell, DiCaprio, Wahlberg, Prince Harry… wait, Simon Cowell?
  • However, James Van Der Beek looked quite good doing those nine pushups. My tubes!
  • Was wondering what was up with the blurred-out section of the editorial office whiteboard until I remembered that Chloe had drawn a penis on it.
  • Mark was Occupying Wall Street while holding down a high-paying job in the mortgage/finance sector? The man’s a rebel.
  • "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I LOVE SOMETHING!" Gotta give Ray Ford something to do besides hold the magazine, and at least he got one very funny line. I was convinced that something terrible was going to happen to that turtle, and was sort of glad that they didn’t follow through with the obvious gruesome death. Still no sign of Liza Lapira.

More TV Club