Here is a piece from one of our beloved commenters, My Elle Readers, also known as good old Stripper Shoes, that got spiked at some other stupid cowardly boring no-fun place that isn’t a basement filled with hissing obese cat ladies. Yes, it’s a bit dated now, but it’s still a great read. Feast your eyes!
On May 14, Bravo announced its newly minted summer reality series, “Miss Advised.” Immediately, I found myself chomping at the bit. Those who look down their noses at reality shows might view my eager anticipation as worrisome. But I promise that I can explain.
As I read the press release for Miss Advised, two things leapt out at me. One was the description of Miss Advised as a “docu-series about three single relationship experts who make a living dispensing dating advice,” none of whom are willing or able to follow their own expert advice. Naturally, I was like, “dating experts who suck at dating? What an absolutely crazy, ironic, entirely unexpected twist! Who could have seen that coming! I gotta see THIS.”
Okay, not really. Unironic irony is one of reality television’s calling cards, and it doesn’t particularly appeal to me. What made me sit up and take notice was the juxtapposition of the words “three…relationship experts who make a living dispensing dating advice” with the photo of three women, one of whom was Julia Allison. Julia Allison was already somewhat familiar to me as a Paris Hilton-esque Internet micro-celebrity who had opened a big ole can of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and took aim at the Internet’s memory cache.
Prior to 2011, I had never heard of Julia Allison. Then I stumbled across this article. At first, I was startled by the desperate attention-seeking that oozed from the raunchy photos to which it linked. Then I was perplexed by the notion that someone so seemingly desperate for attention would try to scrub the Internet of all of the untoward photos she had posted of herself, as well as all of the information that contradicted the narrative that she wanted to present to the world as of December 2010 (which happened to be when she began to date the son of former Republican presidential nominee, John McCain; that relationship ended in May of 2011, as detailed on Julia’s blog). Finally, I was blown away by the contradiction inherent in an aspiring public figure’s campaign to take down a blog devoted to clarifying what was true and what was not about her life. (With praises to freedom of speech, that blog has since re-formed as Reblogging Donk and is the main repository for the photos and facts that Julia attempted to scrub from the Web. So, if you’re into seeing an extreme-photoshopped Julia Allison wearing lingerie and sucking on the cigar of an octogenarian, then that’s where you’ll need to go. Also, rumor has it that Julia has occasionally interacted with that blog, including providing tips as to whom she has been dating (or reality television-dating, as it were.)
Granted, 2011 was a bit late for me to arrive at the party, which had been in full swing since at least as early as 2004, when Julia arrived in New York City and began writing for the free newspaper, AM New York. That didn’t end so well, apparently: “There’s other shit I want to do, most of which involves marrying rich, but I’ve wanted to leave AM for a while now, and I was really passive aggressive in the last few weeks,” she volunteered to gawker.com in the wake of her departure.
Prior to her stint at AM New York, Julia had been a student at Georgetown University, where she wrote a dating column for the student newspaper, “The Hoya” under her given name, Julia Baugher, and was accused of plagiarism for having appropriated a lot of … ideas (I’m quoting Julia herself here) from an article that appeared on iVillage.com. But Georgetown wasn’t Julia’s first rodeo. Julia Baugher spent her first freshman year of college at Indiana University, where she also wrote for the student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student.
From AM New York, Julia fell upward to Star Magazine as an “Editor-at-Large,” meaning that she made designated television appearances on their behalf. Okay, here I may just have to tip my hat and say: “You go, girl! Well done!” Oh, but oops…that didn’t end well either, apparently. After Star, Julia landed at Time Out New York, where she wrote a dating column until 2009. Since then, she’s been employed as a freelance writer or speaker on the topics of new media and personal branding.
But wait. Isn’t Miss Advised a docu-series premised on Julia Allison’s being one of three women who makes a living dispensing dating advice? I mean, sure, she was a dating columnist in the past (although that was so last decade). And since Miss Advised has aired, she is blogging about the show for Bravo, and in connection with the show for Elle.com (although the former attorney in me feels that it would be unethical for me not to disclose that the parent companies of Bravo and Elle are business partners). But notwithstanding Bravo’s clever use of the “present perfect” tense in Julia’s bio, saying that she “has written dating columns” is not the same as saying she currently earns a living “dispensing dating advice.”
And from what I can tell from this, she is no dating expert either. In fact, it appears that her primary area of expertise has nothing to do with dating, sex or relationships. Rather, Julia Allison’s primary area of expertise appears to be spinning her life’s narrative this way and that way and any which way, depending on the year, depending on who she is trying to impress, depending on who she is trying to piss off.
And thus we come to the gooey, delicious, meta-center of what makes Miss Advised so incredibly clever, particularly if you never make the mistake of watching it, as I did:
Bravo calls Miss Advised a “docu-series,” which means that viewers should expect a series that is factual and objective. Of course, anyone who has ever watched a moment’s worth of reality television already knows that there is nothing factual or objective about a life unfolding under the heat of television cameras, with the coaxing of producers and a cast of characters hired by a casting director. Nowhere is this more true than in the context of a reality show about dating. And this particular reality show about dating is premised on the further contrivance that Julia Allison is actually working day to day as a dating columnist (just as the other two stars of the show, Amy Laurent and Emily Morse, work day to day as a matchmaker and a radio host/published book author, respectively).
Yet, as of the first episode, while we have seen Amy and Emily hard at work at their respective jobs, we have yet to see Julia doing anything more productive than standing around while some poor schlub whom she met on Craig’s List (casting? gigs? who knows?) and with whom she went on one very awkward, chemistry-free date, schleps her moving boxes for her (immediately after he is done acting as her pack-mule, Julia calls him to inform him that she doesn’t like him “like that”; he responds with intensely deep … apathy).
No, I’m sorry. Did I say that? Please disregard that and allow me to rephrase it this way: I have yet to have seen Julia Allison doing anything that would indicate that she actually writes a dating column for a living. What we have seen is Julia Allison doing exactly what she does best: spinning her narrative until it resembles the truth, or until the truth resembles the narrative, as it were.
And so there you have it, a veritable panoply of meta: In pretending to fail at pretend dates while pretending to be a dating columnist who fails at dating on a “reality” television show about dating columnists who fail at dating, Julia has succeeded in…becoming an actual dating columnist.