Hipsters Vs. Socialites: Why "Gallery Girls" Is Legitimately Compelling Reality TV

If you’re as obsessed with petty high school class warfare as I am, you could easily become hooked on Bravo’s new reality about young women trying to make it in the art world. Anyone who’s looking for an accurate portrayal of people doing serious work at an art gallery — you’re missing the point. Here are the four main reasons why this show kind of rules. posted on

1. There are THREE Hipsters!

These days, we’re lucky if we get a token hipster character on any reality (or even scripted) show. There was Oliver from Project Runway Season 9, Elyse from the very first season of America’s Next Top Model, Neil from Real World: London Edition, the occasional designy hipster couple on HGTV.

Gallery Girls prominently features THREE, yes THREE hipster girls! Along with a gaggle of hipster boyfriends, hipster gay tagalongs, and Brooklynite dinner party guests. The depiction is unprecedented on television, which has historically tokenized or parodied the hipster archetype (see Portlandia). These girls are delightfully cringeworthy — they say all kinds of embarrassing things that one might think but should never say out loud (see: “Who wouldn’t want to sleep with me?”). But you have to give them credit for appearing like they’re actually having fun and loving life, just like everyone who was once an outsider is prone to do once they find themselves on the inside (or, after high school). Their clothing store/art opening is more crowded (and there’s DANCING!) than the stuffy Eli Klein party where the blond heiresses work. These Brooklyn girls have something that most people trying to find themselves in a big city don’t: a community. In comparison, the blond uptown girls seem much more alone, despite their privileged upbringing.

(This is the screenshot that won me over and made me decide to download the free first episode on iTunes last night. In my vapidly curious way, I wanted to know if, based on their outfits, these girls might have something interesting to say.)

3. There’s a Rivalry Within a Rivalry

I sort of love (and relate to) the arc of the three hipster girls’ friendship, who own an art gallery/clothing store together in NYC’s Lower East Side. While being “cool” is all about carefree abandon and “letting whatever happens happen,” Claudia (pictured left) is actually concerned about the financial health of her business. She’s distraught that her parents have invested $15,000 in a venture that could very well fail thanks to her irresponsible business partners/best friends. Is it possible to be a hipster and a smart businessperson at the same time? This is a scintillating inner conflict that probably plagues every new store and food truck in the gentrifying neighborhood near you. It’s got to be kind of hard to feign free-spirited coolness if you didn’t come from a trustafarian background, and you actually give a shit about normal problems like running out of money.

4. The Rich Blond Girls Are the Endearing Ones

Despite the one girl Amy (pictured right) being a catty trainwreck, there were a couple of moments that really warmed me up to the blond girls. First of all, it was cute when Kerri’s mom was helping her move into her first real NYC apartment. It was an actual glimpse into something sentimental and real. Secondly, their palpable insecurity when they hesitatingly arrive at the hipster girls’ store opening smacks of that totally relatable awkward feeling when you realize you don’t belong. The irony is that these are probably the girls that wouldn’t let you sit at their lunch table in high school. Now they’re made to feel totally lame, like they’re not dressed right and their beefy boyfriends are about to knock down a $5,000 display of jewelry by “emerging designers.”

The scene illustrates so well the phenomenon of people who were ridiculed nerds in adolescence compensating for it by being assholes back to the people who made their life hell years ago. When Angela (the hipster-y Asian one) won’t stop harping on Liz (a blond) because she looks just like all the rich blond girls that she grew up with in Orange County, it’s clear that she’s getting back at Liz for all those years when she felt and looked different from everyone else. That insecurity stays with you for a long, long time. It’s probably the reason Angela feels the need to get a confidence boost by posing nude for a photo shoot, surrounding herself with adoring gay men, and talking just to hear her own voice.

Anyway, this happens all the time in New York, and probably any big city. If you ever wonder why someone’s being an asshole, it’s probably because they were a loser at some point in their life.

(This is Angela.)

6. You Can Bond Over Your Hatred of These Characters with Someone You Love

The uptown vs. downtown premise of this show is about as trite as those Mac vs. PC commercials, but it’s the destruction of these stereotypes that will hopefully carve these caricatures into real people.

I love a good anomaly and this show is full of them — characters that by all means you should hate made redeemable by one relatable thing they do or say. The blond girls, despite their narcissism and unabashedly nepotistic way of moving through life, are at least not PRETENTIOUS. I find that refreshing. You can tell they feel out of place, only going to show that no amount of money in the world can instill authentic confidence in anyone. If they were characters on a show about fashion PR or something, they’d just seem like stereotypes. But they’re actually way less stereotypical than their Brooklyn counterparts.

As far as the hipster girls go, despite their annoying snarky antecdotes and drinking games surely adapted from the Urban Outfitters’ apartment section, I can’t argue with the way the show presents their “weird” taste. They wear conceptual jewelry and drapey, sheer, all-black get-ups — and you just don’t see much of that on mainstream television.

One thing I will say, though: as far as I can tell, there isn’t any feel-good female bonding on this show. What I really hope to see perhaps, further down the line, is a meaningful female friendship between a girl from each side of this fictitious microcosm of the art world. Every good reality show, amidst the cat claws and recap-baiting fight scenes, can’t build a following on hate; it needs a sincere relationship to balance things out.

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