Saturday, May 07, 2005

No miracle here

What's screwed up about this article? Oh, where to begin?

First, there's the premise, which is that a bunch of do-gooder high school students, out of their own hard work and savvy, have gone beyond the usual community service projects and are arranging large-scale philanthropic events, with big names and fashion shows as part of the package. What the article only hints at is that Anna Wintour, someone who wields perhaps a tiny bit of power in this world, is the mother of a Spence high school student. That fact alone explains much of the piece, and ought to take the awestruck tone out of writer Eric Wilson's voice.

Early on in the article, we are introduced to "Selby Drummond, who is such a fashion plate at Spence that she is listed as a contributor on the masthead of Teen Vogue and had her prom dress made personally by Zac Posen." To be listed as a contributor on the masthead of Teen Vogue does not require being a "fashion plate," or even being a wealthy fashion plate in NYC. Nope, knowing Anna Wintour might help out a bit there.

Many of the other celebrities and socialites the young philanthropists managed to coerce into attending their events are also part of Spence families. While perhaps the girls deserve some credit for knowing that they have extraordinary connections and actually making use of them, the article treats these girls as if their ability to get important people to talk to them is nothing short of miraculous. Wilson writes:

"Although they are too modest to say so, the women's achievement in orchestrating a coup that has the tacit support of Ms. Wintour, the Vogue editor, who last week staged the New York party of the year at the Costume Institute of the Met, is remarkable."

And then, to show their precocious devotion to hard work, he adds: "A Kate Spade sample sale taking place in the same building had attracted hordes of young women about their age, but the three sat in a windowless conference room, sorting through a rack of dresses..." Take a step back. Do any of these girls need to go to a sample sale? OK, no one needs to go to a sample sale, but I'm thinking they can just go to Kate Spade and get the bag full-priced if they feel like it.

Nothing in this story is the least bit remarkable when you have all the facts, or even just a few of them. Girls who commute to Palm Beach on the weekends so that they can be competetive horseback riders, or who both look like models and have had the foresight to become "close friend[s]" with Anna Wintour's daughter are exactly the people who'd become junior socialites. This story ought to be a glimpse into the lives of some New Yorkers, not an awestruck ode to splitting the atom, the Red Sea, or whatever it is writer Eric Wilson thinks has happened.


Anonymous said...

And what, exactly, do you expect when you read the Sunday Style section?

I actually found the article quite persuasive. I believe you missed the subtext, which was a rousing call for a 90% estate tax.

Libby Pearson said...

I really hate David Patrick Columbia's quote: "There are kids who painted rooms at Martin Luther King High School last week as part of a fund-raiser for Publicolor, but those kids are just ordinary kids. These kids are doing what social people do, they're drawing in names, and they're raising money off those names. That's what social life in New York is now."

It seems like he's looking down on anyone who actually gets their hands dirty with charity, and doesn't have the social connections.

Anonymous said...

Petey for president. --JM