Is Top Chef Just One Big Lesbianic Morality Play?

Joshua David Stein is back briefly to talk about Bravo's Top Chef whose seventh episode aired last night.

In the last episode of Top Chef I watched on live television, Zoi the Meanish Lesbian got booted off. Since then I heard that Pretty Boy was ousted too which isn't a big loss to anyone since he couldn't cook and could barely talk. He was all shim-sham and snake oil charm. Last night's episode, however, was particularly notable for its strong lesbian plotline (gay tension has been done before but between men) and the particularly weird phallic imagery. Also, Betrayal! Truth! Consequences! Asparagus!

I always kind of liked Jennifer, the shorter mohawked girlfriend of Zoi the Boi. She seemed down to earth in a Northern California way. She seemed loyal, consistently standing up for her girlfriend. And she seemed like a great chef. Something bad happened though between the point where Zoi was sent home and last night, when Jennifer teamed up with similarly tolerable Stephanie in yet another ree ree challenge: The contestants were forced to cook according to the shouted out suggestions of Second City Theatre goers. Improv crowds are, as anyone who has walked by the UCB theatre at around 7:00 pm on a Sunday night knows, are not the coolest lot. Anyway, the girls got, if I recall correctly, the words: Turned-On, Orange, and Asparagus. But what the girls really got was incredibly flirtatious.

It all started with an errant shot at the Second City Theatre. Jennifer's arm was casually draped around Stephanie's broad shoulders. Jennifer through her dork hot indie glasses was looking at Stephanie with a look of love, lust and respect we had previously only seen on her face when she gazed at Zoi. But Zoi was out and the need for emotional intimacy trumped whatever qualms Jennifer had about openly pursuing a Sapphic and adulterous dalliance on national television which surely her girlfriend was watching. So the flirtation continued, communicated to us viewers at home by bite-sized cuts of handslapping, smiles, and warmth. An astute observer of Bravo's latent morality couldn't help but suspect that Jennifer would be axed for her infidelity. She, of course, was.

The most interesting part, at least to me, of the reason why she was exiled was that the two women (one openly gay, the other unopenly ungay or openly ungay or something) created an explicitly phallic dish. The germane phrase was turned-on. There's no reason why they had to choose a phallus—-culinarily expressed as a piece of flaccid bread and a wilty spear of asparagus—instead of say a clitoris to be the turned-on element. This is a particular bitter morsel in the history of sexual inequality in terms of gratification. Why a lesbian would forsake her own sex in this context for a man is unfathomable. I guess it would be hard to express the sex that is not one on a plate. But crafting a menage a trois of goat cheese, crouton and asparagus whilst focusing exclusively on the phallus seems to undo as many decades of feminist thought as Dale's insipid stereotype of male homosexuality did in the last season. The real question is whether Jennifer got booted off for betraying her girlfriend or for betraying her entire sex.