The title of Most Hated Person on the Internet is a rotating gig. Every few days someone digs up something new and upsetting for people on social media to decry en masse, then that something becomes a trending topic besieged by blog posts and hot takes, then we all move on to the next epic fail or baffling outrage. The web is a big place and sometimes it's upset at a lot of Worst People Ever—on Monday, though, the girls of The Bedford Stop were the undisputed champs.
What is The Bedford Stop? If you ask the Guardian, it's the thing that definitively "proves Williamsburg is over." It made a Jezebel writer "reconsider my own reality. Our reality." For the blog Free Williamsburg, it's the realization of "all your Williamsburg nightmares." On Gothamist, it was a "reality show despair vortex." It also prompted one YouTube user to comment, "Please make me not white."
More specifically, it is an amateurish reality show about a group of girls who go to brunch, talk about their dating lives, and just sort of generally occupy space. They are the kind of people who are conflicted about getting professional Tinder headshots but ultimately go through with it anyway. The pilot episode is called "Tinder Me Softly" and features lots of the kind of aimlessness and perpetual discussion of where to go for brunch/lunch/drinks that will be familiar to anyone who's ever sat in front of a TV. Episodes of it have been online for months, but they were only unearthed by Free Williamsburg this week, and the girls' mere existence made people very, very angry.
And on Tuesday I had dinner with them.
YouTube pulled the shows' videos down for alleged copyright violations related to the music, but they are still on Vimeo
I met them at Cafe Colette, which is the sort of Williamsburg-y place where a cheeseburger is $16 and chilled watermelon with whipped feta, olives, and mint is $13. It seemed like an appropriate place to meet the show's stars Alex Sosner and Olena Yatsyuk, and Mikey Ortiz, the 26-year-old auteur behind the camera.
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Our waitress seated us with a knowing, mirthless stare, then winced when the girls ordered matching vodka-based drinks that included elderflower liqueur and prosecco but no food despite the fact that were taking up the biggest table in the place. For a second I thought I was imagining the attitude, but one of the show's stars picked up the vibe, too.
"She does not look happy with us," she said. "I'll tell you that right now."
"She probably saw the show," replied Ortiz.
Ortiz is from Pittsburgh, and has been filming unscripted shows since he was 12. He eventually landed at Full Sail, a sort-of-accredited film school in Orlando, but dropped out after three years and started following bands as a videographer. Finally, he moved to Brooklyn where he met the girls who would become his collective muse.
Sosner, a self-described workaholic who is from South Florida, and Yatsyuk, a former MySpace scene queen who is from New Jersey by way of Ukraine, met in a Facebook group for incoming freshmen at FIT. They both lived in Manhattan, got sick of making weekend treks out to party in Williamsburg, and moved there several years ago.
"I love goats... I can't even."
Like everyone their age, all of them grew up in the era of reality shows centered around attractive people doing nothing in particular and then becoming famous for it. It was Ortiz's idea to start filming after he noticed a gap in the market.
"There hasn't been a show like The Hills in a while, and I feel like the brand of Brooklyn is hot with Girls and Broad City being on TV," he said. "No one's filling this void, so why not just do it?"
Well, everyone hates it is one reason why not. But when I asked them to reply to some of the criticism about the show—or not so much criticism as a lot of gagging noises—they brushed it off with the quickness of reality TV veterans.
"Our 16-minute clip—let's be real—does not show our full lives and what Brooklyn in general has to offer," insisted Sosner, who works as a marketing coordinator for Lord & Taylor. "Whether it's Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, Fort Greene—for Halloween I think I was in all of them."
"We just went to the Queens Botanical Gardens because there was a pumpkin patch and a fall petting zoo," adds Ortiz, apparently attempting to illustrate that his group sometimes appears in other boroughs.
"There were goats," pointed out Sosner.
"I love goats," Yatsyuk said. "I can't even."
Both girls insisted that contrary to popular perception they are not bankrolled by trust funds and that they are fully employed in the fashion world. Sosner's lived in the same apartment ("not a condo") for the past four years, and said she gets quite a deal even though she won't reveal how much rent she pays. Yatsyuk, who has a cat named Pinot Grigio and Brand New lyrics tattooed on her ribcage, said her apartment has a mouse and no heat ("fuck my life").
I asked what their parents think of the show, and of Brooklyn in general.
"My parents frequent Brooklyn," said Sosner. "They think it's the best place in New York. They actually wanted to buy a place here. I have a younger sister, and if she moves here, they would probably move here. They love it."
As for the show, Yatsyuk's parents, who she described as "too off-the-boat to get it," think she swears too much. Sosner's love it.
Then we get around, inevitably, to dating. Sosner has only been on one Tinder date, but it ended with the guy freaking out because she wouldn't have a second drink. Yatsyuk, who loves the app, offered a tale of organic romance gone awry. After dating a dude for a week, he apparently blurted out at dinner: "Why are you pretending?" after she laughed at one of his jokes. "He was scary," she said. "He was weird."
One fear is that these new Brooklynites will drive the authenticity right out of the borough. Another fear is that this has already happened.
Then we talked about why they love Williamsburg, and they describe a free show with complimentary tacos held inside an Urban Outfitters that they caught during CMJ. To Ortiz, it's the perfect example of what they want to showcase.
"I think [The Bedford Stop] is just a vignette about what's going on in Williamsburg today and a reflection of what our generation is going through," he says. "Especially 20-something girls trying to make it with all the stuff that we have today between dating apps, and Seamless, and whatever."
The idea that the show is just holding up a mirror to reality is distressing to a lot of people, for obvious reasons. For those who hold onto the idea of Brooklyn being authentic or artistic—of illegal lofts where the next Basquiat is lurking, of great bands playing in cramped, beer-soaked clubs—the notion that Brooklyn is actually young women vocal-frying at each other about eggs and loving free shows at Urban Outfitters is alarming. One fear is that these new Brooklynites will drive the authenticity right out of the borough. Another fear is that this has already happened and that everyone who spent a few gleeful hours shitting on The Bedford Stop actually has the same tastes, hopes, and fears as the show's stars. They drink and brunch at the same places everyone else does, they dissect Tinder dates like all groups of friends do. We are all The Bedford Stop, sort of, we just haven't been filmed.
Toward the end of the meal I ask about gentrification, about the latest wave of high-end shops that have turned much of Williamsburg into an annex of the hipper parts of Manhattan. Sosner thinks this is mostly good for the area, then she and Yatsyuk disagree about whether they'd want to see an IKEA on Bedford Avenue.
"The people who are mad about [Brooklyn changing] are people who live here and don't want to admit that this is what it has become," said Yatsyuk. "If you don't like it, then move somewhere else."
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