Every year in the spring MTV turns into Cruel TV -- for me, anyway. The channel starts transmitting reality shows from this other planet, a planet I've never been to, where all the guys have to clean between their abdominal muscles with cotton swabs and the girls take their tops off at the slightest provocation. Every day is sunny, every beach is peopled with tan and sculpted beauties, every bar is crammed with sweaty extras from a Nelly video. Every year around this time, MTV turns its cameras on Spring Break.
This is a planet I sure would like to visit, but let me tell you: I've never even been in the same solar system. I went to an engineering school. The only people there with tans were Indians and African-Americans -- and even some of them were pale. The only girls who were willing to take their tops off at the slightest provocation were the kind you wished would put on a heavier wool overcoat. We may have needed Q-tips to clean our sulci, but our muscles needed help. Not for nothing was our standard chant at lacrosse games, "That's all right, that's okay/You're gonna work for us some day!"
So for many years now MTV has become Cruel TV for me and the people from my planet. But last week it became Cruel TV for its own citizens when it aired the two reality shows Burned and One Bad Trip.
Burned is high cruelty. Any male will wince at this description: MTV and some guy's best friend set up this sap to have a ridiculously gorgeous girl show interest in him while hidden cameras and microphones record the whole thing. The girl and the sap make conversation for a while; the girl makes some pretense to leave for a bit; the sap's best friend shows up and gets his pal talking trash about the girl. Then the girl returns to invite the sap to a party the next night, said party turning out to consist of fifty more ridiculously gorgeous girls who all watch the sap's attempts to schmooze his way into the pants of the first girl. Everyone laughs, the sap's will to live is destroyed, commercial for blue jeans comes on.
The episode I saw consisted of three poor saps being preyed upon by MTV and three hopelessly, endlessly beautiful would-be starlets, who are I guess trying to get back at some man in their early lives what done 'em wrong. Maybe one was dumped when her high school boyfriend realized her cleavage was the deepest part of her personality; maybe one wasn't cast as the lead in the school play because of her enormous horse teeth. Maybe one of them is a space vampire intent on sucking humankind's collective will to live. I sure don't know. But whatever it was, these three hussies really worked the poor saps over. One guy performed an entire monologue from "Jerry Maguire," another guy admitted he shaved "downtown." Just imagine, guys, what you'd do while talking to the prettiest girl who has ever given you the time of day: How big of an idiot would you make of yourself? These guys did no worse.
Admittedly, the guy who told his best friend that the starlet was "on his fucking dick" was not the nicest guy.
But what are we to expect from these guys? They're on Spring Break! They probably spent every year since starting junior high watching MTV and learning therefrom how one behaves on Spring Break. So they show up at the beach, all chiseled muscles and tanned skin, rippling and flexing their way around town just like they're supposed to, and at some bar up walks the smokin' hottie they've been waiting for all week, and the hottie makes all friendly (keep in mind that these women are of easy enough virtue to get paid to sucker unassuming men using hidden cameras), and when the men respond as expected -- as they've been told to do by years of MTV Spring Break video training! -- the same organization that made them what they are snaps the trap and crushes their spines.
This is simply cruel. Bad enough MTV had to make me feel bad about being flabby and dough-colored and pimply and sexless every year, now they've gone ahead to wreck the springtime for the good-looking and bronzed.
The second show, One Bad Trip, was both better and worse. In this one they found some handsome young man heading to Cancun for Spring Break and gave him and his friends video cameras along with the slight prevarication that they should record what they were doing for an MTV Spring Break special. At the same time MTV got the young man's parents and ex-girlfriend to come to Cancun also, where they were given all sorts of spy equipment, cameras, and a make-up staff so they could see what their young man was doing throughout his vacation weekend.
What did he do? He did what any red-blooded American MTV-watcher would do: He went to contests where he competed by dancing lewdly with a girl with large and freely waving funbags; he went to a bar and did body shots off some other hot chick; he and his friends got a limo and went to a club and picked up some more young women of negotiable virtue; and fill in the rest.
Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend from home, apparently the kind of psychotic nutjob your mother warned you about, dressed up as a club chick to follow him into the bar and got all pouty when he made out with his erstwhile cupholder, then got gussied up as a jaded Goth chick to glare at him while he competed in a "sexiest kiss" contest at a hotel pool. In both places video footage was supplied by the Sony Spycam hidden in her glasses.
His mom and dad watched him dance in another contest using binoculars from their hotel window. Then his mom went undercover as a hotel maid and came through her son's room after a night of debauchery, finding him and his two friends passed out in bed with a girl between each of them. Lastly, his dad played limo driver, accompanying his son and pals to the club and then back to their hotel with a car full of club babes.
This is all plenty creepy enough, especially watching the dad try really hard to appear vaguely disapproving about all this when he's so obviously jealously pleased at his son's good time. But then the comeuppance, of course: The parents surprise their son with their presence in Cancun, show him the tapes of his carousing, and confront him with his ex-girlfriend. She's the one clearly hurt by all this: She says that she wondered what kind of guy he "really" was, and now she knows how he behaves when she's not around. And she is tearfully ready to get on with her dating life, now that, I suppose, the entire country knows her to be an insanely possessive harridan of an ex-girlfriend. I can only imagine how she would have felt if they'd still been dating. How did she manage to convince herself that this one weekend in Earthly Paradise showed who he "really" was? How sad can one get over watching an ex-boyfriend pick up girls?
The guy, for his part, takes this all as well as could be expected, and even bashfully admits his love for his ex, admitting before the world that he didn't actually have sex with those hotties he woke up next to. But there's one Spring Breaker who'll think twice next year before he gets up onstage with another topless chick!
I understand that in these dark days entertainment media eats it young, that this is the way MTV has chosen to do business. But I find it disturbing. How can MTV pour shame and derision on these young men who are only doing its bidding? Aren't these the kinds of people MTV makes its living from?
Of course they are. Handsome young men and beautiful young women, preferably in small swatches of expensive designer clothing, are what MTV is all about. Either you are them or you want to be them, that's how MTV wants to break down the world: Either you're the product in the music video/commercial/reality show or you're buying the product in the music video/commercial/reality show. Because you want to be the product.
And these young men -- and the young women, who are not directly humiliated by these shows, although they clearly are humiliated by being involved with them -- are executed after being born and raised, all services provided by MTV, where the M stands for Medea.
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