I saw an episode of a MTV series, called MADE, last night. In it MTV helps a person to achieve his or her ambition. Last night it was an overweight teenager called Jordan who wanted to compete in a triathlon. An ambitious goal, and a very worthy one for someone who needed to shed some pounds and establish a modicum of fitness.
Except, Jordan is a whining, annoying character, who pissed off his fitness coach, Kirk – an ex-marine – and his swim coach by his despicable attitude, victim mentality, and gluttonous appetite. He was one of the most irritating people I've ever witnessed on TV, and my hat goes off to his coaches who stuck it out with him and finally put the boot in by giving him an ultimatum: either stick with the programme or quit.
In the end, Jordan did succeed in completing a triathlon, one of the toughest competitive sports, in a reasonable time. It's obvious that much of Jordan's problem stemmed from a feeling that he would fail no matter what he did, combined with a huge inferiority complex. Completing the triathlon proved to him that he could achieve a major goal, and I hope that experience sticks with him, because the boy likes his pancakes, cheese dogs and other artery-clogging products. He also had to put up with some pretty nasty ragging from the Athletics team, which proved to me that the myth of the High School Jock is not so much a myth as a raging and unpleasant reality in America.
So, kudos to Jordan for completing his task; he may be as irritating as ever but he lost a lot of weight, added years to his life by getting fitter, and did something that most people would never conceive of doing.
However, why I mention this show in the first place is that MTV had a voice-over throughout the episode that was particularly nasty. OK, the kid was a bit of an asshole, but hey, he's a teen, and who wasn't a idiot sometime during that time of your life? My suspicion is that the commentator was the kind of kid who made fun of others while in school to divert attention from his own personality defects. Yes, Jordan had a screeching voice, and was childish (note, he's not an adult), and was ungracious at times. But he didn't deserve to be ridiculed and shamed throughout the proceedings. Worse still, the commentator mocked both of Jordan's coaches, and his family as well. That crossed the line. MTV hired the coaches to do a job, and I'm sure they weren't expecting that their characters would come under assault in the programme for the entertainment of others. Of course, some of what was said was funny, but by the end I wanted to watch the proceedings without someone else making derogatory comments.
I couldn't believe that MTV would air a programme in which they were willing to demean a kid for entertainment. It's not cool, it's not funny, and it left an extremely bad taste in my mouth. Whatever Jordan's problems, he did get it together in the end and completed the task for which he trained. Considering he couldn't even run a mile when he started, that's a major accomplishment. I'd like to see most people cope with a restrictive diet, two training sessions a day, six days a week, for ten weeks, without breaking down at some point.
In the end, the MTV commentator was another form of the High School Jocks. They rag on kids as part of the intense hierarchical structure of the school environment, to remind everyone of their position in the social strata. When someone like Jordan, especially because he's so annoying, attempts to break out of his assigned role (nerd), they descend like a pack of wolves to prevent his success. The rule is: don't step out of place. No wonder so few teenagers can face the often crippling peer pressure to do something different. What MTV did was to reinforce this notion: even if you achieve something worthwhile you'll still be humiliated. I find it incredible that a television company that targets teens and young adults has presented such a negative message to its viewers. Jordan's crabbiness and resistance spoke volumes about his character and internal issues, and we didn't require a voice-over pointing out the deficiencies that were plain to see. What's disturbing is that at no point was there any heartfelt congratulations of Jordan when he did succeed. I guess MTV didn't think that's so funny.
To hell with MTV and their smart-ass commentators. Let's see the guy behind the microphone deal with the diet and the training sessions, and complete a triathlon – I wonder if he'd find everything so laughable then.