Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Dear MTV and Adam Carolla,

It's rare when I take the high road when it comes to television. I spend a good portion of my viewing time on sheer idiocy, albeit hysterical idiocy, like the programming on Adult Swim. There is no shortage of brainless entertainment available to houses across America but a large portion of that programming is not considered offensive and bereft of any redeeming qualities. Thankfully, we can count on you, MTV and Adam Carolla, to provide us with a healthy dose of morally-bankrupt stew.

It's no surprise that I am not a fan of My Super Sweet 16. In fact, I may have complained about it before but perhaps my perspective has changed in recent weeks. It's my belief, after watching Jazmine, the star of last night's episode, expose the ugliest side of America, that MTV could not be further away from our country's reality. My Super Sweet 16 is a horrific, bitter display of wealth and the epitome of the failure of parental discipline. MTV is essentially providing an unfortunate example for teenage girls to strive towards (which many, if not all, will never achieve). When I was young, I remember that a girl's fantasies were based on sleeping beauties, Snow Whites, or "fabulous" tales of under-privileged girls being swept away by handsome and charming young men. Now, shows like My Super Sweet 16 and Laguna Beach distort many into thinking boys should be vapid, distant and fratty. Essentially, a mass brainwashing transforming our youth into an Abercrombie wasteland. Girls, on the hand, should be superficial, unhealthy looking, bratty, confrontational, jealous, selfish, and most unfortunate, subject to the whims of their Ken counterparts. One could argue that you, MTV, are merely documenting the breakdown of white suburbia, objectively reporting the social and moral decline of Jazmine and so many others but it would be hard for me to attribute that much credit to you because of your general warped version of America.

Laguna Beach, another reality show-cum-soap opera featuring more bratty, spoiled American kids is significantly more popular than My Super Sweet Sixteen but also more damaging. The show toted as the "real Orange County" features the same cast throughout the entire season making it more demanding: you need to provide us with an interesting story line for a whole entire season. This creates a pressure for the "actors" to live up to the expectations providing us with the necessary drama to hold us captive audience. But ultimately, the characters, so boringly bland, toil over trips to the mall, the slightest miscommunications from boys ("did he say "goodbye"? Or just "bye"?"), and again, the ever-important return trip to the mall. While I wouldn't expect these kids to volunteer for non-profits projects or even pick up a New York Times, it would be nice to see a well-rounded representation of our country especially in light of the revelation that our country is still very much filled with latent racists and extreme examples of poverty. In a post 9-11 world, a post-Katrina world, shouldn't we, as a people, try and develop a deeper sense of self? Wouldn't it be nicer if that representation wasn't misshaped into the distorted message that the less-fortunate are freaks.

Trailer Fabulous, another half-hour program of mobile home makeovers, was an offensive, shameful idea. After one season, Fabulous was righteously cancelled therein making this decision the only good judgement call in MTV's recent programming choices. The show essentially mocked the poor for their living conditions; their meager, modest existence. The "Music" Television channel turned a potentially gracious gesture into a gross idea of a "hysterical" hipster joke. The essence of the show, to reduce the contestants to a punchline felt cheap and mean. An unrelenting nastiness consistently permeates in all your programming, a nastiness found in "characters" like Jazmine and Kristen, from Laguna Beach, who is described by the MTV website as such:

A party girl, Kristin is a junior who rules the popular clique of her class and holds her own with the seniors. She's confident and sexy and always gets what she wants, especially when it comes to her turbulent relationship with Stephen. Having moved from Chicago to live with her dad in Laguna, Kristin is the newest addition to this power clique. Strong-willed and assertive, wherever Kristin goes, drama follows.

"Clique" (used twice) connotes exclusivity and snobbish behavior. "Sexy" is not the word I would want my daughter to use in describing herself when she's in the 11th grade. "Drama," "turbulent," "power"--all the buzz words that a reputable psychologist would tell anyone to avoid, never mind a young girl developing her identity. These girls are not role models but that's what they've become. And while a like-minded show like The O.C. brinks on implausibility and complete unbelievability, Laguna and Sweet 16 attempt to adhere to the confines of reality, therefore blurring the line between "art" (using the term loosely) and "life."

I don't exactly blame you, MTV, for creating these characteristics. I do blame you for procreating them in the minds of youth. In classic television and cinema, there was a time when the bratty, obnoxious rich kid was portrayed as the enemy as seen in movies like Animal House, Bachelor Party and classic movies of that ilk. And while it's never fair to create a broad and general stereotype, it felt less dangerous then. Worse came to worse, people would know, in the eventuality that they became wealthy, they should avoid throwing a sense of entitlement around with reckless abandon.

Although, really, the personalities haven't changed since then. It's just the way you portray them now. You've taken them from the role of enemy to the power of example. Well done.

Arye Dworken

PS Adam Carolla, you are the unfunniest man in America. Seriously. Horrible, awful stuff. Stop.


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