“I just had afternoon sex with a sophomore whose last name I couldn’t remember.” So opened the October 14th episode of MTV’s Awkward (10:00 p.m. ET), which for obvious reasons is the Worst Cable TV Show of the Week.
“I’d come over to apologize, and I’d ended up sleeping with Owen,” narrates the program’s promiscuous protagonist, high-school senior Jenna. “And I was surprisingly okay with it. Because I’d had fun. Okay, yes, Owen was in the orchestra. So what? His complete lack of ego combined with his self-confidence was, well, sexy. Oh god, was that creepy? To find a sophomore sexy?”
Uh, YES, Jenna. It is creepy. It’s VERY creepy. In fact, there are words for legal adults who “find sophomores sexy” and sleep with them. Those words are “statutory rape” and “child molester.”
At this point, less than a minute into the episode, several other questions are raised: How, exactly, does one just “end up” having sexual intercourse with a near-stranger? Is having sex with any total stranger okay, so long as one “has fun”? And most of all, why is Jenna surprised to discover that her date-rape of Owen was his “first time”? Well, that last question, at least, has an answer: since this is an MTV show, it’s logical to assume that EVERY 16 year old sophomore has had dozens of sexual partners. (After all, Jenna certainly has.)
Having spread MTV’s gospel that sex between underage strangers is not only acceptable, but that there is a terrible stigma about still being a virgin at age 16, it’s time to trash teachers. As ludicrous guidance counselor Valerie strides the halls promoting the “senior bonfire” (real safe activity for kids there), she is dressed like a lumberjack, even shaking a real axe at the students.
Then, after hate-filled hater Sadie hates on Jenna and Tamara, the viewer is subjected to one of her tiresome hate-filled rants, this one directed at her boyfriend: “Are you seriously checking out those slut-buckets right in front of me? They’re conniving whores who come with a complimentary side of herpes. Enjoy your itchy, burning peen.” He says, “It must nice to be so much better than everyone else.” “Sometimes it gets tiresome, but mostly, it’s pretty (bleeped f***ing) great!” Sadie sneers in reply.
Then, there’s yet more rapid-fire banter resembling nothing ever uttered by any middle-school student in the entire history of the universe, as Tamara spews a rant demanding the secret telephone book-hotness code (don’t ask) from a pair of apparently gay students:
Tamara:“YouguysknowwherethebodiesareburiedandcorpsesrevivedinthisinstitutionforlowerlearningsoIknowyouknowwherethatphonebookishiddensotakeustothe holygrailofdouchedom STAT!”
Student #1: “Back off, psych ward Barbie! You’re a repressive.”
Student #2: “Why do we get such a bad rap for groper when straight guys are WAAYY more pervy!”
Student #1: “Rating people behind their backs is so busted. Do it to their faces. It’s the only way objectification is sexy.”
(Is anyone else tired of characters who are supposedly 18 years old, but who talk as if they have the knowledge and life experience of 55-year old Hollywood screenwriters?)
Oh, and then it’s time for more pseudo-hip dialogue, spoken as only a character in a bad TV program could.
Jenna: “I still hadn’t told Tamara about my own bananagans. Knowing that I took Owen’s v-card had really thrown me for a loop. I was not ready for a serious relationship…with a sophomore.” (Gee, Jenna. Maybe you shouldn’t have date-raped him, then.)
Eventually, Tamara finds the all-important phone book and spews another rant, with her dialogue exhibiting one of the laziest tricks in which writers can indulge: alliteration.
Tamara: “That pathetic putz Pete obviously assly assessed my assets.”
Really? Does ANYONE in middle school – or anywhere else (outside of MTV’s Kindergarten Writer’s Room) talk like this?
Meanwhile, after Jenna sees that her looks were “rated” by her ex-boyfriend (and own first sex partner) Matty – who refused to destroy the phone book – the school’s girls go ballistic, ranting about how all men are “douchebags” who “deserve to die” for treating women so cavalierly. Instead, insist the school’s girls, everyone should be treated with dignity and compassion. As witness Jenna’s behavior when she later confronts Owen:
Jenna: “Owen, I can’t date you. I never would’ve slept with you if I’d have known it was your first time. I’m a senior.”
Seduce an underage student, date-rape him, then dump him. Now, THAT’S how you treat other human beings with dignity and compassion!
Some readers may object to the use of the phrase “date-rape” in the context of this episode, claiming that Jenna and Owen’s sexual encounter was consensual. But consider: if the genders of the characters were reversed – if the episode were about a male high-school senior who takes advantage of a shy, sensitive, “band geek” girl’s attraction to him and exploits it to deflower her, then later callously tells her “I can’t date you, because I’m a SENIOR” – what would viewer sentiment be? His conduct would be considered an outrage, and the word “rape” would almost certainly be applied. In a world of gender equality and “yes means yes,” the offense of an older, experienced person sexually exploiting a younger, more vulnerable one should and must apply equally. A program which rails against men “ranking” women’s attractiveness but snickers at a woman raping a boy is guilty of the rankest hypocrisy.
Although the shows on MTV are aimed at and almost entirely watched by teens, it is clear that the network is run by a tiny clique of sex-obsessed middle-aged men, who are indulging in retroactive wish fulfillment. “Wouldn’t it have been cool if every girl would’ve just jumped into bed with any guy when *I* was in high school?” their thinking obviously runs. Unfortunately, as scientific studies have shown, watching sex-slathered programming desensitizes viewers, so that teens (and parents) rapidly come to believe this IS the way the real world is…and many alter their behavior to conform to this mistaken notion.
The teenage years are some of the most difficult and stressful of a person’s life. Teens desperately need positive messages that encourage them to be their best selves, while reassuring them that life does get better. What positive contribution is made by Awkward, a program that portrays teenagers as jaded, soulless sex robots endlessly spewing cutesy-snide dialogue unlike anything spoken in real life? For all its supposed “realism,” everything in Awkward is patently phony – the characters most of all.
Exhibiting no genuine personality or emotion, and substituting sarcastic one-liners for genuine humanity, MTV’s Awkward is a prime symptom of everything that’s wrong with entertainment aimed at teens today…and as such, it richly merits the title of Worst Cable TV Show of the Week.