1. The brains-in-a-vat behind MTV’s prime-time programming emphasize modern ambiguity tenfold over actual comprehension. The 10 Spot intro, once the destination site for “Daria” clips and off-color jokes, held a brief flirtation with actual music videos last year. Now it settles for the self-promoting image of a clicking, grunting silver orb in a middle-class living room. A terrifying prophecy of times to come?
2. “Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet 2” forces me to reach for the dictionary and then promise to read “Anna Karenina” for intellectual debt repayment. What is a gauntlet? Apparently, a crude form of torture that involves two rows of spear-wielding warriors. Sounds remarkably narrow-minded for the network, whose original “Real World” season spawned a virtual galaxy of spin-off shows, including entire 30-minute reunion specials where cheesed-off castmates bellow at each other like the spaceships in “War of the Worlds.”
3. There is no man in the entire “Gauntlet 2” I wish to shamelessly ogle, which is alarming and ultimately proves that nothing good has come from this entire genre of programming. “Real World,” the granddaddy of reality shows, pushed the Culture of Celebrity forward first with its voyeuristic fanaticism for pretty people. Some victory; seeing twentysomethings cry and score is the cornerstone of my undergraduate education. Amateurs can do a lot of things, like shop at the Gap and fall at the Olympics, but they don’t have any inherent capacity to entertain beyond the ego-aggrandizing witticisms they provoke.
4. There is a vocal inflection used by all MTV reality “celebrities.” It’s a vowel extension placed on a whine after a new-age, upchuck-inducing office cliche. Example: “Derrick is a team player, a real solid competitor, but the Gauntlet is noooooot about friendshiiip; it’s aaaaaaaall for the gloooooory.” Try it for your speech communication final.
5. Boy bands will fade over corporate media’s icy dead body. Introducing “There and Back: Ashley Parker Angel,” basic cable’s latest oeuvre about a little blond bitch who can’t stop whining. The former O-Town singer gamely commutes on an existential train wreck of self-reflection with endless complaining, shallow Freudian analysis, and flat singing. This is somehow tolerated by his exhausted fiancee, who tends to their newborn son (horrifically named Lyric). Will this be interesting anytime soon? As evident by Angel’s proudly sported “Don’t Worry, It Only Seems Kinky At First” T-shirt, truly refined taste comes only with repetition.
6. If you’re an average-looking, hairless guy, you can really make a lucrative living starring in body spray commercials. They’re omnipresent.
7. The best reason to watch “There and Back” is for the ravaged expressions/hairstyles of Angel’s former teen dream comrades, including that one redhead who used to sport a scraggly goatee. These chaps are the saddest reunion in all God and country. White-boy dreadlocks are plentiful.
8. Didn’t the programming used to include news, at least about Britney’s navel? The end-of-hour headlines are M.I.A. during The 10 Spot. The most assumedly intelligent characters at MTV News, buttoned-up babe Gideon Yago and archaically miserable Kurt Loder, are probably at home popping sedatives.
9. I feel like I’m stoned – in one reality, there are two “Real Worlds.” After “There and Back” recedes menacingly into the distance, it’s time for “The Real World: Key West.” The first episode assembles the new castmates, all of whom are gorgeous and defiantly impolite, just as Hurricane Katrina hits their bungalow. The young castaways sleep in isolation in hotel rooms and meet a few days later to drink, give each other the sexual green light and mourn the widespread natural disaster for as long as they would a spilled keg. (Maybe less.) One guy salutes, “To Katrina, that bitch!” as they pound shots in the apparent extent of their condolences.
But there is still a relief effort underway, and it doesn’t involve tequila. In ignoring the real loss behind the time captured on camera, MTV proves that their fixation on disposable culture has no room for reality. Hurricane Katrina did do slightly more than delay “The Real World,” and this was MTV’s opportunity to mention the Red Cross or add some semblance of virtue to the plasticized image they promote. It’s callous to skip over others and to ardently push the castmates into a glamorous situation when reality begs to differ.
Maybe the network would lose its good-times advertisers if it strayed from whorishly uncomplicated drama, but this decision turns an Antoinette blind eye when help is still needed. Good job, jerks – MTV is as shallow as all the stereotypes suggest.
10. I really miss “Daria.”
Stacey Anderson is a journalism and music senior and KCPR DJ. Catch her Sundays from 7 to 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. on 91.3 FM or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org