Youth Culture Window
Allow me to begin this article with a disclaimer. If you find the following article offensive... good! You should be offended, because the content of the two brand new TV shows that I'm about to disclose to you are offensive. And they aren't obscure shows. They are on MTV, which, according to Nielsen Media Research, is the most recognized network among young adults age 12 to 34.
So pardon the candid approach to this article. I'm going to do you the favor of letting you know exactly what many of our kids and their friends are watching.
A nerd with a big penis becomes the talk of the school. A stuffed bear with a big penis becomes the rival of a puppet ape.
Yep, these really are the plotlines for two of MTV’s new shows.
Introducing RJ Berger
The Hard Times of RJ Berger now airs on MTV on Monday nights at 10:00pm EST, following its pilot episode which debuted immediately after the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, June 6, 2010. The title of the show is actually a play on words because of the lead character’s…ummm, how do I say this?...“anatomical gift.”
RJ Berger (played by Paul Iacono) is a nerdy, picked on, 15 year old sophomore at Pinkerton High School. He has a mad crush on Jenny, the hottest girl in the entire school, but can’t even get the time of day from her. In short, he’s a loser…whose only friends are also losers.
But all that changes one fateful day during a high school basketball game.
RJ is the team’s towel boy who’s forced onto the court at the end of the big game after several players are ejected for fighting. With zero athletic ability, the coach tells RJ to just avoid stupidity. But as fate would have it, the ball comes to him in the closing seconds of the game. A skinny and frail RJ “granny shoots” the ball – completely missing the basket – and loses his oversized gym shorts in the process.
But don’t worry ladies and gentlemen; he still has on his jock strap to secure his modesty.
Oh wait, this is MTV. There is no modesty!
Seconds later, his jock strap also falls to the gym floor. The camera pans the crowd showing the varied responses to RJ’s insanely large “package” (which isn’t shown pixilated on screen, thank God). Young men point in astonishment, some of the girls lick their lips, and others gasp and/or shriek in disbelief. Several camera phones flash from the bleachers.
And now, the stage has been set for what MTV calls its latest, scripted comedy, The Hard Times of RJ Berger.
MTV Ups the Ante…and Downs Morality
Most of us know that MTV has built its empire on “take-my-virginity-please” teen sex programming, but with the advent of Hard Times (as it’s now known), the media giant has taken a decidedly over-the-top stance on sexuality, promiscuity, and immorality.
Hey, if shows which are titled “Real World” and “The Hills” are about lots of teen sex, what do you think a show with a direct reference to a penis in the title is going to be about???
When a show is totally built around the enlarged genitalia of one character – instead of centering on conflict or drama or action – the series that’s “literally without a premise” can legitimately be called plotless and pointless.
I won’t link any of the show’s videos here for the sake of posterity, but I do want to include a few examples of what viewers saw and heard during the first two episodes of this extremely racy sitcom.
- The series’ opening scene is of RJ lying in bed before school, masturbating, when his mom walks in and catches him in the act.
- Speaking of mom, RJ’s parents are both swingers. (The dad also proves to be a perv, taking pics of high school girls at the local car wash fundraiser in the second episode.)
- Foul language abounds. I think the 2010 Updated and Unabridged Dictionary of Sailor’s Terms was worn out during the writing of this show’s script! The F-word is also used, though it’s bleeped each time. (Like that really matters.)
- Coarse/sexual language is even more prolific; almost constant reference is made to sexual topics like, “balls,” “thong rips and nip slips,” “boner,” “foot-long hotdog” and “sheet staining” to name a few. At one point, sex-crazed Lily, RJ’s female friend stalker, leans over and offers him this jewel: “Any time, any place, any orifice.” Later, when RJ runs for student body president, Lily longingly says to him, “Mr. President, I want to be your Monica Lewinski.” Finally, RJ not only possesses a big penis, but a big sex drive, as well. Upon seeing Jenny in a bikini at the Student Government car wash says, “Oh my God. My balls just exploded.”
- Graphic sexual images are a part of almost every scene. Whether it’s RJ fantasizing about Jenny undressing and caressing herself in the school hallway, Lily masturbating to the RJ’s high school yearbook picture, or the cartoons depicting racy acts that separate scenes, this show is littered with flagrant sexual gratuity.
As you can see, this TV show has more crude than the Gulf of Mexico! Vulgar doesn’t even begin to adequately describe this sitcom that’s created and produced by the influential media icons David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame Smith.
But that’s just one of the new shows on MTV that’s all about sex. There’s another.
Meet Warren the Ape
In the first episode alone, Warren’s attempt at a comeback includes counseling sessions with celebrity shrink Dr. Drew Pinsky, visits to an AA group, and an audition for a cereal commercial. When the cereal contract is lost to rival actor Chauncey the Bear, a cute and loveable fellow, Warren decides only one thing can be done: defame Chauncey by entrapping him in a sex tape scandal with a hired prostitute.
But when the hidden cameras begin to role, Chauncey drops his pants to reveal a huge, pixilated, fabric penis.
The sex tape does cost Chauncey the cereal endorsement, but he lands a role as a male porn star and begins to live the life that Warren has wanted all along, even being nominated for an award in the porn biz.
Now the show has a “legitimate” reason to bring in actual porn stars through a visit to the adult video industry awards show. Stars like Evan Stone, Belladonna, and Ron Jeremy make cameos on the show, and Manuel Ferrara says to Chauncey, “I have a smaller penis than you do, so….” This scene includes plenty of scantily clad starlets, a woman bending over so far that her vagina has to be pixilated to keep it “clean,” and Warren the Ape getting a chance to “motorboat” a woman’s boobs.
At the porn convention, Chauncey wins the award for “Best Newcomer” which is another play on words, I’m sure. Chauncey graciously shares the stage with his friend Warren who holds the penis-shaped trophy during Chauncey’s acceptance speech. Warren begins to rub the “trophy” to clean it, all the while saying things like, “It’s coming out.”
Of course, those on-stage antics end up costing Warren his cereal endorsement contract, too, and the show ends with Warren right back where he started: at the bottom. But he’s not alone this time; he re-hired the same prostitute he used in the sex tape scandal earlier in the show for his own pleasure.
This show, which airs on Mondays at 10:30pm EST after Hard Times, might use stuffed puppets as actors, but as you can tell by now, this sitcom is a long way from The Muppets. As with Hard Times, viewers were subjected to plenty of foul language and sexual dialogue.
And at the center of both shows was the glamorization of an enlarged penis.
So, how should youth workers and parents deal with MTV’s brazen exploitation of sexuality?
Nerds (and Puppets) Gone Wild
Just because the stars of MTV’s newest shows have gone wild, doesn’t mean that parents and youth workers need to follow suit. A calm and calculated response to these shows is best.
- Be aware of the shows’ actual viewership. As vile as these two shows are, they hold unimpressive numbers are far as ratings go (so far). For instance, Hard Times’ pilot was only seen by 2.6 million viewers the night it aired (though more have watched it on www.MTV.com). A show’s success – and staying power – is totally dependent upon its ratings. It’s too early to tell whether or not MTV has another mega hit (think The Osbournes) with either of these two shows, but it’s highly unlikely.
- Be aware of the shows’ potential influence. Even if the shows aren’t ruling the ratings, they still have influence. Don’t be surprised if you see Warren “The Ape” t-shirts floating around your local high schools, or overhear locker room-ish jokes originating from Hard Times one-liners. The viewers of these TV shows are talking about them with millions more the next day at lunch in the school cafeteria.
- Be prepared to pull the plug on these shows. I’ve watched the first couple of shows from both series. Trust me, there’s no “moral-of-the-story” points with these sitcoms. Without a doubt, neither of them are redeemable. There is absolutely nothing positive that teenagers can take from these pieces of media, so just skip them altogether.
With MTV taking the mockery of sex (and anatomy) to a whole new level, parents and youth workers need to be even more prepared to have genuine and compassionate conversations with teenagers about sexual topics. We have to be as bold with our truth as MTV is with their poison.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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