Nothing makes me set my phasers to “get off my lawn” quite like MTV. I’m not going to pretend it’s become suddenly bad during the exact same years I turned from a high school student to a nominal adult. I accept that it was bad back when I watched it, too, just differently. The mash of payola-saturated reality shows and ads for teen botox looks to me now probably the same way it looked to my older brother when I was 15 and it was a mash of payola-saturated music video countdowns and ads for dot-com startups.
The problem isn’t the content, it’s what it represents. MTV is pure, uncut youth arranged into pixels accessible by every cable subscriber in the country. I’m not talking about “youth” as in young people with jobs starting to make their way into the world. No, MTV is for people who just learned that there is a word called “youth” and it applies to them. They probably don’t even say “youth” – they call themselves “tweens” or something like that. When you’re in that bubble – that zone where MTV actually speaks to you – it’s the most compelling thing on the dial. It’s a remarkably sharp focus. All the kids younger than their target think MTV is torture and would rather watch (MTV-owned) Nickelodeon. The college students (if they’re smart) and twenty-somethings (if they’re not completely stupid) look down on it with the cynicism and disgust it deserves. Once you get into those upper-twenties, though, it’s that first taste of hating people younger than you. It hits you like a ton of bricks.
Tonight while I was eating dinner the only thing that looked the least bit watchable was True Life. True Life is a documentary series that holds the distinction of being one of the few shows on MTV that isn’t trying to sell you something between commercial breaks. It dates back to when I was passing through the MTV demographic and tends to be at least worth a look if you don’t have any other choice. Tonight’s episode was “I’m a Sugar Baby.” I didn’t know what a “Sugar Baby” was so I watched. Let me save you an hour:
You know prostitution? That’s the new word for it. Make a note to yourself.
These women “date” an older man with money that they meet on a dating site specifically for this practice (the practice of prostitution, specifically) in exchange for money. The money isn’t technically for sex, it’s for “companionship.” If sex happens, that’s simply a result of the young woman hitting it off with the wrinkly old dentist she met on the internet who is paying for her car. You know, like it always happens in non-prostitution situations. If this fiction sounds familiar it’s because it is exactly the line put out by “escort services.” You might remember escort services from the one that was frequently patronized by New York Attorney Eliot Spitzer. Did he resign because of all that companionship? Noooope, it was the money-sex thing.
What’s interesting about the Sugar Baby fiction is that it isn’t meant just for law enforcement – the women buy into it themselves. Obviously the men know the score – they’re paying money so that a young woman other than the pharmaceutical rep who is trying to sell them new and improved beta blockers can pretend to be interested in them and, eventually, touch their penis. If they didn’t get it they wouldn’t have put a profile on the website. Both of the women on the show, however, seem to genuinely think it’s not about sex. One of them, an aspiring pop singer named “GG” who is entirely too old to be a viable pop singer, goes on at length about how she doesn’t want to “compromise [her]self.” The two women are both aware that the sex boulder is rolling down the hill in this arrangement, both of them state an intention not to have sex for hire, and yet neither one will rule out the possibility. When there’s lifestyle-supporting money involved, we pretty much all know how the movie ends.
The woman who isn’t an aspiring singer, Olivia, just likes nice things. She doesn’t need money to achieve any goals like finance an artistic career, pay her dad’s medical bills, or anything like that. She just likes dinners out, nice vacations, and free shit. So obviously by the end of the episode she’s still with her
John Sugar Daddy. She brings the most interesting character to the show – her boyfriend. She has this guy, who she says “I love you” to but isn’t “currently together” with, who midway through the episode comes up with the brilliant idea to squeeze a condo out of her Sugar Daddy for both of them to live in together and play house. The show wants you to think he’s an asshole – his general look, demeanor, and affinity for getting sex from a hooker for free certainly don’t help – but I think he’s the only person shown who isn’t lying to himself. He gets the cold hard truth of the arrangement. Olivia, obviously, doesn’t like this because she feels like she’s being pimped. The punchline here is that she’s been a prostitute from the start, so she’d probably be better off having some brains added to the operation.
You may be thinking to yourself, “this whole rant seems pretty sexist, Scott.” Well, chow down on the mouthful of shit known as Steve:
This schlubby Scottsdale organ sack wants a Sugar Mama. He likes “nice things,” which probably included Ed Hardy t-shirts until Jon Gosselin ruined them for everyone, and working for them is out of the question. Here’s the fucked up part – he succeeds. This fat, poorly-groomed “stereotypical Scottsdale douche” (as he is described by his first attempted conquest) actually lands himself a MILF with low self esteem after tagging along with someone to a pole-dancing class. People from Arizona lead fulfilling lives.
As I spent the hour watching all of this unfold while eating soup, I could feel it creeping up on me. Before I knew it I was enveloped in it – hate. These god damn kids today. This is what they look up to. No wonder they don’t have jobs. All it takes is once. Say that once and you’re screwed, there’s no going back. I feel old.
You know what? I’d rather be old than be one of these worthless whores. Thanks for being horrible enough to make me feel better, MTV.