WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Question: “Where does morning wood come from?”
Dan Savage: “It’s a little present from Jesus. It’s Jesus letting you
know He loves you, and that everything still works. It doesn’t really matter
where it comes from. It matters where it’s going. Don’t let it go to waste.”
So began the May 8th episode of MTV’s Savage U (Tuesdays,
11:00 p.m. ET), the Worst Cable TV Show of the Week.
The alleged anti-bullying bully (who recently
bullied Christian teenagers) routinely
bullies Christian culture on his program; but this week, having gotten his
token hatred of traditional morality out of the way early, Savage was able to
move onto more scintillating subjects -- like uncontrollable masturbation, sex
toys, and genital size.
As always, the show alternated between Savage’s semi-standup schtick of
answering audience questions like “"After sex my boyfriend likes to use a dildo
on me. This makes me orgasm a lot…I've ruined my mattress before from it,"
“What’s a polite way to ask your partner to use sex toys?,” and, of course,
"What should I do in that awkward moment the guy puts in the wrong hole?," and
Savage in his role of “sensitive counselor,” in which he advised Ashley to enjoy
masturbating six times a day (even though she specifically asked him to help her
stop, as doing so interferes with her studying), complimented Estephanie for
having sex with her boyfriend in a car while someone else was driving, and told
Nick to stop having intercourse with his girlfriend, so that he could
concentrate on pleasuring her in other ways. (It was no doubt a radical “first”
for Savage to tell anyone to stop having sex, no matter what the
MTV presents Savage U as advice to young college students (though, as MTV
head David Janollari
has admitted, the program is actually targeting 12 year olds). But in
addition to its non-stop glorification of meaningless promiscuity and bashing of
traditional morality, one as-yet-unremarked-upon facet of the program is deeply
disturbing: the way in which it exploits teens and young adults.
In its shift from music videos to its so-called
“reality” programming, MTV has begun exploiting the very teen audience it
hopes to attract..and such exploitation has the potential to tremendously damage
the show's participants in the future. It can be argued that, while MTV exploits
the participants on programs like
Jersey Shore and reduces their personalities and very names to a joke,
at least such individuals are in some small way compensated for their
humiliation. The cast members are paid; some have been able to parlay their fame
into non-showbiz ventures; and some, like
Snooki, and JWoWW, have current or upcoming spin-off series on MTV itself.
But no such compensation can be forthcoming for the participants on Savage U.
Undoubtedly, those profiled on the show are required to sign some kind of waiver
indemnifying MTV against potential legal action; but while this provides MTV
with legal cover, what of the ethics of the situation? What will Estephanie’s
reputation – among her fellow students, among her parents and family, among
potential future employers – be like? Will those interviewing her for her first
job happily hire “the girl who has sex in moving cars with someone else
driving”? What kind of humiliation will Ashley be subjected to, with everyone
who meets her knowing she is the girl who cannot concentrate on work due to her
incessant masturbation? How will Nick’s – how will any of their – future
relationships progress, should their current ones not work out?
Of course, young people have been doing ill-advised things since time
immemorial; but never before have such intimate indiscretions been blared
internationally via television; and never before has there been such an ability
for such mistakes to stay with an individual throughout their entire future.
Some would argue that, if Ashley and the others were not on television, they
would just be posting such information on Facebook. But such an argument is
disingenuous. Even on Facebook, the reach of the information would be somewhat
limited, as only people who have some slight acquaintance with Ashley would have
access to it. But on MTV, millions of people all over the world do.
Furthermore, such arguments miss the real point: while Ashley et al.
volunteered to appear on MTV and expose their secrets, they did so at least in
part because they were desperate to resolve their problems by obtaining advice
from Dan Savage, whom MTV has deliberately positioned as some sort of wise
Yet, this pathetic desire for aid on the part of the teens seeking advice is
maliciously mocked by the network, which ends each episode with an “update” on
the unfortunate advice seekers. If it is possible for an obnoxious, sneering
smirk to be conveyed only through words on a screen, MTV does so with phrases
like, “Ashley is more accepting of her sex drive. She continues to enjoy her
study breaks,” or “Estephanie and her boyfriend are engaged. They’re planning an
outdoor wedding” – phrases which do nothing save rub the teens’ faces in their
own prior humiliation by reminding viewers about their situations.
Thus, MTV is ruthlessly exploiting young people’s desperation and misguided
faith in Dan Savage, in order to make millions of dollars from advertisers (and
millions more from every cable and satellite subscriber in America, all of whom
are forced to support MTV with their monthly fees). With Savage’s aid, the
former “music television” is now gleefully destroying the lives of its very own
viewers…all for the sake of profit. As a result, MTV’s Savage U
definitely deserves recognition for being the Worst Cable TV Show of the
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