Bozell Column: MTV, Both Sleazy and Sour

Once upon a time, women were considered the “fairer sex,” the “better half.” Stewardesses were talented and beautiful. Wives were softer, more gentle. Men fought for their honor. Feminism crushed all of that. It is a testimony to their movement that in today’s post-feminist entertainment media, part of what makes television so corrosive and sour is just how piggish the women have become.

The latest study from the Parents Television Council drives this concept home by going to the ugly center of pop culture: MTV “reality” programming. After studying entire seasons of four MTV shows, the PTC concludes: “Females talked about sex acts more than men, talked about sex more graphically than men, mentioned sexual body parts more than men, and talked about intercourse and preliminaries to intercourse more than men.”

Translation: TV’s women are society’s truck drivers. That doesn’t sound like “reality.” It sounds carefully cartooned to attract viewers.

Sadly, it follows that PTC found that on MTV, male cast members referred to females as “cool” and viewed them more favorably when women displayed characteristics attributed to men (not wanting to linger after sex, not viewing sex as any proof of commitment, not requiring romance prior to sex, and indifference to cheating). 

But that emotionally arid and recklessly lascivious behavior naturally also leads to demeaning remarks. On “Jersey Shore,” Mike “The Situation” sneers “Deena calls herself ‘The Holiday.’ I like to call her ‘The Holiday Inn.’”

After reviewing the ratings data, PTC picked the four most popular programs in 2011 on cable among the 12 to 17 demographic, which included that detestable sleazefest “Jersey Shore.” Analysts also viewed “The Real World,” “Teen Mom,” and “16 and Pregnant.”

The PTC’s critics in the press have mocked the idea that anyone would need to study “Jersey Shore” to find it sleazy. The New York Daily News joked, “In equally shocking news, bananas were found at the Chiquita factory.” But what’s new in this study is that not only do the men speak badly of the women on these shows, but the women speak badly of the women, and of themselves.

The overarching purpose for the study was to explore what messages young viewers are receiving through “reality” television. What they’re getting isn’t just non-stop scenes of drinking and premarital sex, but an overwhelming dose of insulting negativity. The top three derogatory terms for women were the B-word, “stupid,” and “dirty.” Those often came attached with profanities. Females were the recipients of an F-word or S-word 662 times, or on average, once every four minutes and ten seconds.

While terms men used for each other were often viewed as complimentary (big man, dawg, superhero, McGyver, winner), women used far more degrading language when talking about other females (rodent, skank, slut, ho, and much worse).

In a PTC video accompanying the study, web surfers can view the poisonous princesses of MTV refer to one another as “trash bags,” “the furniture,” and one woman sneering another woman is a “dirty Chihuahua” she wants to “smack to the side." Only 24 percent of what females said about themselves was positive.

The PTC also verified (yet again) that all this sex and sex chatter has nothing resembling caution in it. Although 88 percent of the sexual dialogue between men and women across all the shows focused on intercourse and its preludes, the topics of virginity (0.2 percent), contraceptives (1.4 percent) and sexually transmitted diseases (two percent) were barely mentioned on these programs. MTV can’t even live up to its own “safe sex” ideology.

MTV doesn’t make these shows to expose “reality” or be educational. They’re quite anti-educational, glamorizing stupidity and paving a way to fame through anti-social behavior. They’re attracting school-age viewers by the millions by highlighting the the most demeaning and crass behavior they can capture on camera.

In an interview with GQ magazine, “Jersey Shore” star Snooki Polizzi lamented that the show leaves a lot of “reality” out of its eyeball-dragging mess every week. “I wouldn't show as much drinking and partying. I would show more of us chilling out and having a good time—which they don't show,” she complained. “We don't even drink those nights, but we laugh all night. They don't show anything but us drinking and hooking up.”

This is not to say MTV would end up with C-SPAN if they manufactured this pap with a little more civility. But the network’s callous distortions of “reality” are twisting the minds of young people into avoiding manners, romance, commitment, decency, modesty, and empathy. They’re teaching our children to become mean-spirited, back-stabbing, bed-hopping villains. This Chiquita factory needs to be denounced for putting rot in the bananas.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center