Bozell Column: MTV's 'Savage' Schoolyard
MTV is now trying to lure young viewers with a saucy sex show in the “advice” category. They didn’t reach for Dr. Drew or God forbid, Dr. Ruth, or an actual doctor of anything. They turned to filthy sex columnist and gay activist Dan Savage.
The new show is called “Savage U,” and it documents Savage touring college campuses to offer snarky/smutty advice to college students. This is MTV’s libertine ideology pitched right at children, and Savage is blunt about how he’ll be going around the parents.
Savage explained to the Los Angeles Times that “The idea is we’re going to talk to these kids whether the parents want us to or not...It is an aggressive act. It’s not just feel-good, wishy-washy nonsense.” In other words, there’s no room for virtue here. When a college boy says he wants to know a woman’s personality before engaging in sex, co-host Lauren Hutchinson says, “Well, your mom’s not watching this TV show, so what do you really think?”
MTV wants us to know that Savage’s homosexuality makes him more qualified as a sex therapist. Exaggeration? In an online promo, Savage boasts “straight people correctly intuit that gay people know more about sex than they do.”
The show begins with the disclaimer “Dan and Lauren are not licensed therapists. Dan isn’t even a licensed driver.” Still, they call it “a crash course in the real sex ed.” But this isn’t sex education. It’s just provocative, raunchy sex chatter, complete with lots of shots of shocked faces and laughter. It’s much more entertainment than education.
Savage’s first stop on the show is the University of Maryland. A small crowd there has gathered to giggle at his advice. He starts by reading cards from the audience. “Do guys really expect girls to remove all their pubic hair? And does that mean I have to do it?” Har, har. Savage answers: “You should style your vulva however it is you want to style your vulva.” Brilliant.
But just in case, the next ad break included a commercial for the Norelco Bodygroom Pro. There was also an ad for Axe dandruff shampoo that ends with a young man surrounded by three girls wearing just towels. MTV’s selling sex at almost every moment.
Here’s another example of the Savage style at work. On a card, a woman complains: “My boyfriend is into something really weird. How can he get over it?” Pedophilia? Bestiality? Necrophilia? Who knows, and Savage doesn’t care even to ask. “He can’t. He won’t. He never will. And you should be willing to, as I always like to say in the column, be good, giving, and game. There are no normal guys. And if you dump the honest foot fetishist, you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac.”
What if the boyfriends likes whipping her? Or hanging her outside a window? Specifics would only ruin the droll dismissal of any idea of a normal, functional sexuality.
We are a long distance away from a “health” lecture, but that’s exactly the category our media culture awards to the “sex advice columnist.” Savage publicists tout he has the number one “health podcast” at iTunes. Savage is not discussing “health.” He’s selling hedonism.
At one point in the MTV show, Savage lectures a couple having “unprotected” sex that “Pregnancy is the ultimate sexually transmitted infection.” A child is a disease? How sick is that? He tells the female: “You can get birth control that’ll knock your eggs out for a year. You should. You must! Oh my God!”
At one college bar, Savage asks about the “sex culture” on campus at Maryland. “It’s a very active culture,” says one girl. “It’s like a good yogurt,” Savage replies. One group of friends – two men and a woman – even has a competitive points system for how many sexual conquests they can pile up. This is played for laughs.
But MTV wants to pretend this is educational, so they also promote the idea that this is somehow a sacrificial public service for them. Savage argued “A lot of young people don't have good sex education. This kind of program, where we are having fun and there are jokes and people are talking about sex and tend to be a little embarrassed, they laugh and it actually helps. It helps people learn to enjoy themselves and laugh along.”
In addition to Norelco and Axe, this smut was also brought to you by Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Clearasil, Sobe Life Water, AT&T, Gazelle.com, Western Sky Financial, the makers of Xenadrine and Allegra, and naturally, the newest smutcom sequel in the “American Pie” series. They should all be so proud to be associated with this “educational” project. I wonder if the CEOs talk about this proudly at night in front of their infections – I mean, children.