Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Reality shows these days are not exactly known for being, well, real. Especially not those created by MTV, who of late has brought us the infamous Hills, horribly scripted The City and those done-to-death Real World Challenges. That was until MTV introduced the new, slightly clunkily named “If You Really Knew Me.” IYRKM is as honest as it gets. In the vein of the original few seasons of Real World and True Life, this show transcends its medium and the channel it's aired on to reveal the human drama. Each week, the show follows students at a different high school as they participate in Challenge Day, a social experiment of sorts that is designed to break down barriers, both in terms of physical groups and emotions. Kids start off segregated as jocks, nerds, band geeks, cheerleaders, etc. and by the end of the hour, they converge as a group of kids who have found have found the love and approval from their peers they were all so desperately seeking.

I know it sounds corny. It is a little, but that’s what is beautiful about it. I don’t know what happens after this show, if the Kumbaya spirit stays alive. Nonetheless, it’s very hopeful. As these kids demonstrate, high school is all about surviving. They’re all just trying to make it through the day as everything about them is constantly changing. IYRKM introduces this idea: Wouldn't it be so much easier if kids made an effort not to be jerks to each other?

The people facilitating Challenge Day kept warning how powerful the experience would be. I was intrigued but remained skeptical ... until I found myself tearing up. If you want a good cry, look no further. My only problem is that as a viewer, I got invested. And the commercials would interrupt and take me out of the story. Here’s an intense scene and then suddenly that commercial with the stupid rapping hamster is on. Moment gone. The other day I discovered it OnDemand. I recommend you watch it there; so much easier to make an emotional connection.

The last full episode I caught was on Cyber-bullying. I’m really interested in seeing them tackle more contemporary issues. I would like to see one of these schools have an open dialogue about race and privilege in society.

If You Really Knew Me
: Like a true-life, modern-day version of the Breakfast Club minus that iconic dance scene and the running through the halls. It airs Tuesdays; watch it tonight.