Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Escaping Halo 3 to the IMA last night, I knew the evening TV would be a little different than my usual gym accompaniement of the Today show. But I had no idea how weird TV had become. I always thought VH1 was the more mature music channel, a step above the Real World and TRL (though who doesn't miss those two months of middle school when we could've set our watched by the regularity of KC and JoJo at number one every afternoon?).

Last night, VH1 followed an hour of Britney's most bizarre year ever (how did I miss her frenzied, bald, umbrella- weilding car smashing incident?) with The Pick-Up Artist.

A motley crew of awkward-but-seemingly-nice-enough guys role-play picking up hotties per the pseudo academic guidance of the magician and "former" nerd extraordinaire Mystery. That is his name, and, apropos I suppose, he slinks around all ruffled and feathered in a costume of flouncy shirts, cowboy boots, large hats, tight pants, and goatee -- in essence, dolled-up like a pirate too flamboyant even for Disney's Caribbean. One of few men for whom wearing an eye patch or a paisley ascot would seem more reasonable than not.

He also speaks very creepily in a slow, calm voice with big words, medium-sized social theory, and diminutive intentions. Possibly the magician is hypnotizing his audience with his uber-controlled speach?

I don't know that any individual recommendation he gave was particularly degrading or sleazy. His advice on body language seemed valid, his statement that there are no good pick-up lines correct, and his directives on approaching women in a nonthreatening way was very studied. But therein is Issue #1: people have been seducing and charming each other for centuries, but for the most part it's done through a genuine connection or personal charisma, not through a con man's formulaic checklist of do's and don'ts.

Issue #2: It's a how-to show for men about picking up women. Not for people to picking-up other people, not for establishing a good relationship, or meeting the right person, or any of the countless other issues people impose on the very natural act of mating. It establishes a clear gendered power structure via subtle manipulations, it promotes deception and objectification, and it pretends any two people can successfully play out the same prescribed interaction. The show is no more based in reality than Mystery's costumes are based in real style, and the men following him are as duped as the women they target.

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