Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Why "Awkward" Has It Wrong

I have a dirty little secret.  I watch MTV.  Specifically, I watch Girl Code and Awkward.  That's right: my media consumption is not limited to BBC News, CNN, the NY Times and Wall Street Journal, HBO, and the internet.  Shocking, I know.  MTV's Awkward endeavors to present the life of a socially-awkward American blogger in high school.

But MTV has it wrong.  Not that this really surprises me, since MTV also gets Skins, the people who go "down the shore," and a lot of other things wrong.  But as much as I love Awkward, it is in no way because it accurately portrays the life of a blogger.

The show treats blogging like a tell-all confessional diary on the internet.  And for some bloggers, this is probably the case -- especially if those bloggers are, say, 13, which I assume is the market MTV is shooting for with this show.  But for most bloggers late into high school and into college, the posts are typically less about which boy is fighting for your attention and more about how you see the world.

Do I post life updates on my blog?  Absolutely.  Because they help contextualize the things I have to say, and also because they make for useful excuses when I've been bad about regularly updating, not because I fool myself into thinking my readers actually care about my exam schedule.

People still keep diaries, and some people are silly enough to make their deepest, darkest secrets open to the internet viewing public.  But that's not what most awkward teenage/twenty-something bloggers are doing with their blogs.  They're trying to change minds, spread awareness of issues, comment on social change and new media, not complain about the fact that their ex and their current boyfriend are fighting over them.

Also, that's not even awkward.  But it does make for interesting television.

The fact remains, though, that when this is how bloggers are represented in traditional media (kind of like how the movie Hackers presents hackers, which is not at all like what hacking actually is or what hacktivists do), it delegitimizes the medium.  Most bloggers see themselves as the voices of new media, their work taking the place of traditional Op-Eds in a world where print media is dying out.  Positing the work of bloggers through the lens of a girl who uses the internet to work out her petty relationship problems takes away from the legitimacy of bloggers, teenage girls, and the internet generation.

Don't get me wrong, though -- I would pay good money for Tamara's wardrobe and vocabulary, and Jenna Hamilton's life is ceaselessly amusing.  Just don't confuse what she does with what most bloggers are trying to do.

Unapologetically yours,
Rachel Leigh

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