by: Barbara Crowley
When I think of television programming on MTV, I think of the silly shows that replaced my beloved countdowns and Cribs. I think of the falsely advertised “reality” television that claims to give us honesty and truth with a clearly overdramatic and scripted world. I think of people in front of cameras in honesty booths telling me irrelevant opinions that make me sad for the human race.
However, last year I discovered something brilliant behind what I like to call the croc of crap. Amidst the dishonest reality television shows there is a scripted gem that I find incredibly honest. Awkward.
While some of the characters and situations in the show may be a tad on the over-exaggerated side, there is something so ingeniously honest about this show. Humans are definitely dramatic, reflecting the circumstances in many teen shows that are considered outrageously overdramatized. You can look at shows like One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek and think, “none of that actually happens.” You would be wrong, but feel free to do it anyway.
We definitely get ourselves caught up in situations that seem like they were scripted for television. However, the difference I often find between reality and television is that we don’t deal with these situations in the dramatic ways some teen TV shows would have us believe. No, we often just tumble down an awkward tunnel of awkwardness only to awkwardly find ourselves on the other side, surrounded by even more awkward.
Why is I Love You, Man so funny? Pistol Pete is incredibly, agonizingly out of touch in everything he does or says. Sure, we aren’t usually this ridiculous, but we certainly feel that stinging feeling in our chest that reaches up towards our throat. Do you know what that feeling is? Second Degree Embarrassment.
SDE is a common side effect of watching situations we might recognize or dread in our own lives. What I find fascinating is that SDE is usually saved for awkwardness. Ever feel Second Degree Embarrassment when Michael Scott speaks, moves, or does basically anything in The Office? That’s because he is so incredulously awkward that you can’t stand it.
Why don’t we feel Second Degree Embarrassment as often when we witness embarrassing dramatic situations? I believe this is because we understand awkwardness more. We have all experienced that feeling, that static in the air that holds us in place for a moment or two. Some of us thrive on it, I usually try to perpetuate it.
Either way, it is awkwardness with which we most closely connect because awkwardness is real. It’s that moment when your best friend puts her boobs on the glass door when she’s drunk in order to not show people her bare breasts and you realize it’s suddenly your duty to save her from a lifetime of sober shame. It’s that time you get stuck in a small room with your ex-boyfriend and your new boyfriend. It’s that conversation you have with the guidance counselor who tries way too hard but doesn’t actually help.
Awkward. doesn’t just refer to a girl’s first time, it shows it in all of it’s awkward glory. Not only do we get to see the boy’s contorted sex faces or the bumping shelves, we get to hear the truly uncomfortable thoughts in the girl’s head. She admits to us that she is in pain, but doesn’t want to tell him she is a virgin because it embarrasses her.
The entire show, for that matter, has additional commentary from the mind of the main character, Jenna. Every episode we get to hear the less than romanticized thought process of an awkward teenage girl who is often too self aware to bull shit herself. This makes for a very entertaining narration.
Awkward. doesn’t need shock value or over-dramatization. The formula is simple: average character struggles awkwardly through situations for which they aren’t prepared. Granted, there are some situations in the show that are not only outrageously out of the ordinary but entirely lacking sensitivity such as the accidental suicide attempt in the opening of the show. I’m not trying to say there aren’t issues with the show. It would be nice if they could use some diversity in their characters beyond a mainly cis/hetero/caucasian cast.
However, Awkward. is relentless in its attempt to destroy the boundaries of sensitivity regarding any issue from racism to sex shame. From the “fat” bullying cheerleader who destroys all boundaries of socially accepted behavior by destroying the self esteem of everyone around her to the completely oblivious and ridiculous guidance counselor who always says the wrong thing, no character on the show knows boundaries. It completely ignores the feelings of any minority or majority group in order to focus all of its attention on the pure, uncomfortable effect of awkwardness.
One of the best things about the show is that no one has it all figured out. Not even the most likable characters aren’t oblivious to someone’s feelings or ignorant of some social issue. Even the most popular characters aren’t entirely graceful, beautiful, or put together. Basically, all of the characters are awkward messes. It’s beautiful. It’s awkward. It’s real. And I love it.
Awkward. Watch it. If you hate it, that’s okay. If you love it, you’re one of many, my friend.
Barbara Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.