I made an exciting discovery on the internet last week. Many MTV True Life episodes are available for streaming on MTV.com.
I’ve always loved MTV’s earnest, if shallow, attempts to report the news—remember Sex in the 90s? But this series has always been my favorite. Say what you will about MTV, but they do give a voice to the youth. In the case of True Life, any young person, no matter how ugly, with any problem, no matter how trivial, can explain themselves on cable TV.
Take “I’m Happy To Be Fat.” Mikey is a 476 pound gay man from Nashville, Tennessee. In case you missed it in the title, but he’s ecstatic to be morbidly obese, especially because that makes him the object of desire for chubby chaser fetishists. During shooting, one his “friends” from the internet comes to Nashville to visit, and by visit, I mean screw. Obviously True Life paid for this trip, but this MTV sponsored deus ex machina is a small price to pay to watch the two at a buffet, where the chase loads up the chubby with desserts.
MTV True Life is sort of like The Hills but with ugly people and real issues, or realer issues. When The Hills wasn’t as blatantly fake, part of the fun was the voyeurism. These were real people, not picked to live in a house, dealing with the universal experience: mean boyfriends, mean friends and mean bosses. So conversations never went anywhere? That’s real too. I can’t remember the last non-listless conversation I had. Now that the stars of the reality show are real stars, I enjoy The Hills for the meta-reality of it. Even though I already know that Spencer and Heidi are going to get back together, it still feels like live tabloid drama, time delayed, when I watch them reunite on The Hills.
Whether the problems are unique like “I Have a Husband in Iraq,” or everyday like “I’m Pregnant” (which should be shown to teens as an antidote to Juno) MTV successfully plays to lowest common dominator voyeurism. Basically, let me look in on anyone’s life, and I’ll be interested.