[TV] Awkward – Declaring My Allegiances (Opinion)

Awkward

Anyone out there watching Awkward? Season 3 returns after its mid-season break and Awkward remains one of the funniest shows on TV for me, and pretty much the best thing MTV has had to offer since they stopped playing actual music. Centered around unpopular teenage high school student Jenna, who is launched into unexpected popularity following a little “accident”, and her circle of quirky yet likable friends, Awkward provides unexpected laughs and moments of cringe comedy gold in every twenty-three minute episode from start to finish.

But I’m not writing this blog post just to recommend a surprising treat of Young Adult chuckle-fests. Despite the excellent casting and the fact that none of the characters annoy me to the extreme of intense dislike (how rare for me), this is not a review as such, rather an opinion piece on some of the issues it has raised. So, if you plan on taking me up on this suggestion, or aren’t up to date with Awkward, do not read on, because SPOILERS AHOY as I address the problems inherent. And I don’t mean the problems with the show, I mean the problems with the viewership.

Awkward pictures courtesy of MTV and Yahoo!.

Awkward pictures courtesy of MTV and Yahoo!.

Every post or article I’ve read, every review of Awkward I’ve seen, they all have one thing in common. The vilification of the lead character, the female protagonist, Jenna. Heralded as a “bitch” by the more politically correct (READ: nicer) reviewers, and a right little C U Next Tuesday by the less inclined to forgive, Jenna as a character has been the target of much vitriol this season. Here’s why.

Jenna cheated on her boyfriend, Matty, with new guy, intellectual-type Colin. Over the space of a couple of days Jenna played tonsil tennis with Colin on several occasions behind boyfriend Matty’s back, and her little secret was outed when she mistakenly made out with her little bit on the side in front of an entire room of friends and family, who were, unbeknownst to her, planning a surprise party for her seventeenth birthday. A shockingly painful and horrific way to find out that your girl is cheating on you, to be sure. Not only that, but following a weekend of tears and uncertainty, and despite Jenna having claimed that Colin meant absolutely nothing to her, she spurned Matty’s efforts at reconciliation and effectively dumped him. Three weeks later she’s moved on with her not so one-time fling Colin, much to everyone’s amazement and distaste.

Some of the online reactions to Jenna kissing another boy have been pretty extreme.

Some of the online reactions to Jenna kissing another boy have been pretty extreme.

Yes, this was a horrible thing to do. Yes, Jenna should feel guilty. No, Jenna doesn’t deserve the Bitch of the Century moniker. And again, here’s why.

She has outgrown Matty. Matty, her first love, the popular boy at school she had crushed on for years. Matty, the boy who took her virginity and kept her in a closet, hidden away from his own friends and secret from the world, but visited said closet when he felt the itch for a bit of how’s your father with the young girl who was fine to shag, but not good enough to be seen with in public. The dynamic of this relationship changed over time of course, coinciding with a freight train of new-found popularity (sometimes as a result of unfortunate infamy) that Jenna happened to be riding aboard. You will remember that directly preceding Jenna’s first instance of infidelity with Colin, Matty had admitted that he had been embarrassed of her. What a crushing thing to have said to a young woman.

Sure, Jenna had allowed Matty to behave the way he had when they first gained a more carnal knowledge of each other back in the janitor’s closet at summer camp, and afterward she had even encouraged it. Jenna, however, was a young, impressionable and eager to please fifteen year old girl, and Matty was the more experienced, cool and emotionally aloof young boy who took advantage of her naivety. Now, Jenna has matured through the trials and tribulations of her family and personal life, and she has found that Matty is no longer her perfect fit. If we’ve learned anything from this season it is that they have very little in common and Matty doesn’t share Jenna’s burgeoning intellectual discovery or needs.

This alone, of course, isn’t an acceptable excuse for her cheating. I’ll tell you what is, though.

She’s SEVENTEEN, for crying out loud.

Actually, she’s just turned seventeen. Give her a break.  I do believe that Jenna should have ended her relationship with Matty before she pursued an alternative with Colin. She made a mistake. She’s a teenager you know, they do that from time to time. One of the things that drew me in for repeated viewing of Awkward (apart from the initial hilarity of these so very awkward teens) was the delight I took in watching this young woman develop, in watching her begin to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. I related to her inner struggles instantly as I remembered just how awkward I was at that age, remembered the things that mattered to me less and less as I grew passed that stage and just how hard it was to reconcile my own idea of who I was with the who I appeared to be to my peers.

Awkward is less about angsty teens and those ridiculous Young Adult love triangles that everyone seems to think are a staple of any girl’s fantasy (Twilight, City of Bones) and more about Jenna’s journey of self-discovery, of pushing her own boundaries and testing her limits, of exploring all sides to her personality, most especially her flaws. And that, my friends, is what makes an interesting, realistic character. Flaws.

Awkward Comments 1

Along with the “shaming”, comes this kind of unhelpful rhetoric, the majority of which originating from young women. To anyone “slut-shaming” a sixteen year old fictional character I say “shame” on you.

If you find yourself hating on Jenna because she’s not doing what you think she should do, or because you think Matty is like, OMG, the most PERFECT bf 4eva, or even if you’re entertaining some weird little self-insertion fantasy and are angry that this young woman is shucking the Young Adult genre norm, then you’re completely missing the point of this show.

And so with that I declare that I am not Team Jake, Team Matty or Team Colin. I’m Team Jenna.

Rant over.

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Categories: Observations, TV

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17 replies

  1. I will mostly likely never watch this show [EVER!] but I disagree with your views on the subject, which is rare because I usually agree with everything you write about so i’m surprised right now, anyways, When I was a young teen I was in love with this girl that really wasn’t all that into me and she ended up cheating on me with my best friend at the time. It broke my heart but at the same time made it a bit cold. Fast forward a few years and i’m an overgrown man in love with a woman that did nothing but use me for my money and despite what everyone told me I continued to cater to her because I thought she loved me too.
    When I ran out of money she left me in the middle of the night as we slept and i’ve never seen her again. I was heartbroken and it took me years to open up to anyone again.
    Great article, it’s well written as always and I look forward to what you come up with next.

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    • I’ll always appreciate your honesty and as you’ve probably guessed, I love a good discussion! But don’t get me wrong, I do not at all condone cheating in any way, shape or form. Having been messed around in the past myself I’ve always been adamant that I wouldn’t put up with it, and I’m aware of what a deeply personal issue it can be for most of us. What I can’t abide by though is the vilification by others of a sixteen year old girl who made the mistake of not owning up to her problems and dealing with them in a mature fashion. Because she’s not mature, she’s sixteen. None of us are the same as we were when we were sixteen. Just because she kissed another boy at sixteen doesn’t mean she’ll do the same at twenty-six. I think what the character did was awful but I don’t think she deserves the reaction, I don’t think she, as a child, should be held to the same standards of judgment as an adult should be.

      All that said, on the flip-side, some people remain selfish, self-absorbed and self-righteous individuals for their entire lives, no matter the age. I have no doubt that the people who wronged you in the past will get their karmic comeuppance. We got ours as a result; a wealth of experience to call upon and partners in our lives now who understand, love and appreciate us. So we win in the end.

      I love that despite not watching the show you still took the time to comment and offer your own perspective and feedback. It’s much appreciated.

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      • I read everything you post because you’re a very talented writer and you have your own personality in your writing which is rare these days because most people are generic. I don’t consider being sixteen years old a child but that’s just me. You’re more then old enough to know right from wrong at that age.

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        • Oh I definitely agree that at sixteen you most definitely know right from wrong, but I’m not sure they have the same capacity as, say, a twenty-one year old would have to deal with any emotional fallout or personal repercussions following a traumatic experience. Or maybe that was just me! I was all over the place at sixteen, I didn’t really come into my own until I was older.

          Thank you for the compliments. They really mean a lot to me.

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          • You earned those compliments and I think I matured faster then most people do. I was bullied on a lot growing up and it was hard. I made my first friend at the age of 11 and we’re still friends now. When I consider someone a friend it’s for life because I never had any friends growing up. I don’t go to clubs, drink, smoke, or celebrate my own birthday.

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            • Yes that would certainly make someone grow up a lot faster than most. Bullying seems to be such a huge problem in schools in the States. Not that we don’t have it here, because we do, but the extent of the bullying seems to be a hell of a lot worse over there than anywhere else.

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              • I think so too and i’m a little scared to send my oldest daughter off to school because of this but I don’t want to keep her locked away from the world either. It;s a shame that i’m scared to send my own kids to school. It shouldn’t be this way.

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                • It’s a massive shame that something as simple as sending your child to school could be such a big worry, but it’s not an unfounded one. I’ve now doubt though you’ll have her well prepared and well able to face whatever she has to with your support. I have family in FL and I recently found out that my eleven year old cousin is having difficulties in this regard and it’s pretty heartbreaking. My own school wasn’t without its bullies but some of the stories I hear and read about have an unreal level of nastiness about them.

                  Like

                  • That’s sad to hear i’m sorry. I’m teaching my daughter Jujitsu. When my other two kids are old enough i’m going to teach them too so if anything happens they’ll be able to defend themselves. This is the quite the conversation we’ve had today :].

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        • Btw, how is everyone get on with the new arrival? :D You guys are managing to get SOME sleep I hope!

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  2. So, I have not seen the show and probably won’t since I’m so backed up on everything else right now but, quick question – did the boy she made out with know she was dating the other boy? What are the online reactions to his behavior?

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    • Yes, they all knew each other, not well, but the two boys attend the same school. No noticeable reaction to his part in it all, with the exception of ONE “two to tango” comment I came across on IMDB.

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  3. Music TV does not play music. History channel shows programs that have nothing to do with history. It’s false advertising I tells you.

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