It seems that MTV has lost its credibility in recent years, once a channel broadcasting music videos has been more known for ridiculous reality shows, be they raucous (Jersey Shore) or (allegedly) scripted (The Hills). However, this summer the network has finally found a show that’s as relatable as it is realistic.
One Monumental Day
The premise to an If You Really Knew Me episode can be quite complex. High schools in various parts of the country (So far, schools in California, Ohio, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have been featured) describe their current social problems among their students (i.e. more diversity leading to racism, cyber-bullying, etc.), or explain the peculiarities of certain cliques (i.e. where they hang out, what they wear). Next, 5 or 6 students from various cliques introduce themselves, and give a glimpse of life in their school social status.
After introductions, the audience learns that a program called Challenge Day has been brought to the high school. The day prior, the featured students share what they have heard about Challenge Day (many students comment on how “everyone cries.”) and predict what they think will happen at the program.
Finally, the big day arrives and students express their emotions as they are welcomed into their meeting place and are introduced to their two Challenge Day leaders. At first, students play seemingly outrageous games as a way to loosen up and relax with each other. Gradually, we see the students slowly come to terms with their inner struggles as leaders draw diagrams and explain the social pressures on the students (Two examples of these diagrams include the “Real/Fake Iceberg” and a “Be a Man Box/Be a Lady Flower”).
The main attractions arrive. First is the featured exercise, titled “If You Really Knew Me.” In Breakfast Club style, the featured students congregate in different groups as they complete the titular phrase. Here, we learn of all the students problems, from a jock who deals with survivor’s guilt to a suicidal popular girl to a class clown aware of how mean-spirited his jokes are. Second is an activity known as “Crossing the Line,” in which the leaders read statements pertaining to different subjects (divorce, racism, body image issues, death, drugs, and sexuality to name a few) and students cross a tape line or show their sympathy with an “I Love You” hand gesture.
To conclude Challenge Day, featured students are given the mic to mend wrongs and set goals to better their schools. Hugs are shared and the aftermath is documented with friendly encounters and goals met.
Criticisms and Questions
Of course, while watching this breakthrough unfold, many viewers (including myself) had doubts over this show. How credible is this show? Would Challenge Day work in the long run? While the positive message is clear, aren’t there naturally going to be cliques wherever we go, in all aspects of life? And what about what happens once everyone’s personal struggles are exposed?
Well, first things first, many viewers, especially parents, do believe that this show is one of the realest on MTV. Nothing’s held back, both verbally and emotionally. However, the authenticity of the show could be left to interpretation, as many students who attended one of the high schools came back firing at how inaccurately MTV portrayed their student body.
As for Challenge Day’s results, the majority of viewers from schools that have had a Challenge Day claim that the program’s results and portrayal on the show are correct. But some students from the featured school again say otherwise.
For the third question, I myself have had experiences where this question has been brought up. In middle school, fed up with the idiots and snobs, I asked my parents if I could apply to private school as an escape. My father asked me this question and I was left speechless. Perhaps MTV was making a statement that a high school should be a clique-free place where no one should be scared to talk about anything. Unfortunately, some places aren’t so lucky.
The final question was actually addressed in certain episodes, where female students would say “I don’t want to talk, as it hurts to bring these things up” or “I don’t want people to think differently of me.” However, shortly after making these statements they would cry out the truth to their group.
When No One Else Can Really Know You
Here are additional tips when dealing with personal struggles if you don’t participate in a Challenge Day or feel like talking to someone (either a parent, trusted adult, or a friend) isn’t helpful:
• Writing, either in a journal or any creative writing, can really get feelings out that may feel buried or embarrassing
• Exercise: Endorphins that make you happy. Need I say more?
• Doing a hobby you love can take certain worries off your mind (just make sure they are healthy hobbies)
• Music: This could go two ways. Try not to pick a song that depresses you or hits too close to home. A 2009 issue of Seventeen has done studies saying that more negative songs can make bad feelings worse. In short, the sillier and more fun the track, the better.