Within the first 10 minutes of last night’s Jersey Shore reunion show, MTV revisited Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s club flirtations in Miami with a lady his roommates believed was been born a man. Cue everyone laughing at the disgusting freak of nature!
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In the series’ second season, the gang’s regular nights out continued. Except down in Miami, Mike encountered a possibly trans woman without realizing it. And, ew, gross! The thought of sticking your tongue into a human being’s mouth!
Pauly D was the first to call him out on it when it happened (“We think The Situation might’ve got himself into a situation with a tranny out here”). And on last night’s reunion show, the trans bashing continued, with the catch phrase (“If you have to think about it, it’s a tranny, stay away”) resurfacing.
Oh, you didn’t know what a “tra-nade” is? That would be a trans grenade, the cast’s friendly term for an ugly girl. And that’s exactly what Ronnie, Mike, and Pauly D are all calling this unidentified woman.
The problem with these comments? They play into the fear of the weird and different without acknowledging — and jesus, I know this sounds corny — trans men and women are people too. To know how terrible the cast’s comments are, replace “trans” with “black” or “disabled.” Then we have Mike trying to avoid “bla-nades” and making fun of paraplegics. ROFL, right?
Guys like Mike Sorrentino don’t need to be attracted to trans women. Guys like Mike Sorrentino do not have to insult their entire existence based on their gender identity, either.
Meanwhile, how does a network like MTV recognize its glorification of trans-bashing while also supposedly acting as an advocate for queer equality? You can make the argument that MTV is just the messenger here, and the transphobic statements are coming from the show’s cast. Except the reunion’s host Julissa Bermudez, a MTV employee, also engages in the laughter and slurs: “Who was that tranny? Was that your girl? What was up with that?” You’re right, Julissa. Why would a perfectly straight, pussy-conquering man ever be attracted to a MTF? (A MTF, I might add, who does not look terribly different than you did on the reunion show.)
And there is no mention, not even a five-second slide filled with text, to counter this sort of phobic messaging. And yet MTV goes ahead and releases an iPhone app that lets young people report instances of bullying — talk about corporate synergy — as if that’s enough to maintain the media giant’s image of being a friend to our community. We encountered similar problems with The Real World: New Orleans, where a cast member threw around the word “faggot” — but at least he got called out on it during the reunion show. And yet this is the same network that (positively) featured trans cast member Katelynn on the previous Real World season, a first for the series, and by all accounts a progressive step. Does that mean MTV is representing “all sides” to the debate about whether queer people deserve to be celebrated or humiliated?
GLAAD just recognized MTV as the network with the most queer characters. Perhaps it’s time for an additional superlative: bully.
UPDATE: After we notified GLAAD about the program, the org says it “reached out to MTV to voice our serious concerns with this segment and to demand action. MTV replied that they will respond Monday and chart a course of action.”