On a network that mostly encompasses fake tans (Jersey Shore, Teen Mom's Amber), fake boobs (and everything else on Heidi Montag), and fake reality storylines, MTV has come up with its most raw and real show yet. And if you didn't shed a tear from MTV's new docu-series If You Really Knew Me, then you just may be Ann Coulter.
If You Really Knew Me has a Breakfast Club-like premise, bringing attention to the distinct categories that divide any American high school's social groups: jocks, geeks, emo kids, loners...the list is endless, but not limited, as it also includes race, sexual orientation, gender, and religious beliefs. The show features several members of these various categories as they describe the social hierarchy that dominates the school and the prejudgments that prevent fellow students from getting to know each other beyond appearances. There's Rob, the I-can't-help-but-want-to-hug-him band geek who also happens to be gay; Travis, the football star who doesn't even really like football and is easily influenced by his racist friends; Barbara, the emo girl with a history of cutting herself; Kabraea, the black girl who came very close to suicide; and Leikin, a girl who would trade in all her material possessions for the slightest emotional connection with her parents.
The majority of the episode follows these students and their peers as they experience Challenge Day at their high school, in which a pair of enthusiastic speakers (who have overcome a few of their own challenges themselves) breaks down the walls that many teenagers put up and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings, finishing the sentence "if you really knew me..." to small groups of random students. It may sound cheesy at first, but when you watch these students and teachers of all different backgrounds console and relate to each other over issues like abusive home lives, thoughts of suicide, and being told you're worthless by family members, you can't help but feel a tug on your high school heartstrings. Unless of course, you're Ann Coulter.
Towards the end of Challenge Day, they participate in another bonding experience in which the motivational speakers state occurrences that might have come up in the teenagers' lives and if it relates to them specifically, they step several feet forward from where they are all lined up. It's an incredibly emotional conclusion, as many of them step forward for questions like "are alcohol or drugs a problem in your home?" "has a friend or family member ever been hurt or killed from gang violence/terrorism/war?" and the question that made everyone in the gym step forward: "have you ever felt alone or afraid?" These challenges do have a point beyond moving everyone (even the football players) to tears: to motivate them to make changes in their lives and in the high school towards acceptance of each other.
If You Really Knew Me is eye-opening and something any teenager and parent of a teenager should watch to know they are not alone in how they feel and to better understand what they are going through. This show is so relevant to how a REAL (non-Laguna Beach) high school should be portrayed on television that I'll even forgive MTV for airing a Hard Times of RJ Berger commercial during it, despite it being one in which he parties and possibly hooks up with his slutty babysitter. Seriously, who has a babysitter in high school (not including Teen Mom)?
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