By Emily Mitchell
“She doesn’t even go here!” This may be one of the funniest quotes from 2004’s Mean Girls. It comes from the part of the movie where all the girls of North Shore High School are gathered in the gymnasium to have a venting session about all the gossip and wrongdoing of high school cliques. If you enjoy this scene as much as I do, then you should tune in to MTV’s newest unscripted show, If You Really Knew Me…
But don’t expect to be laughing much when watching this show. It’s serious and emotional. The premise of the show revolves around Challenge Day, an organization whose mission is “to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression.” The program gathers a whole student body into a gymnasium. They play purposely awkward games to interact with each other, followed by intimate small-group discussions and mini-confessionals led and mediated by Challenge Day organizers. This includes the Mean Girls microphone-confessional format. But what the students reveal is real and heart wrenching, much more than superfluous cattiness.
In the first sneak-peek episode, MTV steps inside Colusa High School, with a student population of 350 that is located in a small California town. Interviews with teachers and the principal reveal that most of the kids have gone to school together since kindergarten, leaving no room for growth outside of their social labels: stoner, jock, nerd, loner.
Challenge Day brings the kids outside of their comfort zones, creating a space where even the most closed off and sarcastic open up. It’s evident that not a dry-eye is left in the gym by the end of the day. If You Really Knew Me… chronicles an emotional day where students reveal their true selves, with the goal to learn to love one another without their label. Issues of race, sexuality, drugs, mental illness, self-esteem, and broken family relationships are all told and discussed through a variety of workshop-type exercises that allow all the students to relate to one another and have a sense of community. It sounds totally cheesy in writing, but the show does seem to shake things up inside Colusa High.
If You Really Knew Me… is a refreshing spin to the high school experience, which for many teenagers is the hardest and most lonely times of their lives. The show is raw, and the students on the show truly look affected by the day’s activities. If you want more information on the Challenge Day program, you can also visit their website. http://www.challengeday.org/You can check out the full sneak-peek episode now on mtv.com, as well as the series premiere on Tuesday, July 20th, at 11pm ET.