On Tuesday, July 19, at 11pm ET/PT, MTV premieres the new scripted comedy Awkward., which follows 15-year-old Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) and her life on the social fringes in high school. It’s an irreverent teen comedy targeted for more mature audiences: The series opens with Jenna losing her V-card in a closet at summer camp, then having a clumsy accident mistaken for a suicide attempt. You can watch the entire first episode is available above.
As someone who was in the bull’s-eye of MTV’s target audience 20 years ago, I still enjoyed Awkward. The show’s creator and executive producer is Lauren Iungerich, who is close to my age and shares my love of the John Hughes filmography, so there’s plenty about the high-school experience in Awkward. that feels familiar. But as the years go on, it’s getting tougher to relate to the kids these days. Here are just a few observations this old coot had about Awkward.
It Would’ve Both Ruled And Sucked To Have The Internet Back In The Day My high-school diploma predates the widespread adoption of the Information Superhighway, the “World Wide Web,” by a few years. When I was a freshman in college, my roommate had to leave his computer on overnight just to to download a five-second animated gif of porn. Kids these days have no idea what it was like to go through school without a smartphone or to have every answer to nearly every question a Google search away. Of course, Facebook and texting probably would’ve just given me more opportunity to make an ass of myself or be made an ass of by others, and to a much larger audience. Cyberbullying must be absolutely horrific for some of these kids. Jenna runs into the problem when a locker-room pic of her boobs end up sexted and posterized around the school.
Adults Are Lame I am an adult and a parent, and therefore, the only thing I have to look forward to is the peace of the grave. In Awkward., Jenna’s parents were barely adults when they had her, and her mom Lacey (Nikki DeLoach) is struggling with her fading youth. Lacey would rather be a best friend or big sister to Jenna, but at least she understands one important parental responsibility: “As your mother, it is my job to scar you.” Jenna’s dad, meanwhile, is a fairly levelheaded and therefore boring guy who steps into Jenna’s room every now and then to offer a line of fatherly advice and then leaves. Jenna’s guidance counselor is absolutely clueless (and not in the Alicia Silverstone way) and would rather be liked by the students and avoid confrontation than offer them any wisdom.
Cheerleaders Are Still Mean Yep, at least something hasn’t changed. High-school cheerleaders have been portrayed so negatively in movies and on TV over the years that it’s quite shocking girls still want a place in the pyramid. (“So I’ll be popular, but shallow and everyone will resent me? Where do I sign up?”) In Awkward., Jenna’s nemesis is Sadie (Molly Tarlov), the alpha female of the school. She’s the head cheerleader, but she’s got plenty of emotional baggage and she’s struggling with a weight problem (there’s one in every squad). Jenna starts getting noticed when she wins a silly pep-rally contest at Sadie’s expense. Sadie goes nuclear in retaliation.
There Is No Way Jenna Would Be An Outcast In Reality The thing that bothers me about movies and TV shows that center on the socially outcast girl is that the character is usually way too hot, way too smart, way too funny and way too charismatic to ever be a social pariah in real life. Awkward. falls into the same trap. If I could go into the fictional world of this show as a teenage guy, I would be so all over Jenna in a heartbeat. And when Jenna rejected me, I’d go after her unpopular Asian friend. Think back to the least popular girl in your high school class. Is she anything like Jenna? I’m guessing no.
English Is A Dead Language I recently attended a neighborhood watch meeting (See, I am super lame!) and the police officer there handed out these bookmarks that listed about 50 texting shorthand words and phrases so that parents could figure out what the hell their kids were saying to each other online or in text messages. You’ll need a similar decoder with some of the language in Awkward. Regrettably, from what I’ve heard from friends that are teachers, the OMGs and LOLs and WTFs seem to be overriding teenagers’ capacity for real, meaningful communication. I thought most of the writing in Awkward. to be sharp-witted and clever (Tamara: “Where are you on the Britney meter?” Jenna: “I might be Britney mid head shave.”) which doesn’t reflect the general inanity of most teenagers in the Internet age.
Thanks to our friends at MTV (which showed music videos back in my day, dagnabbit!), here’s a dictionary of some of the slang used in Awkward:
The “AWKWARD. SLANGTIONARY” highlights some of the phrases featured in the show.
Definition: The extra set of pants a girl or her friends keep stashed at school for monthly visitor emergencies.
Definition: Dorks, nerd boys, or goobers; Guys you don’t want to be seen with in public.
Big Fail Mary
Definition: Something that does not go as planned.
Definition: Beyond awesome.
Bumping Of Uglies or Bumping Uglies
Definition of: Hooking up
Call Shenanigans or Shenanigans
Definition: Calling ‘BS’
Definition: A casual intervention facilitated with people who care about you when they think you need help.
Definition: So cheesy it’s almost cool.
Definition: Stalker; Weirdo; Freak.
Definition: Define the relationship; The uncomfortable talk no one wants to have about their dating status.
Definition: The transparent look on someone’s face that lets you know what they’re feeling; Saying something in person that you would normally only have the balls to say over email.
Definition: A relationship that has yet to evolve past the flirting stage.
Definition: Reacting in a stunned or jarring way.
Definition: The lay of the land in regards to how many friends you have.
Genie In A Bottle
Definition: Head- to-toe gorgeous.
Definition: Nonsensical advice
Hitting Shuffle On The Subject
Definition: Changing the subject
Definition: Being grounded.
Definition: Messed up.
Definition: The end of the world brought on by one’s own bad karma.
Definition: Small party; Get-together.
Definition: Anything having to do with ‘lady parts’.
Definition: Creep; Stalker; Freak.
Definition: So major you have to say it with a Spanish accent.
Nancy Drew This
Definition: Neck-to-toe laser hair removal.
Definition: Out dated; Old School.
Definition: A Step Beyond “Game Over”; The real end of gaming playing in a game or a relationship.
Pulling A Britney
Definition: Going to a crazy place.
Definition: Gross; Nasty.
Definition: Fat you can’t control with diet and exercise.
Definition: Pure Evil.
Sequestered To The Kiss And Cry Zone
Definition: Having been iced out.
Definition: Having a nervous breakdown.
Definition: This is awkward.
Definition: Freak out.
Definition: Stoked; Excited; Amped.
Definition: Crying so hard your make-up runs and your face gets puffy.
Definition: The scale or measurement of weird.