For the past couple weeks I have been seeing the preview for a new MTV show called, From G’s to Gents. The premise of the show – produced by Jamie Foxx – is to take self proclaimed gangstas from around the nation, all of who have exaggerated expressions of masculinity and hyper-aggressive attitudes, and to make them into dignified, responsible, and classy men (gentlemen).
I happened to remember that the show was premiering this week so I decided to take a peek. As with any reality TV show we were introduced to all the characters, the competition was set, enemies were made and alliances were set. After sitting and engaging with this “entertainment” for a full hour, I was hard pressed to concretely decipher the show.
On the one hand, there is some value to teaching men that there is more to life than grills, girls and hustlin’. There is a certain deficiency that modern males have – specifically many ethnic minority males – in that that we often take our cues from pop culture and the escalated masculinity presented in action movies, rap/rock stars, and ultra-competitive super athletes. In turn, we often portray this deficiency with a belittlement of women, a shirking of real responsibility in substitute for glamorous thrills, and a glamorous sloth in the completion of tasks that we see as monotonous, difficult or uncool.
On the other hand, the alterative established by the show is unrealistic and aristocratic. It is not that the men are learning to just be gentlemen; they are learning to be formal, proper, upper-class, patriciates. Perhaps the thought is that they need an extreme to pull them to the middle, but since this is reality TV, the point is more likely to set up an extreme juxtaposition in order to garner rating.
My concern with From G’s to Gents goes deeper than just what is presented on the TV. As I was watching I asked, where are the positive and real male figures in their lives? Where are the positive men who are mentoring them and helping them learn how to really be a man? The answers to these questions are extremely complex. Part of the issue is the defiance put up by the “G’s”, most of them gave off a supremely prideful bravado that suggests that they would be slow to allow someone to actually understand who they are (except of course if it is Jamie Foxx and they are on TV). Coming from someone who works with teenagers who present these same “G-ish” characteristics I know that it is exhausting to get past the myriad of walls and barriers they put up.
Another part of the issue is a combination of socioeconomic segregation, justice and pride. In my mind many of the men who would be able to mentor these “G’s” either, live too far away and don’t regularly – or ever – interact with the “G’s”, are too busy because they have the jobs where they have to work long hours in order to provide for their families, or they are just too prideful to “step-down” and sacrifice time and emotions to those who present as they have no care in the world.
This baffles me, especially as a Christian. Where are the strong Christian men at? Where is the concern for the drop in male church attendance? Where is the concern for so many males – especially ethnic minorities – being incarcerated? Where is the worry for those children of single-mothers who need their father back? As Christian men we have no place in our hearts for judgment, segregation, prejudice or any other sin that spawn from pride.
Thankfully more and more churches have engaged the single mother and cared for her; they have provided food and support for struggling families and provided other supports for struggling women. But, I don’t see this happening for needy men. Men are often demonized because there is an expectation that they should be responsible and not have issues. We don’t address that many fathers leave their children because they are insecure, inexperienced (many having no model) and immature. We don’t converse about how we can strengthen the male population. We get caught up in an argument about women’s rights – which I agree with – , but in so we forget that men have problems too. When a child is born out of wedlock – or in it for that matter – that child is the product of a man and woman and we should be working on supporting both pillars of that little boy or little girl’s family. What that doesn’t mean is publicly yelling at men to take responsibility and “step up” or lambasting them for their insufficiencies. It means talking to men, taking them under our wing, encouraging them, trying to understand and deal with their deeper issues.
I don’t want to sound like I excuse the actions of these “G’s” or other men who portray similar characteristics – especially father’s who leave bastard children. Those actions are wrong and it should be pointed out that they are wrong. But we have been approaching this issue in the wrong way and encouraging males to pursue the American façade of “pulling yourselves up by your bootstraps” instead of showing them how to deal with their issues and put on their boots of responsibility.
I am not sure how the rest of the season of “G’s to Gents” is going to go. I will most likely not be wasting my time to watch any more episodes – at least not in full. But I am sure the nation will tune in to be entertained by the deficient men our culture has created.