In an economy where employment hovers at just above eight percent and nearly 50 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, it’s no surprise that a TV network might seek to capture the life of these wandering twenty-somethings. And in a suffering economy where 23 million Americans are unemployed, MTV has done just that with their new show Underemployed.
But the question begs to be asked: Would a show about underemployed millennials even be a concept among producers if the economy didn’t reflect such a poor environment for them to obtain work? And furthermore, is MTV, which leans left, even aware of the irony in producing a show about underemployment when their savior of a president is responsible for the conditions in which these graduates are not thriving?
Underemployed, a scripted reality show about a group of young adults trying to find their way in this recession, is promoted in just about every commercial break on MTV and premieres October 16. The trailer claims these young people are “underpaid” and “underappreciated” with one college graduate working at a donut shop claiming she is there because she is “underachieving.”
Zap2it blog says, “The show taps into the aimlessness of the post-collegiate years, especially after the recession when plum jobs are harder and harder to come by. But just because kids aren’t doing as well as they’d hoped career-wise doesn’t mean life is all one big hustle.”
But why would a bunch of under or unemployed millennials be something worth promoting, especially coming from a network that loves Obama?
During commercial breaks on MTV, viewers can see not only promotions for Underemployed, but also clips of MTV News and their new slogan “going forth” all about getting young people involved in this upcoming election. (Side note: “going forth” sounds a lot like Obama’s “forward” reelection slogan, does it not?)
One popular MTV News clip features reporter Andrew Jenks at the recently concluded 2012 Democratic National Convention talking to millennials. “You really want to feel empowered, you know, go out, vote, you know go forth, spread your word, get your voice heard,“ millennial Jake Fader said on camera. (Note: in doing research for this piece, I watched four hours of MTV and did not see one promotion of MTV News in which they were at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, which took place one week before the DNC Convention in Charlotte, NC. There were, however four clips of MTV News at the DNC Convention.)
“Motivated and ready to go forth, young people are aware of what’s at stake come November and the importance of making their close to 45 million votes count,” Jenks said at the DNC.
Even celebrity Olivia Wilde echoed his sentiments, giving a shoutout to all the young support Obama got from voters. “Young people elected Barack Obama in 2008- it was because of the mobilization of volunteers,” she told MTV News.
But will these young adults ignore the fact that Obama’s policies (college tuition rates rising 15 percent in the past two years) actually hurt young college students, but mobilize anyway for him in November, laughing off the fact that nearly half of their peers are unemployed? Or will these millennials open their eyes and recognize that there are other options on the ballot?
One could argue that MTV is merely exposing viewers to the reality they face. But they’re doing so in a seemingly comical way. One trailer for Underemployed showcases a group of young adults behind the windows of a skyscraper looking out onto a great metropolis when a voiceover is heard saying, “We’re all in this together – do not throw up… do not move back in with your parents.”
With MTV laughing off underemployment among their target audience with commercials that trivialize a real hardship for millions, coupled with a not-so-subtle push for twenty-somethings to reelect president Obama, they’re only doing millennials a disservice.
It’s the blind leading the blind.
Click here to see a trailer of Underemployed.