The other day, I sat down on my couch, resting my fat, white, middle class, 30 something ass in front of my 32 inch tube powered television to watch four hours of Nitro Circus on the Music Television Channel. While I realize I may be slightly outside the intended demographic for this show, I must confess, I love stunts. Jackass, which premiered at the beginning of the last decade, is one of my favorite shows ever. It is dumb and crude but the stupid, wacky shit those guys did, was awesome. The Nitro Circus crew has refined (mostly) the formula, driving motorcycles, jumping out of planes, wrecking Monster Trucks. It’s less poop and more action. And though it too avoids the concept of race by having an all white cast, much like it’s older cousin Jackass, it does have a female presence in Jolene Van Vugt.
And it is for these reasons I think that Van Vugt is a great face for a new generation of feminism. Though she is often refered to as the “girl” on the show, and when she clearly exceeds in skill against others, her gender is often used as a slap in the loosing male opponents face, her presence on the show is, I believe, invaluable to young girls. Van Vugt is performing stunts that are dangerous, gut wrenching and of the variety that induces fear in all the cast members. And she has never once backed down, even in the face of her own fear. She goes for it every time. If she falls, she gets back up and tries again, persevering against the obstacles.
We could talk about her looks and how she feeds the blonde haired, blue eyed, beauty model that MTV is so in love with. And that’s probably not a coincidence either. But I feel that also distracts from what she has accomplished by being a female, breaking barriers into the white boys club. MTV is not known for having many positive, female roll models. You can’t really include anyone from the several seasons of “Real World” or their new reality program “The Jersey Shore”. And while there was Daria, an offshoot of Mike Judges Beavis and Butthead, I can’t think of another show that had such a strong female figure representing. We have a long way to go with media still. Jolene Van Vugt’s persona on television is is a small, but monumental step along that pathway.