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Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Characters in MTV's Awkward

There may be a void in your week where Awkward should have been, since the VMAs replaced it, so here’s a list about it. We’ve graded episodes for so long, what about characters?

Jenna Hamilton
Jenna is written as a bland, relatable everygirl with a voiceover only marginally wiser than Carrie Bradshaw’s. So why does Jenna seem so unique and likeable? Partial credit goes to actress Ashley Rickards. She’s only 20, and that’s good because we hate when fake teens look too old for their roles. Ashley didn’t have to go through a lot of the high school awkwardness because she graduated at 15 and is a member of Mensa. She’s on the board of directors of an organization that helps combat human trafficking and sex slavery. Being so obviously intelligent and socially conscious, Ashley is able to bring some maturity to Jenna while also looking remotely teenaged. (The character may be too mature for 15/16.)

Credit for the positive aspects of Jenna also has to go to the show itself: It’s really trying to present a normal high school existence, rather than the next Gossip Girl or 90210 that we usually see. Another good thing about Jenna is that she’s so real. This girl may have slept with Matty before he committed to her, and she undervalues herself, but she’s open about who she is and doesn’t really try to change it. She’s hella-gorgeous too. We don’t think Jenna would be seen as a freak in real life. The fake suicide attempt was the best possible thing the show could have foisted on this character to make her seem weird. But, really, why would Jenna have been invisible in the first place? She’s nice, smart, and pretty. Maybe it was her lack of confidence, but we don’t think girls like that have much trouble, usually. This is another case of TV taking the idea of a “nerd” and replacing it with a Seth Cohen: someone we’ll all fall in love with.
Character grade: B

Lacey Hamilton
You have to describe Lacey as a shallow, materialistic, immature non-mother, much like Regina George’s mother on Mean Girls. Heck, she even has the fake ta-tas. But Lacey packs more of an emotional punch than Mrs. George, and she’s more believable as a character. She has her sweet moments, and her grief and guilt over writing Jenna that letter really got to us. She’s beautiful and not stupid, but she seems to have passed her low self-esteem down to her daughter…possibly because her own mother made her believe she was nothing. We get the sense that she really cares about her little family and wants to be better, but Lacey still has a lot of growing up to do. We love when she gets protective over Jenna, like when she reamed Ally for giving her drugs.
Character grade: B

Kevin Hamilton
We don’t see enough of Kevin Hamilton, which is a shame because he’s cute. We appreciate that he had Lacey’s back in the last episode, and we really want more details as to why he thought leaving was the best way to handle Lacey’s letter. Did he just think she was this horrible person that he couldn’t be with any longer? Were there other problems we didn’t see? It just doesn’t come together perfectly for us. The best thing about Kevin is his relationship with Jenna. They seem to really get along and he’s the more mature parent of the two older Hamiltons. We need to see more storylines with him though. He needs development.
Character grade: B-

Matty McKibben
This is Jenna’s number-one love interest. He’s popular, super sexy, sweet, in good shape, and well-liked, but he also cares way too much what other people think of him, at least in the first season. He treats women like dogs…or at least he did in the first season. He’s terrible in the sack…once again, in the first season. Ern hated Matty with a passion, but in season two, he’s been a lot better. He started to care about Jenna as a friend and pine for her a little. Now, everyone knows he’s in love with Jenna and he’s not ashamed of it at all. Should we chalk up his bad behavior in season one to youth and decide he’s learned his lesson? Should he get a second chance? Meh, we guess he’s been pretty cool this year. Plus, Jenna is clearly in love with him. Leeard has liked him from the start, and his name has alliteration. At this point, what’s to hate? He’s Jenna’s Mr. Big. Not all good, not all bad. A believably insecure, changing teenage boy.
Character grade: B

Jake Rosati
While Jake started out charming and nice (and Ern was solidly Team Jake in season one), he’s disappointed us this season. Last season, he was a gentleman who made Matty look like a coward. This season, Jake has been a little blah. He’s not as cute, and when he found out about Jenna’s secret, he acted like a jerk. We do like that he’s intelligent and comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to be popular. We can’t believe he ever dated Lissa. That’s a strike. We hate when guys like stupid girls. His sensitivity and openness paired together seem a little unrealistic for a teenage boy. We like that this is balanced out by some jealousy issues, the only place Jake seems insecure. If he were cuter, he might stand a real chance at beating Matty for Endgame Guy. As it is, we hope Jenna gets a third love interest to distract her from both of the guys, especially if this show is going to have more seasons (and it will have at least one more). This Mr. Perfect exists mostly as a foil for Matty, not as a character in his own right.
Character grade: C+

Tamara Kaplan
This girl annoyed us for a long time prior to this season. Lately, she’s been more likable. Some of her coined words are actually clever, and we like that she is there for Jenna most of the time. We like her a lot better than we like Ming, and she’s one of the funnier, more interesting BFFs on TVs. There’s not much to say about her except that she carries out her role so well that we hardly even need to see Ming.
Character grade: B-

Sadie Saxton
Sadie is the school bully. She says, “You’re welcome” after giving unwanted “constructive” criticism. She struggles with her weight, but she is still popular. She’s kind of an evil tyrant. We loved when she hooked up with Matty and was underwhelmed with his performance. We love that the school fat girl is the bully. It’s a twist on the norm. However, we wouldn’t say that Sadie is fat, even in season one before she lost a ton of weight. We guess she’s fat for TV world, but…come on, that’s not fat. Whatever. This is one of the best, funniest characters on this show. Her catchphrase will be stuck in our heads forever, as will her expert line delivery and hilarious facial expressions. Every insult out of her mouth is pure gold. If our school bullies had been that clever, we wouldn’t have minded them. She's the villain we root for.
Character grade: A+

Valerie Marks
School counselor turned vice principal Val used to be too cartoonish, but now she’s the second funniest character on the show. Val lives vicariously through the teens at the school and wants desperately to be Jenna’s BFF. Good taste, Val, because we wouldn’t want to be friends with any of those other kids. The reason we love Val is she has the best one-liners on the show these days. We like how sad and pathetic she is. She’s an exaggerated version of a lot of teachers. You know the ones: They play favorites, want to relive their glory days, try too hard to be cool, and have the mentality of an actual high schooler. We’ve all had them, and if you were one of their pets, you liked them. If you weren’t, you scoffed at them and rolled your eyes. On TV, it really works.
Character grade: A-

Ming Huang
We’re sick of the Tiger moms, the Asian stereotypes, and the stupid hats. The Asian Mafia was funny in the first episode in which they were introduced, but now it seems like the Ming character exists only to perpetuate that joke. We hardly even see this character, and when we do, she’s largely unnecessary.
Character grade: D+

Jake’s ex-girlfriend is wonderfully dim, which is a safe thing to make your evangelical Christian character. That way they don’t offend anyone. She’s getting at least an average grade just for the time she told Jake that he couldn’t have sex with her, but she would do anal (her “behymen”). One of us choked on her diet coke laughing at that. That’s such an American puritan thing. American girls want to stay virgins, so they do everything else and then insist they haven’t had sex. If sex is only breaking the hymen, and if you want to stay super technical, then gay people haven’t had sex. We loved seeing that mentality mocked here. We also like that Lissa didn’t stay a judgmental harpy and started being nice to Jenna. She’s just a poor ditz. Another stereotype though.
Character grade: C+

Clark Stevenson
This is the gay Christian guy who is friends with Jenna when we see him on the show. Can he replace Ming? Can we see more of him? Gay religious people actually exist and are hardly ever represented in either society or the media. He’s nice to Jenna, and we KNOW she needs a gay best friend to help her navigate her love triangle and family. He’s not super stereotypical either, at least from what we’ve seen. Take him out of the religious retreats and make him a part of Jenna’s day-to-day crowd. Pleeease?
Character grade: B+

This is the guy who stalks Jenna and has recently resurrected his band “Jenna Lives.” While less is sometimes more with these kinds of side characters, if he could have a sort of “Kirk on Gilmore Girls” presence, we wouldn’t mind too much.
Character grade: B-

Aunt Ally
Lacey’s best friend is a nice picture of who Lacey could have turned into if she hadn’t had Jenna and married Kevin. We love how she calls Jenna “lil bitch” and sometimes “flower bitch.” She was laugh-your-ass-off funny in her wedding episode. While we think less is more with this character, she’s been used perfectly so far.
Character grade: B+

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