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MTV: Juvies


The MTV series Juvies (Thursdays at 10pm, Sundays at 7pm) gives its viewers an inside look at a juvenile detention center and the processes involved with it. The purpose is to show what detention centers are “really� like, and to expose real-life consequences to actions many teens take part in. The show is produced by Viacom, a big business media conglomerate that owns most of the major television stations. The other business that produces Juvies is Calamari Productions, the company that created the show.

The episode of Juvies I watched followed two young men, Steven and Javier, through their short stay at a juvenile detention center in Indiana. Steven, a white 17-year-old varsity football player, was charged with underage drinking and resisting arrest. Javier, a 17-year-old Latin American boy, was charged with theft. Both young men were released to their families, but were put under house arrest. The show chronicled their personal growth during their stay at the detention center.

While not many products are advertised during this show, as it is a documentary of a juvenile detention center and its inmates, the audience is clearly defined. It is obvious that teens are the target of this show because the people whose experiences are chronicled are teens. The point of the show is to illustrate what happens to teens that get in trouble with the law and are admitted to such an institution. The kids on the show get caught doing things like drinking, stealing, running away, etc., and all of which are evident in the lives of most American teens.

In Feminist Frontiers, Judith Lorber states, “For human beings there is no essential femaleness or maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations� (47). In other words, this means that naturally, there is no clear definition of a “man� and a “woman�. Instead, society defines what men and women should be, and it holds men and women to that dichotomous standard. This was evident in this episode of Juvies when Javier began to cry. It was only him and the camera, but when he started to cry, he ducked his head out of the camera’s view. This clearly demonstrates Javier’s embarrassment of exhibiting feminine qualities. In our society, men are supposed to be emotionally detached and strong, not soft and emotional like women. By crying, Javier was displaying his vulnerability, another feminine characteristic. According to our society, exhibiting such feminine characteristics makes one “less of a man�. If our society hadn’t constructed two separate, clearly defined genders, Javier would be able to cry (and express any emotion, for that matter) without feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

Another application of the assertion made by Lorber was expressed by both Steven and Javier. In a conversation with his mother during visitation at the detention center, Steven chuckled and lightheartedly told his mom and sister that everybody ran from the police. Similarly, Javier smiled while having his photo taken upon his admission to the institution. Javier also joked around with other inmates about what he stole from the house. These behaviors express both boys’ need to seem macho, strong, and brave. These boys use their masculinity to define themselves. They are either trying to rationalize their behavior as a brave, daring, masculine thing to do, or they are putting on a mask to hide their true feelings of vulnerability around the other boys. After viewing both Steven and Javier break down in front of the camera, the latter seems to be the more realistic evaluation. It is acceptable to feel scared, especially when one is in a detention center and doesn’t know how long he or she will be sentenced to stay there, but our society deems it unacceptable, under any circumstances, for a “real� man to have feminine characteristics.

There was one scene in the show where Javier asked for lotion. When he received it, he began applying it to his arms, legs, and face. This took place in a common room shared with other inmates. In shots of other boys who were witnessing this event, the viewer could easily see that Javier’s behavior wasn’t widely accepted among the other inmates. Though none of the other inmates acted in any way, shape, or form, their facial expressions made it clear that they thought Javier was “weird� or “different� solely based on the fact he was applying lotion to his skin. Our society advocates dirty, rugged men as macho and masculine. In contrast, our society attributes good hygiene, cleanliness, and soft skin to women, femininity, and often to homosexual men as well. The reactions of the other inmates to Javier’s behavior makes it clear that American society’s construct of gender is deeply instilled in the minds of its participants.

In Feminst Frontiers Peggy McIntosh states, “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant� to remain oblivious� (10). McIntosh is saying that in American society, being white gives a person unearned privileges. For example, the majority of white males in America speak English as their primary language. Luckily for them, English is the language of American society. This one unearned advantage is emphasized when Javier speaks with his parents. First, all conversations between the parents and their son were conducted in Spanish. This fact combined with the knowledge that Javier’s parents are immigrants from a Spanish-speaking country makes it obvious that both of Javier’s parents are more comfortable speaking Spanish, most likely because they understand it better than they do English. All of our country’s laws, regulations, and even rights were originally written in English. Many people, especially white people, in American society expect everybody else to learn and understand English. Therefore, Javier’s parents are at an extreme disadvantage in our society because they do not comprehend the English language as well as other English-speaking citizens.


I'm South African,17 years of age and enjoy watching the program,in the sense that it shows our youth what the result of a wrong doing is...that is if you get caught though!! Juvies is aired on a pay channel and therefore the majority of kids will not see this program which is a shame! In my country going to jail for some kids is like an achievement,because when you go in you are usually iniated into a gang or you already know someone in there! Once you have gone through the whole INITIATION process and you have served your time you are released and then become one of the many feared people because you are now branded and you have a number..a number is what you get inside the prison that usually represents the gang inside the prison! You are afraid of them because the people inside the prison got thier backs and if you mess with them,you gona land into trouble because they WILL come after you!!
Anyways i just wanted to shed some light on certain things.
Thank You

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I am amazed today that I see more guys my age getting arrested and put in a juvenile hall than girls for things that I have done and not gotten caught for like running away, getting in a fight with a movie theater manager and destruction of property. I also swore at a police officer and I was amazed that I didn't get arrested for any of these things I have done. I guess thats a good thing!!!

The new season of Juvies starts this February on MSNBC. Check out http://www.lakecountyjuvies.com to see the trailer!