What if they replicated?
(from left: Pete Doherty’s makeup artist + Scott Stapp’s beautimous woman hair + Valentino’s haunted turban = Mystery, master of the Venusian Arts)
I missed the first fifteen minutes of the first episode of VH1’s execrable new reality series “The Pick Up Artist.” I can only imagine that this means I missed fifteen more minutes of a be-hatted Svengali named Mystery unfurling his ponytail.
The show’s premise is that Mystery, a former Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast (NO, REALLY, I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED) and self-made seduction expert, will teach seven or eight awkward but probably fairly decent human beings to pick up women with a variety of canned strategies. Fair enough. Pop behavioral science is way fun. As much as we try to pretend we aren’t apes, there are ingrained social routines to which we all no doubt respond. Perhaps it is possible to analytically fake personal magnetism if your target is drunk enough or dumb enough. Woman don’t usually have to put forth that kind of effort. Having boobs is generally enough.
I expected to laugh myself silly watching the rest of the episode, but my jaw quickly slackened as I slipped into the existential tar pits. The contestant with the Larry Birkhead hair claims he’s frequently mistaken for a gay man, and then the producers try to tastefully underscore this with a shot of him bending over at the edge of the pool, waggling his chubby bottom in a baboon-red Speedo. They wedged the overweight “teddy bear” contestant into a black number, and posed him on exercise equipment. There’s a sprinkling of garden variety nerds, the awkward Asian kid, the undeservedly narcissistic Pradeep, and Alvaro, who rocks a New Kids on the Block fro and actually almost made me weep openly for him. During the scene where the contestants must demonstrate their “skills” via hidden camera at a nightclub, Alvaro just about cracks from the pressure of having to cold approach a victim. He says in a voiceover “I felt like crying, I felt like breaking a bottle over my head.” Oh, poor baby. In a teaser for future episodes, we see that he is made over with highlights and football eye black under one eye.
After the contestants have miserably failed to make reasonable human conversation, Mystery and his two sidekicks swoop in and show them how it’s done, preening and showing off his “avatar” and pre-emptively rejecting women to ostensibly create more interest (the “neg”). If any Mystery-seducee is willing to come forward, I’d love to ask what the hell you were thinking? Perhaps he and his flocked velvet maxi coat and aviator goggles are in a band? Why, this reminds me of the time I saw Marilyn Manson shopping at Barnes and Noble in Florida Before They Were Famous. It was surely all I could do to not jump on him and buy him Starbucks.
Mystery is living proof that his advice to “just be your self,” your awful, awful self is actually pretty good. Unbridled confidence will get you reasonably far, at least to cable television. Now I can’t unsee all that man hair flipping, and it’s my own damn fault for watching.
(with apologies to Gary Numan)