Like most of us these days, I get random YouTube crushes. I am passionately in lust with the cooking show My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Harto, the groovetastic advice given by Victoria Vogue in Ask A Drag Queen and now I have met the stripper with a Masters degree, Jenna Marbles.
Ms Marbles is just a bit ditzy, likes to babytalk to her dogs, describe human viewers as ‘sexuals’ and unabashedly takes requests for videos from social networking friends. Her obscenity-littered videos start with the irritating squeaking of a dog toy and more often than not end with a pithy take on the topic of the day. Jenna doesn’t toe the PC line very well (see her ‘Sluts on Halloween’ vid for a shining example) but goddamnit this woman has a brain!
What follows is an ‘unusually serious’ video about why girls hate each other with the imaginative title ‘Why Girls Hate Each Other’.
Now I’ve done some stalking of Jenna (I’m claiming ‘permission’ from her Creeps on the Internet vid) and have discovered that her undergrad degree was in psychology, with her Masters in sports psychology. I have to extrapolate from this that she has some kind of grasp on how the human brain works.
That is not to say that these clips are ‘motivational’, ‘psychological’ or even really ‘functional’ (well, except the ones where she shows us to how to fake bigger boobs, being hot, etc). Marble’s videos are NSFW laugh-out-loud explorations of the shit that really bugs us.
Jenna knows that a clip analysing the intricacies of gender politics is not the comedy phaff that her viewers are expecting. It might get a few giggles but will also ask people to think about stuff. Pretty damn wacko risk she’s taking here.
‘Let me just remind you that you’re watching videos made by a girl alone in her room every Wednesday,’ Jenna says to accusations that this clip is not her usual standard of comedy, ‘Maybe your expectations are a little bit too high? Maybe you need, like, a hobby or something…’
With 2,281,728 subscribers to her YouTube channel and 339,849,942 video views, we have to assume that Jenna Marbles knows what internet creeps like/want/watch. She puts out a new video every week, only edits as much as is needed for a narrative and willingly flaunts her sex-orientated career, foul mouth, messiness and poverty for anyone with an internet connection to see. A two-day old post on her channel has already hit 2,686,079 views. (All numbers current 8:51 EST, 5/2/2012.) Lots of people listen to this person.
Girls do hate each other. We pick and bitch and snipe. We love ‘stars without their make-up/star who’ve gotten fat’ features, stories of other women being brought undone, girls who prove we’re right. And none of it makes much sense. On the surface.
I went to school with this girl I hated and I’d like to use Marble’s arguments to unpack this situation. For anonymity’s sake we will call her
L. Simpson, Lisa S.
The school we went to was a pentecostal Christian school and, as such, it had some pretty screwy social hierarchies. For example, the ‘cool’ kids all had parents who were Pastors, Deacons or other high-end hob-nobs in local churches. My step-father worked in a club (yep, the drinking, gambling, sinful kinda club) and my mother was unemployed. The ‘cool’ kids also attended the big super churches. Our family attended a small schism church where there were five or six other kids from the school. Our church was like The Breakfast Club only with less drugs, sex and rock and roll. The ‘cool’ kids families had the money for fees, uniforms, hats, bags and excursions. My mum did volunteer work at the school to cut down our fees.
So I suppose you’re getting that I wasn’t one of the ‘cool’ kids. Lisa S was.
Lisa S’s dad was the Pastor of a big-deal church. Her mother worked admin in the church. Which could afford to pay her. Lisa S was well dressed, well groomed, and had exercise books covered in plain brown paper with artistic black and white images tastefully glued on the front. Lisa S had the neatest handwriting I have ever seen. I loathed her with all the passion trapped in my adolescent chest.
About three years after I left the school I saw Lisa S again. I was wandering the streets of Kings Cross, a red-light district in the closest capital city, when I saw Lisa S across the road. She was outside a biker-run tattoo parlour, heavily pregnant, sprawled across the back of a bike and under the influence of a significant amount of heroin. I could see her underpants across four lanes of traffic. Classy.
I was overjoyed. Too overjoyed. Over the decade-and-a-half since I saw Lisa S’s underpants I’ve felt guilty and uncomfortable about those feelings.
When I first meet Jenna Marbles, she reminds me just a little bit of Lisa S. I’m a little bit skeptical that a woman with this much liquid eyeliners skill is going to be able to unpack the question of my loathing for Lisa S for me but I will dive on in anyway.
Marbles breaks down the psychology behind why girls hate each other into the following logic path.
Step 1. Competition
‘It’s not your fault that you hate girls, you were taught how to do this. In fact everyone was taught how to do this and what I am talking about is competition.’
So what she is saying is that within social structures we are programmed to measure ourselves against everyone we encounter. We look at what they are wearing, doing, being, and then we decide if they are as fashionable/useful/cool as we are. If we see them as ‘above’ us we are threatened by them, if we see them as ‘below’ us then we are threatened by losing our place to them.
Makes sense. Lisa S was better dressed, more socially functional, and much much cooler (within the limited framework of ‘cool’ that we lived in) than I was. It was easier to be intimidated by her than question why she made me so uncomfortable.
Tick one, Jenna Marbles.
Step 2. Instant judgements
‘When you judge someone on first glance, that’s not your fault either because that’s just how your brain works: It goes ‘you know, I think I’ve got an idea what this is so I’m just gonna that and (mimes inserting something into the side of her head) well, you know, forget about it cos I already got it.’
OMG. She is right again. The human brain is only capable of storing so much information and, as such, it creates shortcuts to help us learn things. This is the basic explanation of how we learn anything – we meet it, become familiar with it, store it in our heads and forget the marvel of meeting for the comfort of familiarity. This means that when we see a cat we don’t need to go through the discovery process every time. We meet the word ‘cat’, marry it with the concept ‘cat’, and become capable of identifying all ‘cats’ from our learned conception of the word ‘cat’. After seeing lots and lots of cats we no longer become confused by questions like ‘maybe it is a dog’. We see a cat and our brain throws up the word ‘cat’.
By the time I met Lisa S in year 3 I was already prepared to be less-than the girls I went to school with. I knew I was at the bottom of the totem pole and so Lisa’s perfect hair, crease-free uniform and tidy handwriting pulled the words ‘better than you’ out of my head. I saw ‘better than me’ and was threatened by that.
Tick two, Jenna Marbles.
3. Putting competition and judgment together to make hate
‘We judged each other, everybody judges each other. And the hatred aspect of it comes from our desire to compete, everybody wants to be the best … and when you see a girl that seemingly [is the best], what do you do? You fucking hate her! …And then what happens? All we want to see her crumble and fail!’
Yep, it’s true. I was overly delighted to see Lisa S up the Cross that night. I crowed and cackled and cheered. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not proud, but it was the truth.
Tick three, Jenna Marbles.
So now I know why I felt this way but the real question is how do I get out of this? What can I do to stop feeling like the I need to see the Lisa Ss of the world smacked out and unhappy to feel legitimate?
‘So in reality you can make yourself feel better. All you really need to do is stop comparing yourself. Let go of needing to be the best and as soon as you let go of needing to compete with people it takes all the fucking pressure off.’
Tick four, Jenna Marbles.
So… I’m going to go easier on the other women in my world and on myself. I will remember that competing is fine is sport but crap in interpersonal relations. I will watch more Jenna Marbles videos.
(None of my degrees are in psychology but I did do PSYC101.)