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Bring Your Britches Down to Size

By Michael Murray | TV Reviews | May 15, 2009 | Comments ()



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Whenever I think of a bully, I imagine somebody who's indifferent to their own stupidity. Having no apparent reason for reflection or empathy, the bully is only too happy to indulge whatever primal impulse seizes him. This usually means punching somebody in either the throat or balls.

The frustrating thing is that if you can't effectively swing back, battling him on his own, blunt terms, then you really can't fight him. If he's oblivious to fair play, reason and compassion, and if you can't beat the shit out of him, well, how the hell do you get your hat back? You don't. You trudge home feeling like a wuss, and if you're like Jason "Mayhem" Miller, you then dedicate your life to becoming a Mixed Martial Arts Ninja so that you're capable of obliterating whatever hunk of flesh stands in your path.

Miller, a jacked-up MMA fighter who seems to have Red Bull pumping through his veins, is the host of the irresistible MTV show, "Bully Beatdown." Produced in conjunction with reality TV giant Mark Burnett, each episode features Miller, as a sort of big brother representing an assembly of nerd victims, challenging a bully to fight an MMA fighter for $10, 000.

He does this in the most obnoxious, stagy manner imaginable, and this is a corny set-up. Pretending to catch the bully unaware, and in his native habitat, Miller, accompanied nervously by the bully's impotent victims, challenges him, telling him he'll pay him ten grand if he'll fight a professional fighter. The bully, revealing himself a bad actor, accepts the offer with as much bluster and bravado as he can muster.

The mechanics of the contest are relatively straightforward. Each fight consists of two three-minute rounds--one dedicated to grappling, and one to hitting. At the start of each round, the bully has $5, 000. In the first round, each time the bully taps out, $1,000 of his potential earnings goes to his victims, and in the second round, if he suffers a KO, TKO, or the fight is ended by the ref, the entire five grand goes to his victims.

For whatever reason, the victims usually come in pairs. There's an unappealing, whiny quality about them, and as they stand there, like tattlers listing off all the mean things the bully has done to them, you kind of wish they'd just scurry off and concentrate on their Sudoku puzzles. No matter, our sympathy is with them all the same, for the bullies are a bunch of unmitigated pricks.

On a recent episode, the bully Christian-- a greasy and vile specimen--went up against a fighter by the name of Conor "The Hurricane" Heun. Huen listens carefully as the victims tells him their tales of abuse, gathering inspiration for the epic shit-kicking he's about to deliver. Meanwhile, the oblivious Christian gets a little bit of training in the gym. He struts about, a gangster homeboy who sees himself as the top dog, and is entirely confident in his ability to hold his own.

In short order, through the dry-ice fog of wrestling spectacle, the fighters are revealed. Oh, they look like angels of death, and as they approach the ring, the crowd hoots like Romans while death metal grinds away in the background. The bully, who is standing in the center of the ring watching this unfold, invariably shudders, and you can see moment of doubt cloud his black soul. For me, this is actually the most gratifying point in the show. This is the moment of naked anticipation, the moment when the tables are truly turned, and the bully feels the vulnerability and uncertainty that comes with ceding control to an unreasoning and pitiless force.

The fight, of course, realizes this horrible anticipation. Christian maintains his cocky posture until the bell rings and the fight begins, and then he's quickly reduced to a whimpering and uncertain boy. The Hurricane, summoning all his rage, tosses him about and slams him to the floor with the greatest of force. In the stands, our host, the trash talking Mayhem, howls with delight, while the bully's disbelieving victims look on in wonder, practically speechless, unable to fully process what they're seeing.

Watching this particular fight, it was clear that it was real, and that no stuntmen or fakery had been employed, which might not always be the case. Christian usually fell awkwardly, and the unconscious physical spasms of pain he exhibited when his arm was very nearly yanked out his socket was utterly convincing. While this beating is being administered, Mayhem, acting as our surrogate, leaps about in a state of gleeful bloodlust, our collective Id made manifest in a bad haircut--sort of like The Hulk.

At the end of the round, Christian looks exhausted, sore and sick. When the punching and kicking begin in the next round, he doesn't have a chance, in spite of the protective headgear he's wearing. The Hurricane, leaping and spinning and performing all manner of mystifying and zippy moves, decimates the bully. At one point, he punches him in the gut, and you see Christian wilt, and you can see all the fight go right out of him.

Sick, pale and wobbly, Christian, now with a tooth knocked loose, stands uncertainly in the center of the ring. In mocking tones, Mayhem counts out all the $10,000 the bully lost to the victims, asking Christian if he has anything to say. Christian says that he's going to puke, and then he does, and he pukes a huge amount.

One of the weird things about this revenge fantasy though, is just how quickly the victims cozy up to the bully after the beating. The bully mumbles some apology, and his victims, who have suffered his abuse for ages, are only too happy to accept it. It's almost like what they really want isn't retribution or vengeance, but friendship. They want the Alpha dude to like them, and it's easy to imagine, that in just a few days, their lessons forgotten, they'll all return to the roles that they've grown so comfortably into.

Michael Murray is a freelance writer. For the last three and a half years he's written a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen about watching television. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.



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