Friday, August 17, 2012

The 'Awkward' Tide Has Turned: Why I Am Now Team Matty...

It is official. I am now Team Matty (sorry, Brett Davern!). 

I stated this last night on Twitter, and half of my @ replies were people saying "About time" and half of my followers probably had no idea what I was talking about, and for that I'm sad because Awkward is a beautifully written show about teenagers that is really for those of us who have left our teenage years long enough behind that we can now laugh at them. 

Anyway, I would like to take a second to clarify my oh-so bold claim, coming at a time when a lot of fans might actually be switching the other way... See, I hold impossibly high standards for people, and back when I was in high school, I did so for relationships, too. I felt the need to kick start my life the minute I knew what I wanted to do with it, and that meant setting myself on a path that would allow me to actually get to do those things from a very young age (we don't need to go into how I detoured a lot when I actually was an adult and finding it impossible to "make it" as easily as I assumed it would come to me, but whatever). I was only interested in people around me who understood that drive, and even if they didn't have it for themselves, wouldn't get in the way of mine.

Needless to say, I was a tough person to be around for my teenage years. So when I watch Awkward, I don't put myself in Jenna's (Ashley Rickards) shoes. I don't watch with an "Aw, this couple is so much cuter together than this couple mentality." I'm too old for that sh*t. Instead, I watch the show with all of the misguided wisdom and tainted experience I have in my head and under my belt and consider the characters, as I do with any show, as regular people. Maybe I throw too much of my armchair psychologist in, too. What do they want? Who has the balls to actually go get it right now? Who is a good influence on whom? Those sort of crazy things that make them feel even more three-dimensional.

We, as an audience, have known just how deeply Matty (Beau Mirchoff) feels for Jenna for awhile now, but there was always something "off" about their relationship. He didn't want to publicly have a girlfriend, which made her feel like he didn't want to publicly have her as a girlfriend. He was sweet with her, in his own aloof boyish way, but he wasn't mature-- not even as mature as her. And since she still has some growing up to do, two immature people in a relationship does not a success make.

Jake (Brett Davern) always seemed to be the gentleman. He was the guy who cared so much for Jenna he didn't care who knew it. He wasn't just giving her what he thought she wanted, though; he genuinely wanted to do all of the nice things he was doing for her. But before you get on me about how "nice guys shouldn't finish last," consider his more recent actions, when he learned-- from Sadie of all people!-- that Matty was Jenna's "first time from camp." He didn't tell Jenna he knew and give her a chance to explain why she hadn't been the one to tell him. He didn't even give Matty a chance to come clean-- not really; instead, he danced around the topic, silently fuming, writing everyone off for being unfair to him when he was being just as unfair to them. He turned cold, obviously to protect even more of his feelings, but without warning to Jenna, and he ditched her at her mom's friend's wedding, dressed like a cupcake (Rickards' words!). He showed his immature side. It was ugly. And it's only about to get even uglier.

Matty and Jenna are both still coming into their own in terms of who they are. Jake seems to already know who he is, though I would argue that being so set in that "nice guy" routine is part of the reason he is about to snap so badly. He's been a bit of a (vanilla) doormat-- for Lissa (Greer Grammer), and now he feels, for Jenna. He may be comfortable with himself, but he's still a kid, and he has already proven just how ill-equipped he is to deal with such issues. I used to be Team Jake because I thought he was the "good guy" Jenna "should" be with in order to get a young, self-confidence boosting experience of a relationship in her system so she would never allow herself to settle for some of the season one crap she put up with again. But that is a short-term lesson. And it's not necessarily fair to "use" another person just for the lesson-- I just hoped Jake wouldn't prove to be too good to be true.

The thing is: Matty may only be maturing the ways he has been thus far because of Jenna. Because of the way she makes him feel and perhaps even because no one has inspired him to grow up a little before (um, have we even seen him sniff his armpits lately? That is progress, people!). And isn't that what marks a positive, successful relationship? That you're with someone you love and admire enough to want to be a better person for them? Not a different person; Matty isn't changing his personality or interest or anything stupid or crazy, but he is adjusting his actions. They are growing together, and though they may ultimately end up growing apart, for now, it is a combination of their feelings for each other and the influence they have on each other that make them the healthier match.

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