January 11th was the premiere of “Tool Academy” on VH1. My husband put the show on, mainly to get a reaction from me, and it worked. This show was an utter train wreck that bordered on disturbing. The basis of the show is a group of girls who would like to improve their “tool” boyfriends, hopefully turning them into loving men. There is a $100,000 prize waiting for the “tool” that makes the biggest improvement.
There are challenges that help the show’s therapist determine levels of communication, respect, attraction, fidelity and honesty as well as, group therapy with a couples counseling led by therapist Trina Dolenz. That alone makes me wonder the validity of the counseling, as they are doing private couple’s work within a group, (on national television to boot.) As well as the fact that though the problem is pointed out, it is only, at best, briefly addressed.
The main focus on the show is not so much the men’s disrespect, emotional abuse and gross infidelity, but the women’s reactions to behaviors they find devastating. If a “tool” doesn’t complete tasks set before them, they get booted from the show and their girlfriend waits for them outside. At this point the girlfriend determines whether or not she will remain with her boyfriend, and he does whatever he can to save face in front of the cameras.
As a domestic violence counselor the show stopped being stupid and/or vaguely funny after the first five minutes. I was disturbed to hear the men not only putting down their partners but bragging about having a woman “well trained” and referring to one woman as his “nine year bitch” who knows her place. These men are not only incredibly immature but past the line where being a male chauvinist and an emotional abuser meet.
Tommy, the tool who doesn’t want to grow up, went as far as to throw a temper tantrum on a big boy scale. During a challenge he became frustrated with not being able to follow directions to make a bed, (communication challenge), and wound up throwing his beer and then the reclining chair that was set out for him. During the interim interview he said his girlfriend Kristina was trying to emasculate him, when she was trying to encourage him to read the directions and help them complete the challenge. Not only does he not know a healthy way to express his frustration but literally acts like a child and expects that a violence display would be applauded and help him regain his masculinity, whereas getting a job would do that on a much more adult level.
Before this writing, I watched two episodes, hoping things would get better. The premiere show booted “Greek Tool”, Dimitri, from the show, leaving his girlfriend, Jill, to decide if the relationship was worth keeping. The sad part was she pretty much pleads him to say he loves her, which he does sans emotion and eye contact, and quickly hustles her into the limo. It shows an insecure woman begging to be loved and a man willing to take advantage of that love seemingly to save face on camera.
The second “tool” to be booted was Joey, aka “Cold Hearted Tool.” During the fidelity challenge he made more of a connection with the woman he was flirting with than his girlfriend. I.e. eye contact, physical touching, etc. “Cold Hearted Tool” was a perfect name for him, as he was the one who stated his girlfriend was “well trained. ” He kept her at an arm’s distance and used the threat of leaving her for other women to keep her in check. It was as though he wanted the convenience of a steady girlfriend, without any of the commitments. When he was asked to leave the show, he became teary, expressing how he would change. When Ashley pushed him for a commitment, he stated he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Was this a true expression or one of convenience due to the fact that he was on the spot? An interesting comment he made as the limo pulled away was how there were people still inside that had more issues than he did, despite the fact that he was asked to leave the show.
My concerns are two fold: One being that the point of the show: that if you try hard enough, (and offer a lot of money), you can change someone. This is a long standing issue in the dating world. You cannot make people change just because you know they can be a good person. Just as you cannot make someone quit drinking or using drugs, you cannot make someone change their daily behavior, even if you think it is for their own good. The show perpetuates this idea of changing a person, to the point that it is even part of the opening of the show: Taking the tool and magically transforming him into a knight in shining armor.
My second concern is that some of the behavior does toe the line, and emotionally crosses the line into abuse. Your partner is to be a source of support. The men on the show point out, play on, and exploit their partner’s weaknesses. (i.e. Josh (“Tiny Tool”), knowing his girlfriend has insecurities about her weight, and his making comments to other women about it, as opposed to discussing possible health concerns with her directly.) Their partners’ insecurities become a tool to use against them, as a way to hold them in place, or hold them down.
My point is that you cannot change someone no matter how much you love them, no matter how “good” you try to be. If you want to help people better themselves, and still have healthy relationship, go into social services. That way your job is helping people who truly need your help, and you can and will draw a healthier type of partner into your life.