BY LAURA RUOCCO
As if there weren’t enough formulaic reality shows to choose from, London producers Marlon Okeowo & Ziakayah David present Tru Players, a street harassment reality game show! The premise is two dudes going to a busy UK shopping district an competing to see who can get the most phone numbers, and thus be awarded the title of “tru player”. Finally! A caricature of my daily struggle written by the men who perpetuate it!
As you may imagine, most of the women they approach are reluctant to give up their phone number to some rando on the street. The contestant’s tactics are described on the Tru Player You Tube page as “subtle”, though a more appropriate word might be “relentless”. It is painful to watch some of the women laugh nervously, clearly uncomfortable, as the men press them for their relationship status and phone number. The situation feels all too familiar, as I have found myself many times smiling at or telling my name to some strange guy that I wish would just go away. A few of the women do give out numbers, but one of them reveals in a separate interview at the end of the show that it was a fake. The cameras being clearly visible to the women likely factors in to any level of “success” the men achieve. It’s interesting to see the incongruity between the women’s reaction to the men and what they have to say in the private interviews, where many of the women are less forgiving.
The show, which is geared toward teenagers, is a perfect example of the way we are steeped in rape culture before we are even old enough to date. Case in point: the celebrity contestant episode featuring UK comedian Lil Mckell, who is TWELVE YEARS OLD!
In a perfect world, maybe it would be fine for people of all genders to compliment each other on the street and make dates with attractive strangers on the way to work. But alas, the world we live in is a patriarchal one in which the kind of daily street harassment documented on Hollaback sites worldwide is only the tip of the “shit women have to deal with” iceberg. I have often felt deeply bummed by my reaction of distrust to any sexual attention, as learned from years of dealing with street harassers and public masturbators. Potentially pleasant stranger conversations are avoided for fear of the seemingly inevitable “are you married?” or some other version of boundary-crossing. The Tru Player You Tube page suggests that male viewers might even learn some “clues and tricks on how to approach women”, but the reality is that these shmucks are just ruining it for all of the true “tru players”.