MTV's The Challenge Is Suddenly Not OK With Bullying

Illustration for article titled MTV's The Challenge Is Suddenly Not OK With Bullying
Screenshot: MTV

On Tuesday night’s episode of The Challenge, MTV issued a PSA about the dangers of bullying after a group of contestants—designated “mean girls”—rallied against another.


To preface: yes, this is a show where 20- and 30-somethings compete for money in teams and, since there’s a mix of new and recurring cast members, some have developed bonds and enemies over several seasons. It is literally adult high school. Last night’s incident—no surprise—was the result of an alleged hookup that began after Devin, a devious cast member and shit-starter, spread a rumor that Johnny Bananas (who has been on the show forever) “hooked up with” housemate Kayleigh, when he’s supposed to be dating another woman in the house, Natalie.

Natalie’s friends—Kailah, Jemmye and others—decided to take up for Natalie by kicking Kayleigh out of her room and throwing Kayleigh’s tiny bed and suitcase over the balcony (see the clip below). All because Kayleigh may or may not have kissed Johnny. The incident then turned into a debate about what classifies as bullying. (For her part, Kayleigh claimed Johnny kissed her in the bathroom and that was it, before he and Natalie ever started dating, or whatever it’s called when reality TV people hang out for fake.) During the ruckus, Jemmye yelled her logic: “We’re not mean girls! Kayleigh’s kind of a ho for not telling Natalie.” Or, you’re all just childish.

“I do not think what we’re doing is considered bullying,” Jemmye says in her confessional. “Bullying is when you attack an innocent person. Kayleigh is not innocent in this situation. Kayleigh has brought all of this upon herself.” Jemmye’s explanation makes little sense because no one seems to know what’s true, which makes this look like classic schoolyard bullying, and it’s hard to tell why anyone is truly upset with Kayleigh, because of editing.

Cast member Kyle says in his confessional, in reference to the suitcase-throwing, “That is 100 percent pure bullying. That is a gang of girls against one person and it’s just totally barbaric and out of order.”

Either way, no one chose to confront, blame or harass Johnny! Instead, Kayleigh got the brunt end of the harassment, and she later chose to leave the show entirely after breaking down in tears. MTV’s way of handling it was to show a PSA stating: “Bullying is not ok.” And during the elimination round, the show’s perpetually sleepy host TJ Lavin called the culprits out as mean girls.


“That was stupid. You know that, right? Like, that was fucked up,” Lavin told the group. “You guys think that’s funny? That’s bullying. I don’t tolerate bullying. Keep it up, you guys are gone.” It was a rare teachable moment on a show where intimidation tactics are encouraged and which otherwise allows so much to slide, including physical fights, sexual assault, racist blow-ups and, previously, bullying or bullying-adjacent moments, like Wes pouring soda on Cara Maria’s head.

Culture Editor, Jezebel



How do these people go on to real jobs when they age out of the MTV Challenge world?