J’s Soapbox: Why The Pick-Up Artist Does More Harm Than Good

Every now and then I tell someone that my job is to help geeks find love.   Often, that’s when they ask me, “What, like the Pick-Up Artist?”

What? No!

The Pick-Up Artist is a TV series that has had two seasons, thus far, on VH1.  The concept behind the show is that Mystery, a “seduction artist,” teaches “the art of the pick-up” to a group of (geeky) guys who are looking for love.   I started watching the show because the commercials promised geeks and makeovers, which are always fun.  I also wanted to see what Bizzaro world thought giant fuzzy hats and enormous runic necklaces were alluring.  (Never did figure that one out.) Soon, however, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

Many of the guys on the show, at their root, are looking for a relationship.  For a girlfriend.  The “art of seduction” has nothing to do with forming a relationship, or learning how to communicate with someone.

I guess you could say that it’s the contestants’ fault for signing up for the show in the first place, but these are guys who are historically bad with women, and looking for someone – anyone – to tell them what to do.

So, let’s see what they learn:

The main idea behind Mystery’s method - called, big surprise, the “Mystery Method” -  is that these guys, who inherently approach women with low self-esteem, need to level the playing field, as it were.  Not a bad idea; confidence is a turn-on.

However, how Mystery achieves a level playing field, more often than not, is through a trick he might have learned from a playground bully: build yourself up by tearing others down.

One of the most important concepts contestants have to master is the “neg,” a sort of backhanded complimenting designed to make their target more eager to get approval.  They also use prepackaged “funny stories” to open conversations, and specific techniques designed to subconsciously make their targets more receptive.

Many of the techniques are derived from tricks that people in sales and similar professions have used for years.  (I think I spotted some when I had to buy a car recently.) It’s just as cold, just as calculated.  And as these guys get results, they get put in a feedback loop, telling them that cold and calculated is the way to go.

If you’re at the point where you’re willing to try Mystery’s methods, you already typically have problems communicating with women.  Instead of focusing on the humanity of all involved, the Mystery Method perpetuates the concept of women as an “other,” an alien being that must be “handled” instead of understood.  And if you spend enough time insulting and manipulating a foreign being, it’s soon easy to think of them as something “less” than yourself.

If all you’re interested in is heartless sex, than sure, the Mystery Method might be something fun, a party trick to break out from time to time.  But the contestants – and the people that the Mystery Method targets – tend to be good guys who just want a meaningful relationship.  The Mystery Method will only bring them further away from their goal.

As for Mystery himself – I see him as an embittered guy who couldn’t relate meaningfully with other women.  Now he’s latched onto a 90′s fashion sensibility – probably what was popular when he first started out -   and surrounds himself with men in a little Lost Boys setup.  He doesn’t really like women, but he chases after girls because he feels powerful, like he’s gotten one over on them, if he succeeds.

Women who are more than their self-esteem issues see through dramatics and backhanded compliments.  And, incidentally, those are the kind of women worth pursuing.

So if you’re looking for love, fellow geeks, look for ways to relate, get closer.  Leave the cold pseudoscience of the Mystery Method at home.

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