Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Mystery of Mystery

My, how far I've fallen.

Guess what I just HAD to watch last night?

The season finale of The Pickup Artist.

You've never heard of it? Well stop reading this now so you can save whatever is left of your soul!

I hadn't heard of this show, either, until Tivo started recording it in our "suggestions" list. My husband became a fan first, and I would walk in on him giggling endlessly at Mystery, the lanky, eyeliner-wearing, Mad Hatter-inspired "master pickup artist" whose job it was to turn eight "socially awkward" guys into suave ladies' men. Actually, perhaps I should paste in the official description of the show:

"There is a man who few outside the “seduction community” are aware of, but VH1 has sought him out to help eight unlucky-in-love bachelors find the women of their dreams. Or at least become capable of approaching a girl without sweating profusely and stuttering uncontrollably. This man’s name is Mystery, and while he may look like a cross between a cowboy and a vampire, he is quite successful with the ladies."

That about sums it up. The show was instantly addictive, and I found myself purposefully tuning in to the last few episodes, even going as far as Tivoing the finale last night to ensure we didn't miss it. You may think the premise of the show is disgusting and chauvinistic: training young men to pick up women by making them compete "in the field" on tasks ranging from getting telephone numbers to making out with exotic dancers to initiating small talk.

And don't get me wrong, I fully realize that - on the surface - the show is quite despicable. But what drew my husband and I into it was the absolute BRILLIANCE and GENIUS of Mystery. Your first look at this guy leaves you in stitches - I mean, just look at him. You MUST be thinking, This guy is supposed to be an expert at picking up women? Is he for real?

But the answer is yes. He's very much for real. The more I started looking into Mystery, whose real name is Erik von Markovik, the further my jaw dropped open. Any article or site about Mystery also inevitably cites a book called The Game, in which the author Neil Strauss breaks into the "seduction community" and ends up totally entrenched in the world of Pickup Artists (or, PUAs, as they refer to themselves), creating his own alter-ego named Style. This book was on the New York Times best-seller list in the fall of 2005 and just hit it again last month, most likely because of the publicity from the show. Mystery is one of the main characters in the book, which is now being made into a movie. What's crazy is that there is an ENTIRE SUBCULTURE of these Pickup Artists - all over the globe!!! And Mystery is the equivalent of their king or something??! I just can't get over it. Their main goal in life is to attract women. For the love of all that is holy, if these people put this much enthusiasm and energy and time into a real problem in the world, we'd have some substantial progress. Granted, on the show, many of the competitors are indeed painfully shy and it is quite inspiring to see them become more confident and comfortable in their own skin, and there's something to be said for that. Many made it clear that they just wanted to be more assured around members of the opposite sex or know how to act at a party and whatnot, which is much more innocent than the goals of the participants in the wider realm of this phenomenon (there's actually a seminar on one-night stands, for example). It boils down to a bunch of guys who were dorks back in the day now trying to live out some sort of revenge with these techniques they have learned. They have their own phrases and acronyms and symbols and everything. The seminars at which they gather, including the one I mentioned above, cost up to $3000 (not including travel expenses) and take place in major cities across several countries. You, too, can spend a long weekend with the Masters and learn from them! It's unbelievable.

So while I feel I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about this little corner of the universe that I find wholly disturbing, I will separate the seduction community itself from The Pickup Artist, which, as I alluded to above, is much less sinister. What my husband and I enjoyed most about this show was how Mystery took concepts that you could find in any major business book about selling skills or negotiating, combined them with lessons learned from the likes of How to Make Friends and Influence People, threw in a dash of confidence and common sense, and then applied the results to the dating scene. He marketed his approach as The Mystery Method and built an entire business empire around what is essentially motivational coaching for nerds. I love it!

On top of being a savvy businessman and ground-breaking fashion connoisseur, Mystery is also extremely well-spoken. I was expecting some Kevin Federline-sounding idiot, but I dare say Mystery speaks rather intelligently. Once again, if only that intelligence had been directed at, say... curing a disease or inventing a useful gadget or... you get my point.

The last thing I have to say about The Pickup Artist is that I love Mystery's "wingman," called J Dog of all ridiculous things, just as much as I love Mystery. J Dog is definitely Anderson Cooper's long-lost younger (but somehow British) brother, wouldn't you agree?

So, there you have it - I have confessed the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures to you. The Pickup Artist is officially over now, but I'm sure you can catch reruns of it on VH1 - or there will inevitably be a DVD made of its short season. It is wrong that this is a show I actually hope gets picked up for a second round?

Until then, I'm off to buy my husband a huge hat and bizarre goggles to wear OVER that hat, so that he, too, can be a bit Mysterious.

- e

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey e michael again yah, mystery jdogg and matador are pretty cool