Tool Spirit

“Terrible boyfriend? We can fix him. Complete tools transformed into knights in shining armor.” These are the promises of the opening credits of Tool Academy, VH1’s latest trash-tastic series in which women drag their truly terrible boyfriends through a relationship boot camp in hopes of turning them into nice guys. The tools agreed to come on the show thinking it was called Mr. Awesome, a competition to determine “the biggest Alpha male in America.” After they learned the show’s real premise, they all stayed on in hopes of proving themselves to their girlfriends…and winning $100,000 for being the best boyfriend.

If you’re wondering what makes a tool a tool, it appears to be a combination of made-up names (Celebrity, M.E.G.A., Matsuflex, etc.), excessive hair gel, and behavior that’s just…well, look if you dare:

I have to admit there’s a lot of satisfaction in watching uber-bros get the kind of corrective treatment that’s usually reserved for women. Shows like Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, Rock of Love Girls: Charm School, Bad Girls Club, and (arguably) America’s Next Top Model focus on improving contestants’ speech, mannerisms, and social skills to fit a feminine ideal. It’s nice to see men undergoing a similar transformation. It’s even nicer that their ultimate goal is learning to treat women as equals.
Of course, part of the fun of Tool Academy lies in watching the tools reach previously undocumented heights of douchery. But the way the tools treat their girlfriends isn’t entertaining. It’s often shocking.
A portion of the show takes place in group therapy where the tools talk it out with couples therapist Trina Dolenz. (It’s like a bizarre combination of Real World/Road Rules Challenge and Dr. Phil.) Dolenz encourages the men to express their true feelings, and reminds the women that they’ve “come here to help him change” when they lose patience. Partial responsibility for the tools’ behavior is placed on their girlfriends, who are expected to simultaneously keep their men in line and love them unconditionally…at least as long as they’re in the program.

But since the competition is about showing growth, the tools can usually get by with half-assed apologies and promises to try harder. The least sincere guy gets “expelled”, but even after elimination 2 out of 3 of the girls have chosen to stand by their tools. In fact, the couple in the clip above just announced their engagement!

It is NOT fun to be watching what you think is a guilty pleasure about tools getting schooled only to be confronted by a surprisingly intimate look at emotional abuse. However, there’s a rare value in common-denominator entertainment that has us all devastated when a woman stays with a man that doesn’t appreciate her. Since nobody wants to be a fool for tools, could Tool Academy actually inspire some female viewers to rethink their own relationships with men? I’m willing to bet that they will…and that VH1 will have no trouble finding contestants for Season 2.

by Juliana Tringali
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15 Comments Have Been Posted

Tool indeed

So, what? They put on a tie, read some Emily Post, and then they're ready to treat their girlfriends like human beings? Not to mention they apparently need incentive to you know, NOT be a douche.

That is painful to watch.

That is painful to watch. Even living in the depths of Toolsville (college apartments), I had never seen such douchebags in my life.

What pains me more though, is imagining how little self-esteem these women must have to stay with such assclowns. The first thing I was thinking when all those guys got off the bus and acted like fools was, "How do they have girlfriends?" I thought about all my male friends who are single, <i>decent</i>, but very lonely. Asking the age-old question about nice guys finishing last isn't really going to shatter any new glass ceiling. Taking this blown-up male image off the air might.

I don't think it's just that

I don't think it's just that the girls have low self-esteem... I think a lot of people look for reflections of what they had in childhood in their grown-up relationships, and if you grew up in an emotionally abusive home, there might be part of you that feels most comfortable with that. It's like a love/hate thing, where you don't necessarily know that there are other ways for people to behave.

Or, you know, in some cases

Or, you know, in some cases people are capable of presenting one personality while completely obfuscating their inner total asshole. I know that it is comforting to think that only those other women, the ones with bad childhoods or low self-esteem can be manipulated and normal healthy people are immune. But, anyone can fall for a closet narcissist. Who tell you for several months everything you wanted to hear, and bring you flowers when you had a bad day at work and so on. Eventually cracks show. And I think that for at least some of these women, they were only beginning to see the true asshole.

As long as we in any way blame the victim of abuse, physical or emotional, we are harming that victim again in two ways: by making them feel as if they are too broken to deserve a normal relationship, and secondly, by making others less willing to be a fully helpful member of the support network of someone who has been harmed.

We don't ask the bank teller what she was wearing when the bank got robbed. Feminists understand why you don't ask a rape victim what she was wearing. We shouldn't wonder what is "wrong" with women who are otherwise hurt in relationships. They will do it to themselves plenty.

I agree

Cracks will eventually show. Most young men will tell women what you want to hear and appear as one way. It only shows us their real immature manhood, still "little boys in a mans body". As they say, hard to find a "real man" these days. As women you have to set standards and worth for yourself or you eventually will have none.

Where do I start...

I do agree that it's nice to finally have men being the catty, shallow ones on the show; to have men be held accountable for their actions on these 'reality' shows. But it's still a blow to women.

First off, any guy who 'loves the ladies' as much as these guys claim to, will never love just one.

And any man who brags about his sexual prowess and preens that much with a huge ego, must have a tiny penis.

No respectable girl should ever date or give the time of day to any of these kinds of 'boys' (because that's what they are) because they are so into themselves to give a damn about anyone else. You will always be second to the other ladies they love so much.

I wanted to punch the dude that said he had Ashley trained, and then I wanted to punch her. He thinks the relationship is going great cuz he's got you trained. Stop doing his laundry, stop cleaning. Go about your daily life and he'll notice.

And you should never date someone to change them. What's the point in that? If you want to change them, I figure you don't truly love them. If they're not good enough for you in the first place, why bother? Same goes for men wanting to change their girlfriends or pushing them to be what they're not. When you don't want to change anything (save a few minor annoyances or frustrations, that actually make you love them more when you think about it), you've found the right person. If it's one thing I've learned growing up and going to college, never date a bro, never date someone so into themselves and the ladies. You know they don't have a brain, a heart, manners, and they sure as hell have a tiny penis.

But again, it's nice to finally see that men's behavior in these shows is not being glorified and condoned. And that there are real, gorgeous women out there who don't have giant, fake boobs and who take shots out of other girls' vaginas to impress some 40 year old dude who (god knows why) can't find true love. But it makes these women look equally as dumb for staying with a guy that will never be worthy of them.

PS Had a little problem with both videos loading veeeeeerrrry slowly, taking time to buffer and it would cut out every few seconds.

And what's with that...

... ad in the second video clip? The "A girl's gotta have options" bullsh*t. Our options are 3 different kinds of shampoo?! Come on...

I'm over it.

I'm about as sick of reality shows that promote male stereotypes as I am of the ones that promote female stereotypes. Seriously. Don't we ALL deserve a little better than this?

It's so painful knowing ...

... that this is not the VH1 that I watched religiously over 10-15 years' ago. Back then it touted the slogan "Music First" and featured the some of most awesome artists of that glorious '90s era. It didn't dare play Bret Michaels or any "hair bands," for that matter. Can this channel stoop even lower?? [The Creator] help us ...


I thought VH1 was my saving grace since MTV went to hell. So much for that...what else is there for people without a thousand channels?

A thousand channels won't help...

I have a ridiculous amount of channels, still no good video/music. For awhile MTV2 seemed like it played decent videos, at least sometimes, but so far as I can tell it's mostly reality crap too.

Be True to Your Tool

I am so glad you posted about Tool Academy! I have been thinking about it ever since I saw it for the first time this past weekend. On the one hand, it is clearly a lowest-common-denominator douchefest. On the other hand, it features men striving to be better feminists (although they would never call it that). Confusion. (I am obvs going to keep watching it, though. For the critique!)

Le sigh...

I <i>knew</i> there was a reason that I keep television channels like MTV and VH1 far, far away from me!

This just blows my mind, and it's not just about how horrid these guys are, either. It's the girlfriends that get me. They should have never <i>gotten</i> to the point where they needed such a show; they should have dumped every single one of those tools the moment their true colors started to show. Also, the simple fact that these women <i>want</i> to keep these men around enough to send them to VH1 reform school? That's just really, really depressing.

I'm not buying the whole "we'll be changed men" bit, either. For such a large sum of money, anybody can put on the face of an angel for a few episodes and then revert right back to their inner demon as soon as the TV cameras are switched of. True, some of them may truly alter themselves, but I sincerely doubt it will be a large number. In the end, though, if the women just stand by the losers even if they flunk out, then what, pray tell, was the point of the whole experience? This show is ugly and unhealthy to the core. May it be canceled after the first season (and may these women on the show get a clue and move on to greener pastures).

Full time learner, lover, leader, fighter, and snarker.

" Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly." -Dalai Lama

I've been watching this show on vh1's website

I actually like it, for exactly the reasons I said before. I feel bad for some of the girls, but I wanted to jump through my TV and hug Cameron for turning Celebrity down. I feel bad for Ashley, who is just Joey's 'tool'. He is ridiculously verbally abusive. But really, most of these couples have only been dating for 6 months and if they've been a tool all along, why stick with them? I was going to say something about thinking about marriage after only 6 months seeming a little silly, but my husband and I decided to get married after only 4 months.

I just wanted to point out, mostly, that I am appalled at the viewer comments on vh1's website. There are far too many to count about Margo and her weight and being a bitchy 'overweight black chick' who 'thinks to highly of herself and thinks she looks good when she doesn't. Yes ***spoiler*** Mega got expelled cuz Margo wasn't serious, but every comment about her has been that she's 'fat', dumb and black.

And really, how is competition proof of maturity? (I just watched episode 4)

I have been watching the

I have been watching the show from the beginning and at first when all of the guys were saying that they have many women on the side or that they can have sex with anyone, the girlfriends were mad. Then the guys said that they were just saying it for the show "Mr. Awsome" and the girlfriends said ok because it seemed to me that they were just insecure because they thought the "tools" were the best they could get. I was very happy when Celebrity's girlfriend did not listen to his BS and left him. I think this showed the other girlfriends that they did not have to stay with their tools as well. When one of the girlfriends did go back home with their tool, the girlfriends that were left said that she should have left them, Celebrity's girlfriend was the first of them to take their advice.

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