The aim of the MTV reality show From G’s to Gents is to turn gangsters in to sophisticated gentlemen. The show features 8 males who were selected on their background and lifestyle, which had to fit into the show’s perception of “being a gangster”. The members are all American but from different ethnic groups such as Latin, Afro-American and Caucasian. The cast is placed into a closed environment - a so called Gentlemen’s Club - in order to transform them into sophisticated gentlemen. Through challenges and assignments they can earn the respect of the host and their fellow contestants. At the end of each airing, the contestants take a vote to eliminate one member of the group from the show. The main goal of the individuals is staying in the Gentlemen’s Club to win the prize of USD 100,000.
We decided to watch the fourth episode of the second season named Waltz it out. In this episode, the cast was assigned to three groups of three to fulfill the week’s challenge. We chose to observe the group of Fahim, Macho and Baron. Fahim was chosen as the team leader but was dependent on his team to accomplish the task. The members of our team agree that the members of the observed group seem to have only little experience with team play. Overall, the group does not work well together. Instead of acting in unity, it seems as if the group consists of individual players who are working towards their individual benefit and show little respect towards each other and the group effort. The group members seem relatively one-dimensional. They are very similar with respect to their backgrounds. The cast of From G’s to Gents stems from marginalized groups of society. They are low-class and their educational level is poor. They are ex-felons and criminals who fulfil stereotypes fuelled by contemporary gangster rap music. Group members seem alike in their ghetto mannerism and slang. Hence, our impressions did not differ a great deal. All team members agree that, with a diamond tattoo on his cheek, Macho comes across as an immature wannabe gangster. He likes to be the centre of attention. During the show he cries on two occasions but his feelings do not seem genuine. He appears to fake emotions to manipulate his team members. He seems egoistic and ultimately wants to come out on top. Due to his poor acting skills his teammates see through his performance and reject him. The 25-year old thief Fahim is the weakest link of the team. Due to his escapades the group fails their assignment. Our team agrees Fahim does not want to progress individually nor cooperate with his team members. The last member of the observed group, Dirty sticks in the background and does not significantly contribute to the team assignment in the show. All members of the team are motivated to master the challenge in order to evade elimination from the show. Macho is especially motivated because he has been threatened with elimination should his team fail the assignment.
Reflection on our observations
To form our impressions we relied on appearances, attitudes and verbal/nonverbal communication between the members and between the members and the host. We also used our former knowledge about the show to form statements about the characters of the contestants. As far as dynamics go, we observed the whole group and concluded that certain team members had stronger characters and alpha male features than others which made them natural leaders. We all agree that this show is built on prejudice and the use of stereotypes. As far as viewers have an image of a “gangster” or a “gentleman”, this show does certainly reinforce the stereotypes. We also observed a slight use of prejudice and stereotyping within the group as they talk about each other as “true” or “fake” gangsters. They also judge each other’s behavior on their personal background such as hometown and ethnical roots.
Drawing from our personal observations, we discussed the teams’ strengths and weaknesses. The main strength of this team is that the members are dependent on each other in order to survive the competition and fulfill the challenges. They need to rely on each other to stay in the show and to make their stay at the gentlemen’s club as comfortable as possible. The main weakness of the team is that in the end they are each other’s competition. This means that they need to keep each other as friend to avoid getting voted out, but in the end they become each other’s ’rivals in the run for the first place. Another weakness in the group we observed was that they do not have the same amount of motivation and dedication. Macho, for example, takes the team assignment far more seriously than Fahim, who is not willing to progress and even drinks before the challenge. So even though they all are from the same background, and they came to the show with the same objective, a weakness is created is as soon as one team member is not willing to contribute and participate. This weakness can also be seen as strength due to the fact that the members understand where they come from and thus can serve as emotional support.
The biggest problem of this group is that they are stereotyped constantly inside and outside the show as gangsters. This has a negative effect on their ability to break out of this stereotype and convince themselves and the world around them that they have become true sophisticated gentlemen. They have learned to only rely on themselves and created trust issues with groups. That is why they have problems working in a team when assigned a team challenge.
In order to improve the team’s performance we came up with the idea to motivate teamwork by organizing team buildings sessions, for example. This would improve their trust in other people. Another idea is to change the name of the show to shift the emphasis on the stereotypes of “gangsters” and “gentlemen” to the bigger goal of changing your lifestyle. This will help the contestants to stop seeing themselves as gangsters and start making a change. In order to pay more attention on the team’s objective and less on the personal aims, a solution could be that there is not one single winner but the team with the best performances wins a prize which needs to be shared. Our last idea was to incorporate more role models that also have been gangsters in the past but have made it to a successful gentlemen and businessmen. This would motivate the team to accomplish the goals because these men could be their aspiration.
We believe the best strategy in order to improve the team performance would be a combination of changing the name of the show to avoid reinforcement of the stereotypes and we would incorporate more role models into the challenges so the participants would be inspired and look up to these people. Therefore, the individual performances will improve leading to better team performances.