MTV Occupies Wall Street

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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Those curious about the inner workings of Occupy Wall Street are about to get a rare glimpse into the movement. No, it isn’t an aspiring documentary filmmaker’s breakout project, nor is it a fawning tribute from Michael Moore: On November 5 at 6 p.m., MTV will air “True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street.”

The reality TV special focuses on Bryan (with a y) — an intrepid 23-year-old protestor with an angular haircut — in Zuccotti Park to protest the excesses of the “1 percent.” Bryan is also a leader of the occupation’s sanitation team — a source of high drama throughout the show’s duration.

Judging by the trailer, for all of Occupy’s high-flying rhetoric, “True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street” seems to focus on the mundane effort to clean up Zuccotti Park.  Shows like “True Life” depend on deadlines for building suspense, so the deadline chosen was the city’s ultimatum that protestors had to vacate sections of the park in stages in order to allow for cleaning. Thus, through this artificial crisis (the protestors were never actually asked to leave) a municipal street-sweeper represents impending doom, and bundling up cardboard and sweeping sidewalks are, apparently, a triumph of collective action and organizational will.

“With that many people,” Bryan tells the camera sympathetically, “you can take care of garbage or get rid of recycling, but it’s hard to do a real deep clean.” Needless to say, it makes for gripping television.

“Mr. Bloomberg, I take personal offense to you saying I’m unsanitary,” said one ragged protestor in a tie-dye sweatshirt during the clean-up.

Whether because of their good-faith cleaning efforts or simply because the NYPD didn’t bother to evict them, the scheduled sanitation visits from city workers were cancelled and the protestors were allowed to stay.

“As worried as I was, it was amazing to see that when it really came down to the wire, people were willing to do whatever it took to get the park clean.” Phew.

On October 17th, an ad appeared on the New York craigslist page soliciting cast members for an OWS-themed Real World special. But MTV is not the first organization to see the protests as a business opportunity.

The new TV special is yet another example of entrepreneurs capitalizing on the starkly anti-capitalist movement. Citing the protests’ potential to become a “global brand,” Robert and Diane Maresca of Long Island filed a trademark application on the name “Occupy Wall Street.” The couple plans to use the trademark on a line of apparel, bumper stickers, beach bags and footwear.

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