Everything popular is wrong. Oscar Wilde
I’ll admit that I don’t watch a lot of MTV these days, but I so clearly remember when the network first debuted in the 80s. Practically THE perfect channel (in my adolescent assessment,) as it was brilliantly simple–music videos with young, hip, fun personalities known as video jockeys (VJs.) The ability to tune in to my favorite songs, 24/7, served as the backdrop to my tween and teen years and I’m sure that was the story for countless others from my generation. And while reminiscing about Paula Abdul videos, Yo! MTV Raps, Pauly Shore and MTV News typically bring a smile to my face, it’s at this time EVERY year that my thoughts about MTV merely result in a long, sad sigh as the network offers up the its annual MTV Music Awards show.
Right now the web is blowing up with critiques and reaction to Sunday night’s show. The annual offering was pretty hard to miss given that it runs live on several Viacom channels aside from MTV. And while you couldn’t avoid it, there were plenty of reasons one might try to. Obviously, the show is edgy. It was edgy back in the day, but somehow the definition of edgy has been changed from simply “pushing the limits of good taste” to “practically naked” and “high on drugs.” Hence the long, sad, sigh.
I am a big music fan (I have kids so I think it’s important to know WHO and WHAT they’re listening to) and believe it or not, I was actually very familiar with most of the performers and nominees. I am genuinely impressed by the talent and creativity that goes into making a hit song, I just wish it could be different. The pop psychologist in me wonders if these music celebrities would be any less successful or culturally relevant if they decided to keep their clothes on and skip the pre-awards show doobie? I have a feeling those with true musical talent would still find fame, but those whose celebrity relies upon sensationalism might not. I guess that’s what they call “famous, for being famous.” My biggest disappointment in all this is that I’ve seen research that suggests provocative clothing (or lack there of,) foul language and drug references actually make today’s teens that much more inclined to like a song or artist. Apparently, marketing and public relations gurus are also hip to this trend as many advise their celebrity clients to continue to push the boundaries. Listen, I was young once…we all want to push a little, test the waters, and see what else it out there as part of declaring our independence from our parents, peers, etc. That’s pretty typical, but somewhere along the way we’ve also opened the door AND placed a welcome mat out to some pretty disappointing, potentially dangerous and scary behavior. Long, sad sigh.
The optimist in me keeps looking for a little glimmer of hope…a sampling of the fun, nostalgic MTV of days gone by, but that’s a pretty tall order for a network that has used sensationalism as its stepping stone toward continued relevance. Several writers have outlined their top ten moments from this year’s show and while I could recall each of these episodes…none of them stood out as great or outstanding. Most of them weren’t even about the music. Again…long, sad sigh. Just another f-bomb laden, almost nude, drug-promoting, angry ranting awards show. For me, the best part of the show was not what was taking place on the television, but rather my family’s reaction to the whole thing. I wish I had kept a tally for every time my husband asked “why we were watching this show, when we could change the channel, and if the show was over yet?” My tween daughter opted to watch YouTube tutorials in her room, and my teenage son didn’t even know the show was on (boy, I dodged a bullet there!)
No doubt the coverage of this event will continue. Miley Cyrus will be critiqued, the feud between her and Nicki Minaj will further develop, a reporter will be assigned to find out why Justin Beiber was in tears, and a campaign team is likely assembling now for Kanye’s presidential run. It’s all just a little too much. As I type this, plans are probably in the works for next year’s award show, but as much as I ascribe to the “devil you know” mantra…MTV just might have to count me out. I think I’m done.
When you get something like MTV, it’s like regular television. You get it, and at first it’s novel and brand new and then you watch every channel, every show. And then you become a little more selective and more selective, until ultimately… you wind up with a radio. David Lee Roth