The Sad History of MTV
Oh, how things change. One minute you’re reporting on the cutting edge of the music, art, culture, politics, and values of America’s youth; the next, you’re a corporate sellout who merely exists to hawk cell phones, promote terrible movies, and deify talentless, pompous pop stars (Sorry for the cheap alliteration, but I couldn’t resist). I’m speaking of course of the once proud MTV. For those of you born after 1985, MTV actually stands for Music Television. Now, as we all know, MTV is currently devoid of any musical content, but not so long ago, it used to play music – lots and lots of music, actually. In fact, MTV was once even relevant.
MTV’s initial objective was to play music on television. To accomplish this uncomplicated, albeit noble goal, MTV used to air music videos constantly. (Music Video – noun – a commercial videotape featuring a performance of a popular song, often through a stylized dramatization by the performers with lip-synching and special effects.) Most of the early music videos were crude and rudimentary, but eventually, some of them transformed into unbelievably entertaining (think Thriller), super-cool (think Billie Jean), socially relevant (think Jeremy), funny (think Sabotage), creative (think Tonight, Tonight), and culturally defining (think Smells Like Teen Spirit) works of art. These videos, consisting of nearly every musical genre, were played basically non-stop all day and night long, with the hope of entertaining viewers via this hip new visual/auditory amalgam.
Eventually though, MTV decided to air regularly-scheduled programs along with its daily video playlist. Maybe MTV began peppering in these shows to add a little variety to its steady stream of videos or to boost sagging ratings; perhaps we’ll never know. Initially, most of the shows were related to music in some way, which isn’t much of a stretch, since MTV stands for Music Television. During the mid 1990’s however, these shows began to push music videos to the margins, eating up more and more of the precious air-time. These programs were also becoming increasingly less music oriented – shows such as Sandblast, Singled Out, Real World, Road Rules, and The Head had absolutely nothing to do with music at all.
Now, at this point, one might suspect that MTV would’ve lost viewers or become less popular due to the numerous non-musical shows, but that isn’t what happened. Despite the fact that it was devoting less air-time to musically related themes, MTV’s popularity soared. This happened because MTV was able to use an authentic, vibrant music scene – that of the late 80’s/early 90’s Pacific Northwest (more specifically, Seattle’s music scene) – to strengthen its own popularity, while simultaneously destroying that very same musical movement. I could delve into the mechanism of this great scam in much greater detail, but for the sake of brevity, what essentially happened was that MTV, through pure evil and marketing genius, was able to somehow wrestle the credibility away from the Pacific Northwest Music Scene and pass it off as its own. After the assassination of musical and cultural creativity, MTV enjoyed unimaginable success among America’s youth – one might even call it absolute power.
As everyone knows, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in this case, it allowed MTV to accelerate its obliteration of all things musical. Despite the addition of several extra MTV spin off networks that were supposed to get the network back in touch with its musical roots, the total annihilation of music on MTV was completed circa 1998-99, and MTV entered into its current era. This most recent epoch has seen MTV make stars out of completely talentless jackasses (think Britney Spears, Lil’ Jon, Lady Gaga, etc.); it glorified spoiled, vapid fame whores (think the entire cast of The Hills, The City, Jersey Shore, etc.); it championed cinematic abortions (think The Twilight Series); it turned a blind eye to the worst U. S. Presidential administration in modern history (think W.’s eight year reign); it lent legitimacy to the worst bubble-gum pop ever created (think Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, etc.). In short, MTV violently bludgeoned to death any semblance of a television network dedicated to anything affiliated with real music; the culmination of which can be seen by MTV’s recent announcement of a contest to find a “Twitter Jockey.”
Although I’d like to stop here, I can’t end this sad tale of woe without touching on MTV’s current viewers. Now, I’m in my late 20’s, so I haven’t regularly watched MTV since about 1997-98. But since I do watch television, and therefore cannot escape being exposed to at least some of MTV’s crimes, I have a decent amount of knowledge about what is going on with that network. MTV has devolved into nothing more than a network dedicated to whatever 10-15 year old kids should find cool, and that’s okay, I suppose. I don’t really have a problem with kids that age watching stupid, shallow television because 10-15 year old kids are usually stupid and shallow. (I know I was at that age.)
My problem lies with everyone 16 and older who watches that garbage. Around the age of 16 or 17, at about the same time kids start getting their driver’s licenses, it’s time to stop watching MTV. At that age, a kid should stop living vicariously through some idiot on MTV and start focusing on the aspects of life that are more relevant to their actual happiness: driving, having sex (hopefully the safe kind), getting wasted, preparing for college, discovering their true passions, forming meaningful friendships, et cetera. Anyone over the age of 18 who regularly watches MTV is a total fucking moron, who, in a just world, would be required by law to tongue Jesse Camp’s asshole at least 7 times per day. Grow up and read a book you fucksticks. And by the way, the Twilight and Harry Potter books don’t count.