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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.

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12 thoughts on “The Sad History of MTV

  1. Somewhere Harry Potter just looked up and said “Hey, what did I do?”

  2. James S. on said:

    Yeah, I may have overreacted by lumping Harry Potter in with all that other stuff, but I guess my point is that even though the Harry Potter series is well written, it’s intended for youngsters, much like MTV or Twilight. In my humble opinion, I think that it’s absolutely ridiculous when people in their twenties continue to enthusiastically lap up things that are obviously intended for 12 or 13 year olds. There are tons of books, movies, shows, magazines, songs, etc. that I used to love when I was a kid, but now I realize they were completely awful. Though I’m not ashamed of liking those things as a youth, I certainly don’t much care for them now that I’m a little older.

    • Agreed. Although, MTV’s “True Life” documentaries are still fantastic. How the same network that produces “16 and pregnant” can produce interesting documentaries is beyond me. Everything else is just a rehash of The Real World

      • James S. on said:

        Yeah, I agree. Some of their shows are pretty interesting, but the overwhelming majority of them are just awful. I don’t really have a problem with non-teenagers who occasionally watch MTV; the operative word being occasionally. My beef lies with all the people in their twenties who still consider it one of their favorite channels. Those are the same people, who, in their 40’s and 50’s, will still dress like 20-year olds and will get extensive plastic surgery to avoid the sad reality that they never really developed a personality. Jackasses.

  3. “Let’s not be too rough on our own ignorance; it’s what makes America great!” – Frank Zappa

  4. Antonio on said:

    Okay, so as one of those middle aged people pathetically trying to hang on to his youth, you’ll probably discount what I have to say, which is too bad because I was 16 when MTV first debuted, which was old enough to understand at that moment in history what MTV was at it’s greatest point. That music rocked my world! At that time, MTV exposed me to artists I’d never heard of and that were not yet on the radio. The first time I saw the video for Psychadelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way’ I was hooked on everything New Wave, as well as MTV and turned my back on pop music. Back then, the mainstream artists were trying to charge MTV for their music videos, which is why all those alternative artists garnered so much airplay in the early days of MTV.

    For me, the state of MTV is no longer relevent. It isn’t because I’m so ‘old’; it’s because as you grow up you build a life that doesn’t allow for the teenage habits of constant music video viewing. But it saddens me that the MTV of my youth is gone and nothing like it exists anymore. This leaves an entire generation with no place to go to be exposed to truly fresh, great music that they’d never see otherwise.

    Finally, give people my age a break. 20 years from now you’ll either regret your standpoint or be old and fat. Some of us aren’t ready to resign ourselves to that yet…

    • Delvin on said:

      wow. a very valid and passionate editorial. as a fan of the earlier Real world and a man that was born in 1985 , I cant imagine the world without the contribuitions of MTV. TV in itself is a numbers game. in short, expecting MTV to not look for the benefit of capital gain is naive. there are a lot of demographics out there and the tweens, girls and housewives are influencing what we watch and listen to. i am a fan of jon stewart, Daniel Tosh, and Joel McHale. they are complete assholes looking to be successful by being honest and their ratings pale to what MTv does show ing Justin Bieber special or thirty minutes of explaining what just happen in the last episode of jersey shore. i guess my summation of my rant is you are a hundred percent right in saying what you believe, but choice is what makes us human, animal, real. and people choose to be led by political parties cheering the death penalty and scarfing women for aborting pregnancies. plastic surgeries, materialism, crippled self esteem, and extreme poverty exist as though its a side effect from drinking the water and your surprised MTV is coming out with the twilight Real housewives of crack addicted, justin Bieber-screaming, sex enduced, barely legal, moved from jersey and now i can dance and sing songs i never wrote world xxx(and we don’t mean thirty) show.

  5. Hi, love the article except………. I’M NOT A FUCKSTICK! I read books! Not just Harry Potter and Twilight can suck it! But other then that I agree, MTV has lost it’s former glory, thank you for informing us out here on the internet.

  6. Mtv was ounce the the voice of the rebellious youth, it played wall to wall music videos and a massive following. That was when i was a teenager.
    Im now in my late thirties and i asked my teenage son a few weeks ag if he watches mtv, the reaction was, what is mtv???, then when i explained what it was, he informed me that that channel is crap and he wouldn’t be cought dead watching that.

    The present mtv is nothing more than an embarrasement

  7. I liked your blog on this. There are many on the net and this one is perhaps one of the best. I was lucky to have been born in the early 80’s, 83 to be exact, so I remember alot of cool stuff that was on MTV in that time-frame as well as it’s awesomeness in the earlier part of the 90’s. Around the mid-late 90’s it became crappier & now, I don’t even know what it’s like, but I know it’s not good. MTV is gone, dead, out of date and nothing will save it. The internet is somewhat responsible for making that path even more clearer and it has steadily became moot. The glory it was in the earlier years are long gone & nothing can save it, nothing.

  8. Kcid Kcus on said:

    MTV can go lick my sack! I haven’t watched it even once in a long long long time! MTV delendam esse!

  9. I cannot tolerate any pop music past late 90s and early 2000s period, especially Lady Gaga. Serioisly it is absolutely horrendous all of it. I find myself listening to stuff of my parents generation. It feels so much more real authentic.

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