Empty legacy

August 28, 2006 at 9:43 pm 4 comments

Via Breakpoint

MTV turned 25 this month—but with uncharacteristic modesty, the cable channel isn’t doing much celebrating. It’s been left mostly to the news media to honor MTV’s many accomplishments.

“Without MTV,” the Associated Press points out, “you might not have reality television. Commercials wouldn’t have vertigo-inducing quick cuts. Musicians wouldn’t need to look like models to survive. Kelly Osbourne [of the reality show The Osbournes] wouldn’t have gotten near a recording studio. And only seamstresses would know about wardrobe malfunctions.”

If that were my legacy, I’m not sure I’d want to call attention to it either. But that’s not really the reason MTV is playing down its anniversary. As the Associated Press says, “When your average viewer is 20 years old . . . perhaps it’s wise not to mention you’re 25. MTV wants to be the perpetual adolescent.” The Washington Post puts it more succinctly: “At MTV, it is always about the now.”

Perpetual adolescence and living only for the moment are just a couple of the twisted values that MTV has foisted upon us over the past twenty-five years. There’s also exhibitionism, voyeurism, promiscuity, greed, and a host of other vices. Through its style as well as its content, MTV has done all it can to promote the cheap, the vulgar, and the flashy over the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I’m not saying that MTV has added anything to the culture that wasn’t already present. All these elements have always been part of sinful human nature. Where MTV distinguished itself was in glorifying these things—moreover, glorifying them for a young audience.

We certainly can’t place all the blame for our coarsened and desensitized culture on MTV. But it deserves a significant share of the blame for a culture in which our children—at younger and younger ages—are surrounded on all sides by twisted views of sexuality. And I do mean “surrounded on all sides.” Even kids who aren’t MTV viewers come up against its culture-shaping influences from their peers, from advertisers, even from their teachers, or from its host of affiliated networks ranging from Nickelodeon to LOGO, the new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered channel. MTV has forced parents to work harder than ever to protect and shape their kids’ minds, while giving them less of a chance of doing so successfully.

Only in a culture shaped by MTV’s kind of values, for example, could Madonna’s latest stage act—hanging on a mirrored cross while singing—draw little more than yawns and “Oh, there she goes again.” Madonna and her onstage antics are a perfect expression of the channel and the culture that helped create her. Or take that infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl. As the AP implied, what shocked an audience full of adults was old hat to many of their kids, who had seen far worse in MTV’s videos and reality shows.

It’s not many people who can look back and say that they changed a culture. That can be pretty awe-inspiring. But when you change it in the way that MTV did, you don’t celebrate: You hang your head in shame.

For Further Reading and Information

Today’s BreakPoint offer: Rewired: A teen worldview curriculum from the Wilberforce Forum and Teenmania. Tell your youth pastor about it!

MTV Won’t Say How Old It Is (But It’s 25),” CNN, 1 August 2006.

Hank Stuever, “25 Years Down the Tube,” Washington Post, 1 August 2006, C01.

Ben Mathis-Lilley, et al., “I Want My A.D.D.,” New York, 7 August 2006. (Warning: profanity.)

Rod Dreher, “MTV at 25,” Beliefnet, 3 August 2006.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040810, “Beyond the Music (Video): MTV’s Cultural Impact.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 020423, “Reality Bites More Than a Bat Head: MTV’s ‘The Osbournes’.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 030916, “My Own Private Neverland: A Culture of Lost Boys.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 010315, “Mooks and Midriffs: Bypassing Parental Authority.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 050429, “‘Different Together’: The LOGO Channel.”


Entry filed under: Africa, Culture, Kenya, Literature, Media, Religion, Science, Society, Uncategorized, World.

When… Another’s life…and death…

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. acolyte  |  August 28, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    That article and so many others are on point and are a sad indicator of the state of Western media which our media seems keen to follow.
    There are few family friendly channels here in the states because even the ones dedicated to kids are being used to peddle expensive toys, clothes and candy thus driving parents to have to deal with childrens unending requests for stuff emblazoned and endorsed by their new heroes.
    I have taken one look at the LOGO channel and that is when I knew that the end is not far away.I am not a puritan but even I found some of the things on that channel risque, let’s just say I wouldnt let my children watch a minute of it.
    I remember a prof telling me the role of education is to educate, inform and entertain.Let’s just say it is doing only 33% of what it is meant to do and not very well at that!
    Nice article!

  • 2. Kenyan Analyst  |  August 28, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    Aco, we seem to be finding a unanimous common ground for the first time in years! 🙂

  • 3. makanga  |  August 28, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    Simple and plain. MTV has been horrible since they stopped playing music videos.

  • 4. Collins  |  August 30, 2006 at 3:21 am

    True true…finally someone is unashamed of hammering the nail on the head. Unfortunately we live in a culture where we want to live, hear and see the things that are not positive anymore and while we are searching for such, reality TV, not just MTV continue to capture and feed our hungry appetites! Kudos to those few who are able to stand on side where the grass is really green!
    Nice article!


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