There is very little in the world that matters less than an award show that long ago stopped mattering. Yet, here I sit pondering the MTV Video Music Awards.
The VMAs were founded as an annual award show (supposedly) celebrating the very best in creativity and artistry in the music video industry. Believe it or not, videos do still exist, and they are still entertaining. You just have to go to YouTube to find most of them since Music Television no longer plays any music.
Now, I am 34 years old, so I am not exactly in a generation of old codgers complaining about the “damn kids” and their unholy orgy of sin on television. Quite the contrary.
I’ve always had very libertine attitudes about culture. I love music — including loud, obnoxious music — have an affinity for the harder edge of rap, and came of age watching the debauchery of MTV in its hay-day. So it isn’t as though I’m standing on my lawn, shaking my cane at the neighborhood kids while wearing a cardigan, loafers and rolled up jeans.
But for the life of me, I just don’t understand modern pop culture anymore.
Right, I get it. I’ve heard all the arguments before. “You got old.” “Pop culture didn’t change, you did.” “It was always like this.” “You sound exactly like your parents sounded to you when you were younger.”
Sure, maybe. But honestly, I don’t think so. I may have grown a bit older, but my attitudes haven’t changed much over the years. I am no more offended by sex, drugs and rock and roll (whatever is left of it) than I was when I was 16. Seeing Miley Cyrus dressed in stupid outfits is no more outrageous to me than Britney Spears carrying a python on her shoulders onto a stage.
I think my big problem is that MTV, not me, got old. And by got old, I really mean got stale, boring and predictable.
Long ago, MTV abandoned what it once was. It used to be a channel geared toward young adults who loved music and were part of a pretty cohesive youth culture. Now, any connection to music is dead, and the channel is almost entirely made up of reality garbage like “Catfish” and “Teen Mom.”
What was once the voice of a generation is now a hollow, crumbling shell of evaporating relevance.
MTV feels to me like that person you know who once told a really funny joke, and is now constantly, desperately trying to recreate the whole experience over again. The harder he tries, the sadder the whole enterprise becomes. He ends up not only not being funny, but he ends up being kind of pathetic.
In the past the focus was on the craft of music — some form of substance — in some way, and the “shocking” moments, outrageous outfits, and controversial events were memorable sidenotes.
Now, the vapidity of the entire event is apparent. It has become a hyper-programmed, insipid attempt to cram as much “edginess” as possible into the allotted time to somehow justify its own existence. It feels like something a corporate executive in a board room has planned to be controversial after extensive focus grouping. It seems like something a public relations consultant would recommend to clients to increase digital downloads.
And the most depressing thing is, despite the transparent worthlessness, it is a perfect reflection of the current hollow shell that is mass culture and its utter lack of worth. To “break through” the background hum of today’s media culture, the goal has morphed from “create something good and interesting” to “manufacture attention.”
Granted, phony, engineered shock events are nothing new, and that is part of the problem.
What was once clever and intriguing stopped being so once you realized it was all an illusion, and there was nothing behind it all. That is what has happened with pop culture. It isn’t that I’ve gotten old, though undoubtedly I sound like it.
Rather, it is that the entire thing is just so boring, predictable, and pointless. Whatever appeal it may have once had, I’ve seen this movie before, and it lost its appeal to me about the 10th time I saw it.
So get off my lawn. Damn kids.