4 Shocking Clips From MTV: Music Videos to Reality Trash.

Via on Feb 27, 2011

Is MTV a popular culture trendsetter and poisonous influence? From music videos to pregnant teens, drinks and pranks, you decide.

I couldn’t help myself. I stayed in a hotel last week in Stockholm and had the urge to click on the telly. And, for what I had hoped to be just a few minutes of BBC News turned into (I’m embarrassed to say) a 4-hour MTV marathon.

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Sure the notorious question ‘what happened to the music?’ stems back to the mid 90’s when MTV spawned its first reality series, The Real World and Road Rules. Then given the grandioso success, MTV cut back even more on music videos and has since whipped up and spit out all sorts of reality and scripted series.

MTV’s decision to focus more on non-music programming, in addition to its moral influence on young people, has been a subject of debate for many years. And, although the verdict is out as to whether or not television can be a bad influence, our young people are still being raised on a steady diet of it. Some researchers claim that in order for television to be a negative influence, a person must first have a negative disposition. I can’t help but to wonder, is there truly anyone exempt of a negative disposition?

There seems little doubt that things like fashion, merchandise, accessories and slang are translated from MTV into schools and households. So why then would the translation of personal behavior be any different even if not reenacted in the same extreme manner? And, I don’t think we need to debate the element of habit and/or addiction and whether or not hours of MTV or television in general take people away from more healthy and productive activity. Mm-hm.

OK, if it’s not really ‘reality’ in all cases and if young people know better than to be mean, have thoughtless romps in the sack, drunken fights and use abusive language, then why does MTV show it? Why does any network show it? Is it our compulsion to pay for and witness our neighbors, our families and our friends abuse themselves and others to justify our own incessant internal abuse and delusion? Sure, these shows can make some people feel better knowing that there are others with problems, that they are not alone and that maybe their issues aren’t as bad, but what about those who use it to escape reality?

According to a study from 2005 (it’s all I could find) MTV reaches 88 million households, the average age is 21.6 and has hundreds of thousands of viewers daily between the ages of 18 and 34. Said to be the highest ranked channel for 18-24 year olds, MTV is sitting real pretty. Not to mention its influence and support from all its advertising partners, merchandise and affiliated sister channels (VH1, Nickelodeon, MTV2, etc). Did I mention that MTV Networks is owned by the world’s fourth largest media conglomerate, Viacom?

So, back to the content, during my 4-hour MTV marathon, I can’t say that I wasn’t slightly uncomfortably entertained (although I don’t feel ‘entertained’ is the right word). I was also really embarrassed. Embarrassed because I truly felt there was an exploitation and enforcement of some super sketchy values on our youth. I also couldn’t help to feel sad for a lot of the involved parties. I mean, is MTV finger pointing or what? What really is the point?

Here’s what I came across during my 4-hour stint.

A Double Shot At Love with Tila Tequila – A reality game show about a bi-sexual female looking for love among 16 straight dudes and 16 ‘lesbian identified’ ladies. My opinion: worst content. Ever.

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My Super Sweet 16 – A reality show about teenagers with ridiculously wealthy parents who are demanding the biggest ‘blinged out’ birthday bash of their lives and all of their friends lives. My opinion: over-the-top excesses and sad depiction of money aspirations. Sorry Audrey.

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Pranked – A 30-minute piece showcasing the so-called ‘best’ pranks caught on camera or online. My opinion: Horrible. The episode I saw showed a girl literally ‘buttering’ the floor outside of the shower where her boyfriend was bathing. See for yourself.

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Teen Mom – A reality series that chronicles the lives of MTV chosen 16-year old pregnant girls. My opinion: I don’t know what to say about this one. I can see some of the positive aspects of it, but then I have to wonder about the teenagers they chose to portray. They seem to have issues beyond having a child at a young age and one can’t help but to wonder if MTV chose unstable characters for the ratings only. It’s a bit ambiguous to see where MTV really stands on the issue. Sorry Amber.

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Moving In – A show about a gal who can’t decide between two guys to date and move in with, so she leaves it up to her parents. Did I mention the guys don’t know about each other? My opinion: Is this really reality? The parents in the episode I saw made one of the ‘contestants’ sleep in the garage on a board to ‘prove’ his feelings. Not to mention, they made him pull up a bush, yes a bush and eat vodka ravioli with excess salt. Do I need to say more?

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Thank you MTV for reminding me once again that television can be a total and complete waste of time and yes, it is your fault I planted myself in front of you for 4 hours.


About Tanya Lee Markul

Yoga Editor, Elephant Journal. I yoga, write, take photos and I investigate existentially. I got a thing for those who have found expression through some form of mastery or artistic fashion, and sincerity. (You set me free I set you). I adore anything that is equally cute and creepy. The most special ingredient you can find, be and put into anything is: yourself. Remember, everything you want, you already have and are. Look within. The more you use it, the more it will grow. For more randomness and love, visit me at Rebelle Lotus and, you don't want to miss the creative rebellion at Rebelle Society. Join us.

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8 Responses to “4 Shocking Clips From MTV: Music Videos to Reality Trash.”

  1. Laura says:

    I totally agree – not one to judge and definitely not wanting to become one of those old people who moan about all the sex on TV, I have to say I was sort of taken aback by this clip on MTV recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYqIed-1BoM.

    I saw that video and thought, so this is what 13,14, and 15 year olds watch when they get hom from school, hmmm. I know music videos have always pushed boundaries and that's cool but I do wonder if it's having an affect on young people today and how they feel they should behave and dress to be accepted. Only the other day I was looking at my 13 year old's facebook photos of sexy poses, pouts, heels and shorts – in winter (they can't help it they're English) and thinking to myself how they look so much older and stylish than we did at 13. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing but I know I am more than worried about how to censor certain stuff in this mobile-internet-MTV crazy world from my future kids so I guess I do think these programmes have an effect on adolescents searching for some sort of identity and role model. I guess it's up to the parents/actual role models to try and guide kids and help them to see that this reality crap tv is just that and explain to them what is really real by showing them the TV they watch, thought-provoking and educational shows such as, Temptation Island, Big Brother, Wife Swap, Extreme Makeover.

    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED

  2. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for your comment! I know what you mean. I think most parents have no idea what's going on on MTV as they have no interest in it or whatever, so it can be pretty shocking when they find out that it's more than just music videos and that the music videos have certainly changed over time. And, this really isn't about censorship, it's about the 'quality' of television that is out there today and how it impacts young minds. I agree with you…those searching for some sort of identity or role model can definitely be effected.
    The revolution will not be televised!

  3. Chruldit says:

    Spot on. MTV has a responsibility like all other media. I don’t believe it should be censored, but the media should recognize its own responsibility and the consequences of showing stuff like this on TV – the consequences for young people without parental guidance watching it and the consequences of for the people they portray for everyone to watch. It seems that they deliberately choose people with personal flaws or even illnesses because they are the most likely to do something shocking to then to ridicule their behaviour without giving an explanation of why the person reacts as he/she does. It’s the same old story – everyone has a personal responsibility, but it’s easier to hide it behind a corporate identity… like MTV.

    • Nice response Chruldit! I wonder why we are so addicted to watching this type of stuff. Perhaps its mind-numbing or have really convinced ourselves it alleviates so-called boredom. I just don't know! :-)

  4. Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

    Thanks for posting this. We don't have TV (except for watching movies & playing video games), but nonetheless my almost 13-year-old seems to know a lot of what's out there anyway. Which is fine, because kids have to learn how to deal with the culture as it is. But it's also sad because so much of the culture is so decadent and sick. It's hard to raise kids when you have to simultaneously equip them to deal with a more and more competitive educational system and labor market while at the same time instilling counter-cultural values to protect them from all of this crap. I'd be interested to hear from younger people in their teens and early 20s, how they navigate this type of media and what they see among their peers.

    • Hi Carol. Thanks for your response! I agree – it's not that television exists, it's just that the content is so morbid. Of course this is a reflection of the world we live in in many ways – one would think that perhaps it's an incentive to change, to become better people. In many ways it makes us more aware of what's happening, but are we getting better, worse, both?! I would also like to hear from youngsters about their views on this type of media – good call.
      Take care,
      Tanya

  5. Jon says:

    It's a strange thing that "reality television" is supposedly something that MTV invented while the truth is that MTV just brought it to American audiences from Europe.

    Cheaply-made television filmed in expensive settings with throwaway people tossed in? People treated as if they are meant to do nothing but cut each other down until only one remains? People who are given cameras and fame to somehow make their lives meaningful? Competition for the sake of winning? Elimination rounds to ensure that losers are not dated, when the process of finding useless people who can spend a few weeks in a mansion being exploited pretty much guarantees that no normal people will apply?

    Those shows don't downgrade our culture, as those reality "stars" serve to be examples of how not to act. Who's to blame for teenagers acting like entitled jerks? This is all talkshows' fault. I blame Morton Downey Junior for the state of our world.

    • Thanks for your comments Jon! I had to google Morton – the king of TV trash format and one-time member of the National Smokers Alliance to a staunch anti-smoking activist!

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