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The Greatest Trick MTV Ever Pulled Was Convincing the World It Was Totally Awesome

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | August 5, 2010 | Comments ()


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There exist two fundamental naysaying truths in this world: 1) If you mention SNL, someone will always say "SNL sucks now. It hasn't been good in years." And 2) If you mention MTV, someone will always say, "MTV sucks now. It hasn't been good in years."

I'm not disagreeing with you (except on SNL because I have the softest of spots for Claaaassic Peg and the Target Lady). MTV does suck. It's just the "now" part that's tripping me up.

Like all of us born in the early to mid '80s, I grew up on MTV. MTV was my formative years. In addition to essentially creating my pre-teen taste in music with Fiona Apple and Garbage, MTV served as a carrier of news to the youth of the world in a time before the ADHD culture had blogs and "The Daily Show" to help them avoid CNN. It gave us gay heroes, great music, and some excellent TV shows.

It was groundbreaking. That doesn't always mean it was very good. Just because there was "The State," "Sifl & Olly" and "Daria" doesn't mean there wasn't also "Totally Pauly," the Carmen Electra seasons of" Singled Out," and "Spring Break," which hasn't changed since it started in '86, save for the clothes and hairstyles. Sure, the "Real World" used to have Pedro, but it also had Puck. "Real Worlds" Miami and Boston were just as bitchy and slutty as the ones now; the cast was just paler and slightly fleshier.

The (non-music video category) difference lies in only one area: the popularization of tabloid journalism. Between real stars playing it closer to the vest and the proliferation of tabloid and gossip blogs, there's a nonstop need for "celebrity" news, meaning the word and idea of "celebrity" has expanded (see also: the Kardashian family). We're so inundated with these people that we hate them more than we did the old batch, and we blame the network. Genesis from "The Real World: Boston" was no more obnoxious than Kristin from "The Hills"; we just didn't have to see Genesis on every website and magazine.

After yesterday's VMA post, I personally got all incensed about how there's only two or three genuinely good videos nominated, the rest were just really popular songs, with Gaga where the circles overlap. (Suck a fuck, everyone, I love her.) Then I stepped off my soapbox and into the magical world of Wiki.

Yeah, the VMA's really have always been like that. We look back and remember "Jeremy" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Well "Teen Spirit" actually lost to Halen's "Right Now" Pepsi commercial of a video that year, and other nominees include Steve Winwood, "We Are the World" (which is a video consisting entirely of a bunch of people standing), a lot of Don Henley, and "Livin' La Vida Motherfucking Loca."

MTV wasn't always pure suck. But it wasn't the pinnacle of great television the fervor of nostalgia rage would lead us to believe.

Note: MTV will release a TV version of "Teen Wolf" next year, at which point I may revise my entire thesis.







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