Sunday, January 23, 2011

MTV Shows Killed the Video Stars

I remember when "Video Killed the Radio Star," a song by the British group The Buggles, aired on MTV the summer of 1981. MTV was revolutionary! It introduced a whole other level to listening to music and watching TV. After school I would dance around my family room while watching my favorite bands' newest video. I would look forward to the premiere of a new music video as much as the release of an album. My taste in clothes, how I wore my hair and my vocabulary represented the musicians I listened to ... Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, or Janet Jackson. MTV and music videos were a huge influence in teaching us how to express ourselves through music and performance.

I can remember the first episode of The Real World and how fascinating it was to watch real drama unfold on TV, or when Jenny McCarthy was hosting Singled Out, or how Beavis and Butt-Head showed us how stupid stoners can be. Music videos were being aired less and less and the reality shows and cartoons became the forefront of MTV's programming. At least with efforts like Rock the Vote, MTV attempted to stay socially responsible.

Today, I never watch MTV. I no longer associate it with "music television" (do they even show music videos anymore?). Their daily programming are shows like Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, The Hills, Teen Mom. It seems like instead of being interesting and entertaining, MTV feels like they have to be controversial ... infidelity, teen pregnancy, underage drinking, drugs, and grotesque sexuality. On January 17, the network aired their newest show is Skins (an adaptation of the controversial British TV production). MTV has described this show as:
"Skins is a wild ride through the lives of a group of high school friends stumbling through the mine field of adolescence... and stepping on most of the mines as they go...Be it sex, drugs, the breadth of friendships or the depth of heartbreaks, Skins is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years. They'll crush hearts and burn brain cells, while fearlessly confronting every obstacle head on...or slightly off."

My daughter is only 5 years old, so I am not worried about her being exposed to these kind of shows. When she is with me I monitor what TV and movies she can watch, video games she can play and activities she can participate in. Am I controlling? No, I am her parent and it is my responsibility to teach and show her how be healthy, kind, respectful, gentle, compassionate, strong and balanced. I don't feel that any of these traits are present in MTV's current shows. Sadly, I know some parents who do not monitor what their kids watch or use shows to teach their kids about what NOT to do or act. I would hate to think their kids might come across Skins while channel surfing.

I am not the perfect parent (probably let my daughter indulge a little too much in the Disney Princess culture and give into her when she want more than she needs). I am not one to engage in online mob mentality either. But, the idea of teenagers "crushing" each other's hearts or "burning brain cells" makes me fear for my daughter's future. It makes her pink world of princesses look so much better! I believe that allowing MTV to air shows about the things we DON'T want our kids getting involved in is not the right approach. MTV says, "We are confident that the episodes of "Skins" will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers. We also have taken numerous steps to alert viewers to the strong subject matter so that they can choose for themselves whether it is appropriate." MTV may think that they are not glamorizing bad teenage behavior, but they are desensitizing teens from how this bad behavior can possibly lead to abuse, rape, addiction, overdose, jail and (heaven forbid) death.

Regardless of the viewer alerts MTV says they have put in place the Parents Television Counsel has called for the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees and the Department of Justice to "immediately open an investigation regarding child pornography and exploitation on MTV’s Skins." Companies are starting to pull their adversing from MTV during Skins time slot. And, if you agree that MTV has gone too far you can help by:

Our kids are the future of this country. Do you really want them at 16 to be manipulative, cruel, addicted or pregnant? I know I don't.