2010 VMA’s: Negative Influence on Younger Crowd

(This is a short paper I’ve written for a class I’m taking called Contemporary Issues in the Music Industry. I thought I’d share it with all of my blog readers.)

(September 14th 2010)

On September 12th 2010 MTV hosted its annual Video Music Awards to which some 11 million viewers tuned in. There is no doubt that countless teenagers and even pre-teens participated in seeing this event. There is also no doubt that MTV expected all kinds of viewers, including this younger demographic. So why would MTV willingly, knowingly, and purposefully subject this easily influenced younger crowd to trashy, apathetic values? We should all know the answer to this question, and that is money. The more flash and outrageousness equals more viewers, which equals more money for MTV.

MTV has always been known to be fairly flashy and exceptional at wowing the crowds, so it must have been a choice of publicity to make Chelsea Handler the host. Handler, a controversial talk show host, can only be described as vulgar, outrageous and pointlessly disrespectful. I can only imagine how the parents of teens cringed as they listened to what their children were watching. Most of Handler’s “jokes” were filled with sexual references, filthy language and racial slurs. She also made a reference to being high at the beginning of the show, told the participants to be on their worst behavior, and encouraged the use of weapons and violence all at the introduction to the show just after Eminem’s opening performance.

In this post-modern era in the industry this kind of behavior may not be surprising to many of the crowd that watched this year’s awards. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to portray these negative values and instill them into the new generation, especially on such a widely viewed and broadcasted event. With all the technology that’s easily available now, it’s the easiest it’s ever been to get our media fix. The VMA’s can be viewed even now on MTV’s website, so not only was the event broadcasted on national television but it can also be watched by anyone who didn’t get to see it at the original air time.

The post-modern era in the music industry is vastly different in many respects to the modern and pre-modern eras, especially in that of decency and classy values of integrity and politesse. It used to be that such indecency in the media and in everyday life was frowned upon. But a lot of money-making media these days is filled with swearing and sexual references. This is good for the media industry but bad for parents that wish to raise civil, courteous children. With these kinds of disrespectful euphuisms flying around everywhere it is easy for children to get the wrong ideas about sexuality, discrimination and racism.

Not only do Handler’s nasty remarks send a bad message but so does the event itself. The entire show revolves around the images of the artists involved and awards them for it. This shows children that the most important thing in being successful is looking the part, which is hardly the case in the real world.

The 2010 VMA’s, however indecent, was not a total failure of morality. Wholesome acts like Taylor Swift, Paramore, Eminem, Justin Beiber, 30 Seconds to Mars and Usher kept things clean and decent. Beiber may not be the most popular artist with the more mature audience, but his delicate, polite image is good for the eager minds of the younger crowd. Eminem, although intense and serious, is a solid artist and has lots of integrity unlike image-controlled artists like Lady Gaga. Taylor Swift might be the most respectable artist of the 2010 VMA’s. She is a hard working musician who writes most of her own songs and doesn’t use lip syncing or auto tune like other artists. She is “…the youngest person to single-handedly write and sing a #1 country hit entirely on her own.” (http://www.taylorswift.com/bio) Her image is one of honor and goodness and she is a great role model for all of her young (and old) fans.

Unfortunately money drives the entire industry and for the top dogs at MTV apparently morality has nothing to do with making money in the business. Everyone knows that young people are at the mercy of popular culture and that they hang on to every piece of it like a religion. The parents of the children that watched this event can only hope that their influence is greater than that of popular culture. They can only hope that the example they set as parents is hammered into their children’s heads harder than the examples set by famous artists and celebrities.