The Pop Culture Porthole… the MTV VMAs

Last night in the world of pop culture, all eyes were on the MTV VMA’s.

All eyes? Okay… maybe not “all.” Let’s put some numbers to it. In 2009, 26.9 million viewers watched the show on the night it aired (a record-breaking 9 million people watched it on MTV alone, but if you look at the total viewership of all three channels that aired the show, you’ll find a number closer to 27 million. More on that breakdown here). And that doesn’t include the 5.5 million people that visited MTV.com the next day to watch the show online. Neilson reported that the VMA show was the #1 viewed cable show of the entire year among people age 12-34.

How about them apples.

So allow me to rephrase. Last night, “numerous” eyes were on the VMAs. I have yet to see this year’s numbers. But most people had two questions on their mind: What will happen between Taylor Swift and Kanye? And how many awards will Lady Gaga actually take home?

Personally, I only had one question: who freaking cares!

Unfortunately, most teenagers do.

The MTV VMA’s show is an interesting phenomena. Youth Culture guru Walt Mueller refers to it as a “map and a mirror.” A show this popular with young people not only reveals to us the direction that youth culture is going (map), but it also provides a glimpse of what youth culture looks like right now (mirror).

Every year I encourage parents and youth workers to take a peek at this show to get their thumb on the pulse of youth culture. This year… adults probably fell asleep watching the show. I know I almost did.

I asked my wife Lori, “Is it just me, or is this show really boring?”

She answered, “Well, we are getting old. Maybe we relate to this stuff less and less.”

Nice. I’m old!

Thanks Lori!  :)

In retrospect, I think I’d settle for boring more than the excitement that usually plagues this show. Because the buzz-worthy moments that MTV usually creates are either crude or overtly sexual.

This year wasn’t tame, by any means. The host, Chelsea Handler, was as lewd as expected, Gaga was bizarre and preachy (particularly about homosexuality), and the commercials (particularly the ones for “Gucci Guilty” and the new MTV show “The Challenge” ) were over the top. Typical of MTV to use sex to sell. (I guess the MTV execs didn’t listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics plea for responsible programming in their brand new report last week, “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media.”)

You can read my entire two cents about the VMA’s later this afternoon (Monday) when we post our Youth Culture Window article on the subject.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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4 Responses to The Pop Culture Porthole… the MTV VMAs

  1. Big Nate says:

    I watched it with my teen age daughter, who really wanted to see Taylor Swift. My thought was if they could have kept Handler off the stage and just show the music acts it was musically some of the best performances I have seen on live TV for a while. They went to bed after swift performed (while her lyrics were good, she is not very good at singing) And it stayed at a high level until Kanye West. He should have done Power and got off the stage. We would turn it until someone was singing. The big debate was how much Usher and Beiber actually sang vs. Lipsynching. Bruno Mars’ lyrics impress me as the daughter of 2 girls who have to hear/get the radio tuned off with all the highly sexualized crap out there.

  2. interesting observations Nate. I agree with much of this. There was a ton more music this year, and with a few exceptions, most of those performances were pretty tasteful. The antic in between was where MTV slid in most of the garbage.

    The main reason I don’t like the show is the fact that most of these people are not role models, but we have elevated them to be heroes. Very sad.

  3. Tracey says:

    I always wonder why the stars like Taylor Swift actually perform here. I know MTV is a powerhouse, I was the first generation of MTV watchers, (and even the I hardly watched,)but their message has gotten repeatedly worse over the years, and perfomers who claim they are wholesome, should NOT be a part of this. I don’t watch, but every once in awhile, I turn on the TV and MTV is on, that is the channel my kids had been watching. We do watch this show if we know it is on, only for the music perfomances we want to see, and the clothes. But I’d rather watch award shows that are more wholesome and less sexual.

  4. cephas says:

    that’s the main issue, and not many people have seen as an issue: the media presents to us “godless idols”- people that display a perfect “show” of real imperfection, filled with emptiness. And that catches the youths more than we know, and parents and youths workers seem to be doing nothing about. If we begin to teach our young ones to begin to think outside our sensual culture and inside the sensible biblical culture, we can save some.

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