30 Years Ago: I Want My MTV

Regular readers of The World According to Jennifer are probably aware that I spent a lot of time watching MTV when I was a kid. If you are new to the blog, or somehow missed those posts, or forgot that I wrote them, or pretended to read them, but really didn’t… you can check them out here, here and here.

I was in front of my TV on August 1st, 1981 at the exact moment the moon man first appeared with the MTV emblazoned flag. When it came to Music Television, I was, as we like to say now, an early adopter.  So… is it any surprise that I would acknowledege the network’s 30th anniversary? Well, maybe a bit of a surprise since along with posts professing my love, I also wrote about how ticked I was to be kicked to the curb now that I am no longer a member of MTV’s desired demographic.

Admittedly, I wasn’t thinking about being shunned when I tweeted the following:

Which led to this:

and…

And… a Billy Squier reference! Unfortunately, I can’t share that tweet because the person who tweeted it has their Twitter account set to private.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking that I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could come up with one bit of #MTVturnsthirty trivia every day between now and August 1st.

I’ll probably tweet the trivia relatively early in the day– here. That is of course unless I am struggling to come up with something, in which case it could be midnight or… (not at all).

Snooki… Teacher Extraordinaire?

Can’t believe I am going to write about Snooki–again–but I am.  You see, Snooks got very drunk on last week’s episode of  Jersey Shore, and faced a serious consequence.  She was arrested.

Now I know there are those who think there is absolutely no value, other than shock, to shows like Jersey Shore.  People who believe that Snooki, the Situation, and their reality TV brethren have no business achieving 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes of fame.  And, for the most part I agree.

Last week, however, Snooki demonstrated, in a way my parental warnings can’t, what happens when you cross a line.   And there was nothing appealing about the way she did it.  Snooki looked and behaved like an ass.  My 17-year-old daughter watched, and she too found the behavior to be abhorrent.  I know this is what she thought, because we discussed it.

There are people who believe that children and teenagers should not view programming that is distasteful.  And I agree that subject matter should be age appropriate.  But I also believe that teachable moments come through a variety of venues.  And on Thursday night, Snooki provided me with one.

MTV routinely features shows that appear to reward poor, and sometimes dangerous, behavior.  But… the network also produces a few series that inspire.  If You Really Knew Me, Made and True Life are examples of programs that shine a light, though not always a positive or candy coated one, on some of the real issues and challenges teenagers and young adults face.  These are the shows I want my kids to watch.  Yes, I am actually okay with my teenagers watching MTV–sometimes.

And sometimes, I don’t want them to watch.  But they will.  So, I do too.  And then we discuss.

Do you think TV shows and movies–even those with questionable content–serve an educational purpose?  Would you let your child watch Jersey Shore?

Oh No He Didn’t!

A few days ago I wrote an admittedly nostalgic post about MTV.  I fondly recounted the origin of the network and how, at least in the early days, MTV helped to shape my musical knowledge and tastes. That was last week. This week, I am not feeling as generous. Yesterday, Van Toffler, President of MTV Networks, stated that the network was no longer interested in having members of Generation X as part of its audience. “We’re pushing Generation X out,” Toffler said. “We’re slaves to our different audiences, for MTV that’s millennials, who are vastly different than Generation X; they’re definitely less cynical — they’re more civic-minded.”

Okay, I get it. Don’t have to tell me twice. I am no longer a desirable demographic for MTV. That’s fine, but did you really have to announce it? Hey Van, the last time I checked (two seconds ago, on Google) you are also the president of VH1 and VH1 Classic — do you want me to watch those channels? Or am I too pessimistic to get For the Love of Ray J, Let’s Talk About Pep and Celebrity Rehab? Perhaps I am also now too jaded to enjoy Behind the Music?

Is it ever a good idea for a brand to go out-of-the-way to create ill will? Doesn’t seem like a smart strategy to me.

Van (do you mind if I call you Van? You look to be about my age, so I am figuring you won’t), you insulted me and my (your) generation by saying we are a cynical bunch (your words) which by definition means:  1.  like or characteristic of a cynic; distrusting or disparaging the motives of others. 2.  showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one’s actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others. 3.  bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

So in response, I will deliberately continue to watch MTV and I will tell every 15-24 year old I meet that I am a viewer! And in addition to sharing this bit of news with them,  I’ll make really lame comments and jokes about what I’ve seen; the type of comments and jokes that only an out of touch old lady would make. I won’t, however, watch any of the other networks you run, you know the ones that I am allowed to watch. And finally, I’ll write a blog post about it ’cause that’s what bitterly or sneeringly distrustful people do.
Van Toffler, a.k.a. the alienator

What do you think? Smart move for MTV’s head honcho to publicly kick Gen X to the curb? How about his pronouncement that the younger set (you know the ones who idolize Heidi and Spencer) are more civically minded?  According to Toffler, “Millennials are really about authentic reality and family.”

I Know Who Snooki Is and Yes, I Saw Her Get Punched.

I’ll admit it.  I more than “know” who Snooki is, I have actually watched an episode and a half of MTV’s Jersey Shore.   I also watch Million Dollar Listing, The Real Housewives (doesn’t matter where they are from, I watch them), Prep School and before it was taken off the air, Rock of Love. And, to prove that I am not totally stuck in the gutter when it comes to my reality television viewing, I’ll add that I regularly watch Top Chef and MTV’s Teen Moms and True Life. Those shows have some educational value, right?  

I could say that I watch reality television as a way of staying current.  Or, better yet, that I do it as a way to monitor what my 16-year-old is watching.  If I am also watching then she and I can discuss how disgusting it was that Snooki was punched by a drunk male teacher.  Together we can examine how tough it is for teen moms to parent.  We can bond over discussion centered on how Bret Michaels has gone too far with the Botox and wonder how much hair is left under his bandana.   And discuss it we do.  But the truth is, I watch these shows because I can’t help myself!

It’s true, I’m addicted.  I like to think of myself as well-read and sophisticated and when it comes to some things, I am.  I watch documentaries and listen to NPR.  If I am home during the day, CNN is on.  But when the sun goes down and I am ready to turn my brain off for the day, I turn to Bravo, MTV or E! to help me numb (dumb) out.

I grew up watching Norman Lear’s classics: Maude, All in the Family and The Jeffersons.  I loved Mash.  As a child I definitely watched too much television, but at least it wasn’t junk.  I learned about racism, women’s rights and the clearly dysfunctional but somehow functioning family.   I laughed and cried and didn’t feel like I needed to take a shower after watching.  TV shows such as those are a thing of the past.   Yes, occasionally  a great series does make it to air and if we are really fortunate will last a season or two. Friday Night Lights comes to mind as do The Office and Monk. Shows such as these are the exception and not the rule.  There hasn’t been a show as great as Freaks and Geeks since Freaks and Geeks and that is nothing short of a travesty.

I am aware that I am part of the problem.  The fact that I eagerly lap up cheap to produce reality TV drivel encourages producers and networks to serve up more of the same.  It is a vicious cycle, no?   If I can redeem myself slightly it is by saying that even I have limits.  I refuse to watch the Charm School franchise or anything that involves cheating or repeated use of the word “hoe.” Which brings me to this, I stopped watching Rock of Love when the bus came into play. Even I have my standards.

Time to ‘fess up, do you too know who Snooki is?