Waiting for Another Kennedy Assassination
I give this question a lot of thought, often right before veering into oncoming traffic.
I have decided that the blame for this and many other ills falls squarely on the massive shoulders of what I like to think of as the scourge of the 20th century: MTV.
If you don't watch MTV, I salute you; but I must admit that I am drawn to it by the same macabre curiosity that causes people to slow down and crane their necks when they drive past twisted car wrecks. Of course a fatal car wreck is not nearly so disturbing as what can be found on MTV.
For starters, the programming is just unspeakably bad. The Real World is a series of half-hour human rights violations -- I am unable to watch it for even a couple of minutes before I need to be restrained from trying to kill myself. Statistically you would think that with all the people in all the casts of The Real World, the producers would have accidentally cast someone who was mildly interesting, who had a tiny little bit of depth. But they have managed to defy the odds thus far. Road Rules is only slightly better, but that's just because the cast members are put in life-threatening situations.
Speaking of shows that make me pray for the sweet release of death -- everyone with a frontal lobe, you've been Singled Out! This abortion seems to be cast with everyone who wasn't interesting enough to make it onto The Real World. It stars Chris Hardwick as the Annoying Guy Who Yells Things that Aren't Funny, Jenny McCarthy as the Grotesque Mugging Former Co-Host, and Carmen Electra as the Mind-Numbingly Stupid Replacement for the Hateful Ms. McCarthy. If the people on this show truly comprised the available dating pool you can rest assured that I would long ago have moved to Guatemala and procured myself a harem of squirrel monkeys.
I have recently seen that there is a new show called 12 Angry Viewers wherein 12 know-nothing rubes (referred to in this case as MTV viewers) are dragged in from the street to make commentary on various videos under the pretense that their opinions:
...neither of which, of course, is true. I would rather saw my own head off with rusty wire than watch this show, so I've never seen it and can't actually comment on it. Except to say that it sucks.
Then there are the VJs. This group is certainly dog-paddling around in the shallow end of the gene pool. At least in the olden days each VJ had some distinguishing feature. Mark Goodman had bad hair. Allan Hunter had bad hair. Martha Quinn had bad hair and did a lot of coke. But now there is this endless parade of unmemorable, droning automatons. There's the "wacky" chick, the ethnic chick, the fat guy, the guy who likes to have sex with animals, and so on. I can't even tell the difference any more, nor do I wish to.
And the music. The music featured on MTV is, for the most part, an abomination, an insult to all life, a steel-toed kick to the ribs of the corpse of artistic integrity. Hey, Billy Joe, I heard scientists have discovered a third chord! I could go on for volumes and volumes about how profoundly awful it is but I fear I would work myself into a frothing rage. Besides, despite the fact that it is I who wrote this article, it actually does have a point -- and the point is not the phenomenal extent to which the music on MTV sucks. So I will just state for the record that the music is dreadful nearly beyond description and move on.
"Rich," you might say. "If you don't appreciate the oracle to stupidity that is MTV, then don't watch it." To which I would reply by burning you alive in strict accordance with local fire codes. Because you see, my little hobgoblin: I can't not watch. MTV has left the TV and become a part of society -- and a powerful part at that. The natures of several industries, most obviously the music industry, have changed to supply to their biggest demographic: MTV viewers. And they tend to ignore everyone else. Pre-MTV, for example, musicians could succeed via touring or airplay on the radio, which provided a forum for many different types of music, including in some cases music that was innovative and artistically sound. But these days, musicians are doomed to failure if they do not hammer their material into the rather narrow format which renders it acceptable for MTV -- a forum which is far more limited than radio or the touring circuit.
And this is why MTV is worthy of such contempt -- they actually have influence and are using it for evil rather than good. I'm not spouting standard PMRC garbage here. If they want to show nudity and violence I think that's great -- it will distract me from how awful the music is. I am referring to the manner in which MTV has slowly but surely steered its contents, and thus its viewers, and thus the output of the music industry, down the path of increasing mediocrity and away from such annoyances as integrity, creativity, free thought, and individuality.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that MTV is the progenitor of mediocrity in pop culture. Mediocrity has always been, and will continue to be, with us. What MTV has done has been to give stupidity a voice -- a loud, almost overpowering voice. And with MTV's ever-increasing army of slack-jawed followers and continued downward spiral into mediocrity, this voice will only become more powerful.
Got a comment? Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.