Youth Culture Window
I love movies… and I love good TV. But the MTV Movie Awards always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
First, understand how powerful an influence MTV has on our kids. It’s amazing if you think about it. MTV pre-dates cell phones, iPods, Xbox and the internet. MTV filled homes across the world while MySpace creator Tom was still in diapers. Jordon Sparks and Chris Brown had yet to sing together… actually, they weren’t even born when MTV already “owned” a young generation. That generation has already grown up and is raising kids of their own. These kids now watch the same channel their parents watched, just with less videos, more reality shows, and much more sexual references per hour.
As we rolled into the new millennium, when everyone had an email address, a cell phone number and a Starbucks addiction, MTV was still named the top choice for advertisers who wanted to reach teenagers.
Now, in 2008, MTV still “owns,” although now they probably share the crown with Nick, American Idol, Facebook and iTunes. But on this past Sunday night, all eyes were on MTV for their annual MTV Movie Awards hosted by Michael Myers and featuring every celeb imaginable, from Will Smith to Juno’s Ellen Page.
I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’m biased. I don’t like MTV. As a parent, I struggle with a channel that gladly peddles smut to our kids to make a buck. Think about it for a second. If a man walked up to our kids in a grocery store and starting talking about the content that MTV doesn’t hesitate sharing every day… most parents would be either calling security or smacking the individual. But what do we do? We reward this individual and give him free reign over our children. It’s mind blowing.
So last night I sat down to try to stomach another year of what MTV had to offer. As a movie fan I normally would enjoy Michael Myers, Will Smith and Jack Black…but not this night. Not on this channel.
After the “gold carpet” pre-show with “role models” like Diddy, Paris Hilton, and the Pussy Cat Dolls, the show started with a creative introduction from Michael Myers that had a few chuckling moments.
The show went downhill from there. I’ll highlight the good and bad for you quickly, share some of the trends I noticed this year, and finally make two suggestions of how we can respond as parents and youth workers.
The Good Part of the Show:
- I always enjoy seeing Chris Brown dance—a very talented young man.
- It was fun to hear Coldplay’s new song performed live.
- And I was truly excited this year when all the nominees for their annual “Best Kiss” award were actually a kiss between a guy and a girl!
Well, that wraps up the good. Here’s the bad.
The Bad Part of the Show:
- Every year the show seems to award a bunch of movies that parents wouldn’t really want their kids watching. Considering that MTV is the “top-rated network in the 12-24 demographic,” it’s discouraging that racy R-rated movies like Knocked Up, Superbad and Sex in the City were in the lineup.
- The show featured a moment that is probably the most blatant televised promotion for smoking weed that I’ve ever seen. Seth Rogan and James Franco lit up a big fatty joint and smoked it live right in front of thousands of cheering fans.
- This show is a gateway drug to other MTV shows. They consistently plugged other trashy MTV shows like The Real World and Tila Tequila where the commercial featured a lengthy shot of two girls passionately kissing. They also plugged new shows like House Bunny, where a playboy bunny moves into a sorority… oh… why even bother explaining. Sigh.
- Almost every commercial break cut to a piece of Usher’s “Let’s Make Love in This Club” video.
- Michael Myers, as funny as he is, never ceased to cross the line. Somehow, he seemed to twist every little introduction into something sexual. “Our next presenters did a movie together called The Foot Fist Way and surprisingly, it’s not a celebrity sex tape.” Other times he played creatively quirky characters including his sketch as an ex-porn star who now caters for movies. She (Myers) told us to be careful what we “put in our mouths.”
- At first I was excited because they brought Dana Carvey in as a guest to do a live “Wayne’s World” sketch with Mike Myers. I was amazed with what they got away with on TV, joking about “pubes,” porn film titles, and a whole little bit about proclaimed bi-sexual Tila Tequila reaching down the front of people’s pants and being satisfied with whatever she finds down there (complete with hand gestures). It was embarrassingly graphic.
- As a whole, the show was a giant infomercial. At times, it was hard to decipher between the show and advertisements. I wasn’t alone in this observation.
- MTV’s commercials always bother me, but at the same time, I think MTV tips their hand with their advertisements. It’s very clear what kind of audience they expect with their advertisements for new “unrated” movies and racy reality shows.
This Year’s Trends
Every year I notice certain trends in pop culture programming. The 2008 MTV Movie Awards revealed plenty. But three trends seemed to float to the top.
A Warped Sense of Heroes
In a world where many kids feel ignored by their parents, a void can grow in their lives. Kids seek heroes. If mom and dad aren’t there… who remains?
Enter Seth Rogan and The PussyCat Dolls stage right.
Don’t worry mom and dad, your little boy could grow up just like what Seth portrays: smoking pot, cursing, and joking incessantly about sex and porn. And your little girl can someday do soft-core porn routines like a Pussycat Doll.
Or maybe it’s something a little more subtle. Take Tranformer’s Megan Fox for example, wearing a dress shorter than her dad’s t-shirt, and her only comment on stage being “Transformers II is going to be f***ing bad*ss!” How’s that for a hero?
This year’s MTV Movie Awards provided plenty of these “anti-roll models.” People you’d never want your kids to hang out with… yet we give them standing ovations. Adam Sandler, Diddy, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan… need I go on?
Gross-out humor springboarded to mainstream exactly a decade ago with the success of the 1998 Farrelly Brothers’ movie There’s Something About Mary. Since then, movies have strived to push the limits, and MTV has followed suit. MTV’s Jackass is synonymous with “gross-out.” So it was no surprise to see even more of it in full gear on this year’s show. From the sketch where a monkey gets freaky with the MTV popcorn trophy (right before getting covered with snot, urine and more) to Mike Myer’s unremitting, over-the-top sexual jokes.
This paragraph probably appears redundant, but gross-out humor is probably only one sub category of displaying “no limits.” MTV excels at letting loose with no limits. Mike Myers’ jokes didn’t stop at gross out humor (like his sketch where he was eating fecal matter), then ventured to the sexual, homo-sexual and even bestiality. Nothing was out of bounds. And we’re raising a generation of kids that don’t see much as “off limits.”
So what can we do as parents and youth workers?
- Connect with our kids.
It happens all the time. A parent catches a true glimpse of their kid’s world and throws a tizzy! Don’t overreact and throw your TV out the window or ground your kids for a year. I say it in every parent workshop I teach—I can’t emphasize it enough: “Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.” As a parent or a youth worker, we need to get to know our kids. Connecting means learning their interests, listening to their dreams, and noticing their needs. A relationship is the starting point for building values into them and talking with kids about issues of discernment. And the greatest gift we can give our kids is TIME.
- Build lasting values.
We need to teach the importance of guidelines to a “no limits” generation. As believers in Christ we can point to the Word. When this world cleverly lies to us and tells us that “everything is okay,” our kids should see the Bible as an unchanging source of truth. Paul talks about this truth we can hold on to in the book of Ephesians. “Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:14-15)
Parents, it is okay to say, “Sorry, that doesn’t belong in our house.” We need to teach Biblical discernment.
Discernment might begin with blocking MTV.
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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