I don’t remember the actual day that MTV launched (I was only 3 years old). I barely remember watching anything on MTV before 1990. That was around the time that pop culture actually mattered to me. From my pre-teen years to my high school years, MTV’s lineup has changed but I made sure I watched the shows that made sense to me.
What started out as a network for music and music video lovers have morphed into convenience store for teens, adults, dreamers and buttholes. Speaking of buttholes, never one to follow the “in crowd”, shows like Beavis & Butthead, Jackass and Celebrity Death Match never caught my attention. Maybe I was in a stage in my life where I wanted to be more more mature than I really was or maybe I didn’t see the humor, whatever the reason, I never watched those shows. However shows like Yo! MTV Raps, Daria, Real World and the Unplugged Series had me on pins and needles with anticipation of what new artist, new drama or remixed single I would hear or witness.
My parents weren’t too concerned with what I watched or listened to as long as it wasn’t obscene.
While 1991 shares many similarities with 2011, there are some obvious differences. In 1991, my mother’s main concern was trying to figure out the many translations for Naughty By Natures acronym “O.P.P.”. In 2011, a parent’s main concern is trying to interpret the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” to make sure it’s kid appropriate. In 1991, nudity was in the form Antonio Sabàto, Jr. showing his upper body strength as Janet Jackson’s love interest in the video for “Love Will Never Do”. Now, parents have to explain the meaning behind Ciara singing about sex as she shows off her flexible limbs in the video “Love Sex Magic”.
Although I confess to being fans of all of the artists mentioned above, times have definitely changed. Year after year MTV unapologetically pushes the envelope by playing racier videos, introducing us to subjective lyrics and programming that leaves parents nervous.
MTV often gets a bad rep for filling the heads of today’s youth with nonsense and turning everyday people into 15 to 25 minute celebrities. As a 33 year old woman, I don’t necessarily want my 13 year old son partaking in the MTV menu. But if he is, it’s important that I turn the network into a teaching tool instead of becoming anti-MTV.
There is a lesson to learn from shows like 16 & Pregnant, True Life and even Jersey Shore and it’s up to you to figure it out. If I tell you the lessons I would have to charge you. As a parent, it is up to us to turn the things in life that we wish our children were not exposed to into something they can learn from.
So as MTV turns 30 years old, my advice to you is to beware. If you think the last 30 years were a test to see how good of a parent you are, give it another 30 years……that will be the true test.