”Sesame Street” is rather like the cradle of short attention span theater’s “civilization.” Thirty seconds of this, one minute of that, bada-bing, bada-boom, and out. Shows like “Sesame Street” pioneered this scattershot approach, cultivating the hasty mind-set of today’s young adults. But to their credit, they had first-rate intentions, moral lessons, albeit in the one-two punch style, and they delivered the Muppets. What the Children’s Television Workshop left in their wake, however, is a generation whose concentration is geared to brevity and scan-deep content. Enter MTV. Even the target audience thinks its stuff is patronizing and brainless.
Take Tanya, a teen with a weekend job at a local boutique. When I tell her how appalled I am at the MTV onslaught, she agrees: “I get home from school and put the TV on. There’ll be talk shows so I tend to watch MTV…it has teenagers and stuff. But it’s so stupid. It caters to this dumb-jock stereotype of American teenagers and it’s got music that’s seriously offensive. This is how they see us and this isn’t how we are.”
Muppets recited practical aphorisms and alphabet lessons. Muppets had intelligence, wit and still carried the now-challenged tradition of melodious music with depth and meaning. MTV has loud, lyric-dubious tune-ruins full of sex and violence, a real in-your-face-attitude. It has sunk to new depths of inanity that slithers by under the name “entertainment.”
Yo yo yo yo… it’s Funk Doc, where the weed at, bitch?
I speed backwards down a one-way from cops - see that shit? –Method Man, Blackout
Listening to the pulsating ersatz rhythm and “lyrics” that push drugs and foul language (I won’t even talk about grammar), any sane parent would find it hard to sit with even a fake smile while MTV rattles the china. It’s fortunate that its influence gets bunged by the smarter teens, but MTV has created a different kind of way around the counter-culture: it degrades women and promotes promiscuity. It infects the teenage world. Says Vanessa, another neighborhood teenager: “Yeah, it’s full of sex all right. You watch and say, ‘Ohmygod, what are they doing now?’ It broadcasts a bad image about who we are….People don’t understand what’s really on a teenager’s mind.”
Rapper Eminem thinks he knows: Wait, I mean I’ve lost my mind, I can’t find it
I’m freestylin’ every verse that I spit
cause I don’t even remember the words to my shit (umm, one two)
I told the doc I need a change in sickness
and gave a girl herpes in exchange for syphilis
Put my LP on your Christmas gift list
You wanna get high, here bitch just sniff this
–Song: “Cum on Everybody”
What do teens want? That’s a tough one. They want everything. But they want to be taken seriously, not treated like bimbos or drug addicts who can’t think for themselves. They want to be treated with respect as they climb out of childhood and into adolescence. This leaves MTV out. That benighted, greedy, imbecilic channel delivers a Niagara of gyrating crooners who can’t be much older than 19, every one of them designed to seduce.
Women all grabbin’ at my shishkabob
Bought Lauryn Hill’s tape so her kids could starve
According to Jeanine, Tanya’s co-worker: “It’s supposed to be the music first and then the video, but they changed that. Now it’s all about the video and how sexy they can make it… MTV used to bring new music to teens. A really long time ago, I heard it was good. Even my mom liked it. It changed.”
But it isn’t all about the un-music of today’s once-upon-a-time Music Television. MTV reaches a spanking new rock bottom with its reality shows. The spring break programs are a barefaced (and bare-many-parts) composite of MTV doing their worst at their best. Booze and drug parties, half-nude teens running around brainlessly and aimlessly…no, I take that back, not without purpose: they’re running in front of the camera. This is their fifteen seconds –shorter clock now– of fame. I’ll never forget my youngest daughter, on the cusp of teendom, coming into my study from her room, where MTV was airing one of its reality shows early in the evening. “Mom? What’s a threesome?”
MTV races around the world, preferably to locations where one can wear practically nothing, touting all kinds of hedonistic “how to live like a cool person” specials.
“Spring break? A lot of drunken idiots. One teen wrote in how it was dumb, and the VJ laughed at this ‘dork.’ I mean, he…got laughed at for telling the truth!”
Thank you, Serena, another voice from the abused audience.
MTV didn’t plummet to sensationalist techniques overnight. It’s been going on for a long time. In 2001, MTV scheduled 18 hours of programming on so-called hate-crimes. But the programming was designed to make whites, exclusively whites, into the enemy. A killing purportedly committed by Caucasians in Wichita, Kansas was cited and sensationalized. Never mind that there are bias crimes against homosexuals, against Hispanics, et ceterea, committed by a variety of ethnic groups; this was about denouncing Caucasians and Caucasians alone. Anything for ratings, so now they want to throw us into a 1962 Birmingham mentality?
Between the rebel rap, angry heavy metal, drugs references, social distortion and sex, sex, sex, I want to throw the TV out the window, but I can’t. Television provides a sizeable portion of my teen’s social currency and in fact, I can’t shield her from what is so aurally and visually pervasive.
MTV is a notch below useless. It’s injurious. They have sold their socio-political souls to Mammon, in the form of commercials and explicit videos.
…Nuttin’ but some gangsters, smokin’ and ridin’ (YO!)
Come on get high with us (NIGGA!)
Come on and ride with us (BITCHES!)
Cause, we’re.. nuttin’ but some gangsters (YO!) smokin’ and ridin’ (YO!)
People marched and fought for civil rights…for this?
Given the marked reduction in racial tensions in American society, MTV actually fosters antagonistic attitudes. Sex sells, violence sells, and discrimination sells even better.
…in the mornin’ I’ll be gone a nigga makin’ my way, OK
I keep em jumpin’ like the jacks to little macks, my netti
ready for confedi and FUCK what they tryin’ to tell me
I’m bout to get it and the only way I know
is rappin’ if it don’t happen I’m makin bitches hit the flo’, you know
–Young Bleed, My Balls and My Word
What are these programmers thinking? Are they thinking at all? Yo, anyone home up there? I envision a bunch of Frappuccino-guzzling, thirty-eight year olds who once aspired to write sitcoms. These are bottom-feeders who only care about the bottom line, so they kiss off quality and air a lot of scantily-clad, sashaying “booty,” the new lingo for “rear-end,” FYI.
It’s as much what they say and do as what they don’t say or do. A “veteran teen” (now almost twenty) viewpoint: “What’s lacking here is intelligence. ‘Clone High’ was intelligent. It had an intelligent idea, at least. But in general it’s [MTV] awful. There’s good hip hop but they have programming for the lowest common denominator. It’s a crowd of idiots. They make teens look stupid. And we’re not.”
Instead of “It’s not easy being green,” Kermit might sing, “It’s not easy being a teen.”
Can you tell me how to get…how to get to Sesame Street?
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here