Monday, August 1, 2011

Not a Tribute to MTV

I was thinking about writing something to commemorate the 30th anniversary of MTV's debut. What I came up with were three reasons not to write something to commemorate the 30th anniversary of MTV's debut. Here they are.

1. This picture.

Like everyone else in the world writing about MTV's birthday, I searched for an image of the original MTV VJs. There they are, as they first appeared on August 1, 1981: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, and the late J.J. Jackson.

The 80s started with two afros, a couple of striped shirts, and quite possibly history's worst perm.

I showed this picture to Precocious Daughter and told her, "These people were so cool at the time." She laughed in my face, and she was right to do so. That's reason number one to not go all retro-nostalgic over MTV.

2. My family didn't get cable until 1985.

I spent many, many hours watching MTV in the 80s. It was how you kept up on what was new, hip, and entertaining back then. I don't think the "social media" fully appreciate how much the experience of absorbing pop culture by staring at a screen owes to MTV.

But it had been on the air for three and a half years before I ever saw it at home. I'm not going to wax lyrical over the halcyon days of 1982 and 1983, because other than occasionally watching it at a friend's house, MTV wasn't part of my life then. It wasn't a part of a lot of people's lives. When it launched, MTV reached about two million homes in the U.S. (compare that to 2011's global reach of 640 million households worldwide). So saying that you watched the early days of MTV is like saying you were at Woodstock - probably 90% of those who make the claim are either lying or letting their memories run away with them. Or on drugs. Yeah, most likely on drugs.

Now, if you want a long, rambling, sappy dissertation about the 30th anniversary of Live Aid or the first Monkees reunion, come back in 2015 and 2016, respectively. I'll happily bore you to tears.

Yep, I'm mentioning the Monkees again.
3.  I don't really care.

So many clever commentator on the Internets, there are! All lamenting the downfall of "Empty-Vee," all stridently advocating for the return of music videos to Music Television, all ranting against the vapid, trashy reality shows that make up the majority of MTV's programming now.

Chill, people.

OK, so you have fond memories of watching videos in your parents' basement. Do you still live there? Oh God, some of you probably do. But that doesn't mean it's not pathetic to pine for the days when your entire life consisted of channel-surfing and waiting for the new Duran Duran video to come up in the rotation. I was partial to Dire Straits myself, but whatever.

Don't laugh, these were the best computer graphics we had ever seen.
Even if MTV decided to dump "Jersey Shore" and all its other other tacky crap shows tomorrow, and go back to playing mostly music videos, it wouldn't start playing Twisted Sister or Howard Jones or even Nirvana. And if you're a 40-year-old couch potato who wishes s/he could spend all day watching Ke$ha or Black Eyed Peas or [insert teenybopper sensation here], then get a grip. Or at least hook your flat-screen TV up to YouTube and go nuts. That's what we do in this century.

You don't want your MTV. You want your childhood back.

So happy birthday, MTV. I don't watch you any more. I still listen to vinyl records sometimes, and I've been known to rock some vintage 80s jewelry when I'm feeling kicky. But unlike you, those things I think are still cool. And, you know, relevant.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.