Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Sunday, September 18, 2005


I Don't Want My MTV

MTV is on in my living room. My wife, who uses her mighty brain in massive ways at her job, sometimes likes to unwind with television programming that calls for slightly less mental acuity.

I should say for the record that I was never huge on the MTV. We had cable for a year or two when the 80s started. I remember mostly watching HBO a lot. To this day, I can tell you plot points from For Your Eyes Only and Time After Time, because HBO tended to show their movies about thrice daily for months and I watched them over and over and over whenever possible. Our cable provider didn't provide MTV, so we had to make do with Friday Night Videos and HBO's Video Jukebox, which ate up time between movies by showing the odd pop video here and there. The only video I really remember seeing on Video Jukebox is Olivia Newton John's "Physical", which didn't exactly have me hungry to feast on this particular mode of expression.

Then my family moved to an even tinier town where cable companies saw--and continue to see to this day--absolutely no potential for profit, given the sparse population and the number of cows they'd have to temporarily displace while stringing their cables. As a result, I never had MTV directly available to me until college. By that time, they'd started the process of focusing less on the M and more on the TV and, as endless repetition of the same C & C Music Factory clip didn't really do a lot for me, I found some of their programming actually appealed to my tastes.


The first season of The Real World, for example, I watched whenever possible. It was something new and different, that they would quickly turn into the televised equivalent of the Big Mac (the same every time; not terribly nutritious, but filling enough). Liquid Television had some interesting shorts on it, although I could never figure out if there was an actual complete story to Aeon Flux or if they'd just provided three random chunks that I was seeing every time I watched. I watched for another year or so, up until the network canceled The State and then I decided that I didn't care to be in MTV's target demographic, so I quit tuning in.

So when I walk through the apartment and my wife has it on occasionally, I am utterly appalled by what I see. I'm put off firstly because the people they show tend to be more than a decade younger than me and it makes me feel like I'm ready for a colostomy bag. But mostly I hate it because I can't figure out why in the name of weeping Jesus anybody would make shows like these. They've got one called Super Sweet 16, in which these brain-dead, vacuous Paris Hiltons-in-training throw themselves parties with a budget roughly equivalent to the GNP of medium-sized European countries. The thought that any parent enables their kids to do this makes me want to shoot them out of a cannon directly into a brick wall. Then there's Laguna Beach, which is the exact same thing without the birthdays. I've also seen a "documentary series" they run called I Want a Famous Face, in which young people with less than no self-esteem are butchered and sewn back together by doctors to look more like Jessica Simpson.

Now, I'm not too stupid to realize that all of these shows are possibly intended to either mock their subjects or at least show the audience that something's wrong with them. But I can't help but wonder if they don't do exactly the opposite. I can easily imagine a 14-year-old sitting in front of the tube, thinking, "Oh my God. Why can't I hire Linkin Park to play one of my parties? That's the kind of life I want!"

This is why I'm planning, when I have kids, to do my utmost to make sure the only cable channel they watch is C-SPAN. Plus maybe the occasional episode of Inside the Actor's Studio when I want to show them how assholes talk. Or maybe I'll just lock them in an isolation tank until they're old enough to get a job.