29 August 2013

Thanks MTV

I'm not sure I've uttered those words since I was in junior high watching Vanilla Ice perform on MTV. We didn't have cable at my house, so I'm pretty sure I was watching the performance in a hotel room while on vacation with my family. Back then, MTV was so cool.

I have to admit that I haven't thought much about MTV until recently. In fact, before I started teaching Introduction to Media & Culture this summer, I figured MTV was defunct - a victim of its own demise as well as the demise of the recording industry.

Turns out that MTV is still quite alive. And I want to thank MTV for hosting the Video Music Awards. I want to thank MTV for allowing Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke to perform their mash up of "We Can't Stop"/"Blurred Lines." Thank you, MTV, for opening up a debate/discussion about race and gender in this country in a way that even the media coverage of the George Zimmerman case didn't, and perhaps couldn't, address (sadly). MTV didn't mean for this to happen, of course. But in the wake of the coverage, there has been appropriate (and inappropriate) backlash to the performance - all addressing how we see race and gender in this country - and how the media, both consciously and unconsciously, promote very offensive and troubling pictures of both.

I've heard Thicke's "Blurred Lines" a total of once this summer. I didn't really stop to listen to the lyrics, but it turns out that they're disgusting and hugely inappropriate. I love that people (men included) are talking about what this means for domestic violence and sexual assault.

When I first watched the performance I was shocked, confused and mostly sick of seeing Miley's tongue. But the more I read about it, the more shocked and confused me. Ninjakate wrote an outstanding piece about the objectification of black women in the performance - something that didn't even occur to me when I watched the clip.

On Monday, the news and social media were abuzz - mostly condemning Miley for her actions. It became front page, top of the hour news. Some people argued that we should just ignore it. But others, like those above, started deconstructing the powerful images that appeared. The Onion published a great piece criticizing the media about their coverage of the performance. While I agree that Miley wasn't necessarily news, I do think the reaction to her is news - of the good sort - news that makes us question our reality - as presented by the media and by society in general.

So, thanks MTV, for NOT questioning this performance and airing it so that we all had the opportunity to question it on a deeper, more productive level. MTV has helped me think more about how to talk to my kids about sexuality, gender and race - and what is real versus what we see in the media. Certainly, this is not going to change the way we think about race and gender in this country, but open and honest dialogue is always a first step to create meaningful change.


Amanda said...
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Introduction to Media & Culture said...

Thanks Amanda. I don't often post "political" things here, but when I do I feel pretty passionate about them. Finally put Callywood on my blog list so I don't miss anything!