By Liz -
MTV is a true child of the 80’s and 90′s – when it first debuted, it was controversial, pushed boundaries, and gave a voice (and music) to an opinionated but under-the-radar generation. The magic of early MTV was not just its 24/7 music, videos, and VJs, but its sheer ballsy irreverence to the status quo. Ultimately, MTV took what was happening in young people’s lives and made it relevant on a large scale in a meaningful, cool way.
It was MTV that gave us “The Real World”, which paved the way for reality TV as we have now come to know and love. The show was also one of the first to portray an openly gay man with AIDS (Pedro Zamora) on a popular media platform. MTV also gave us “True Life”, another form of reality TV that gave the rest of the world a window in the struggles, and triumphs of people with taboo lives, such as people with addictions, high ambitions, disorders, and more.
MTV was also the network to largely encourage the younger generation to take an interest in their nation at large and exercise their civil right to vote. In 1992, MTV used the power of music and celebrity allure to engage youth in politics with Rock the Vote. According to Rock the Vote, the youth turnout rate in 2004 was 49%, an increase of 9% points over the 2000 election. And in 2008, 18-29 year olds’ turnout rate increased by nearly 6% points over 2004 levels, the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election.
The OJBG characters in Season 6 are living in the summer of ’97 and they’d be a prime target for Rock the Vote. They’re at the ripe age before turning 18, and honestly, how else do you get teens to care about politics except through the awesome power of music and pop stars? Just think how impressionable teens are. Back in the opening scene of the very first episode of OJBG, Sarah says to Kris that sometimes she thinks the only reason she drinks orange juice is because of the song that’s playing. If not for the love of politics, MTV involved teens in the political dialogue by promoting the music and stars that teens like OJBG’s Sarah looked up to. In the 90s, Rock the Vote reached out to teens by featuring legends like Madonna, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Sheryl Crow, The Beastie Boys, Wyclef Jean, and Third Eye Blind. I love this commercial of Madonna, with her makeup artist and hairdresser, promoting the first Rock the Vote in 1992: “Voting for a president is like hiring help-I want references!”
Since its golden ages, MTV has produced mind-numbing shows, such as “MTV Cribs” and “My Super Sweet 16”, and is now known for its somewhat controversial shows “Jersey Shore” and “16 and Pregnant”. If drunken douchebags and trixies, and pregnant teenieboppers are now considered controversial, there’s something wrong with the 00’s. What was once a radical, subversive media outlet has disappointingly turned into black hole of crude, uninspired entertainment.
Perhaps like MTV, the 2012 election has met its highly anticipated end. So, did you cast your vote? Or were you at home watching reruns of Jersey Shore?