Sports has been doing up outrageous stuff for TV very well lately. On Monday Night Football this week the Cleveland Browns' new kid on the block, Johnny Manziel, flipped the bird during the live preseason game broadcast. Whether his gesture was aimed at the Browns' opponents, the Washington Redskins, or the media, or his many detractors, Manziel's flip-off got everyone talking about DrewCareyville again as much as LeBron's announcement in July. Just wait until the NFL season really starts.
Before that happens, TV gawkers will get the chance to rake in just about as much televised buffoonery that one can handle. This Sunday, the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards (aka the VMAs) hit the boob tube again. For over 20 years running Music Television's highly-pimped awards program has been very short on music and very long on televised misbehavior.
The VMAs have basically become this generation's Romper Room for young adults and grownups showing off with sexually suggestive tomfoolery and mouthing off. Judgements aside, this has been great for ratings from the beginning, and puts the MTV VMAs 2014 up there --in terms of sustainability-- with long-running standards like Meet The Press and Sesame Street.
What is odd and yet cyclical about the VMAs is the way the program supposedly catches us off-guard with its antics, and the way that it gets America's pants in a bunch. Especially parents.
Just a year ago Miley Cyrus took the headlines after "The Twerk", in which she planted herself square on the crotch of singer Robin Thicke, while Thicke nervously went on singing. What kept the headlines going ad nauseam for weeks were outraged viewers, particularly blogger parents --known in some circles as Mommy Bloggers-- who shot a barrage of editorials into the internet. Some came in the form of the "open letter" to teen daughters everywhere, while other protests came in the form of repetitive blogging and blogging.
To be truthful, Mylie's twerk episode was probably the best thing that could ever happen to parenting everywhere. Not only did this trending story gift your average suburbanite with extra traffic on their Tumblr page. Many who covered this non-topic got to jump up on a soap box while pretending to know something about pop music.
Yet all the outrage, all the posts, and all the rehash left one big unanswered question: Since when does television have some sort of responsibility to respect our intelligence? Or that of our children?
Looking back through the history of the music awards shows, America's outrage in 2013 over Miley seems late to the punch and a little misinformed. But also... fake.
At the 2009 VMAs, Kanye West literally stole the show and the microphone away from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speach, but that was pretty tame. At least compared to 2003, when Madonna made out on stage with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, both scantily dressed in white lace. But really, 2003 was a throwback, wasn't it? It was a nod to Madonna's 1984 chart-topping performance of "Like A Virgin", sung in a white wedding dress while rolling around the floor.
Oasis showed, however, in 1996, it's not just the girls who can do bad TV behavior. Singer Liam Gallagher, visibly drunk, spat on stage as he sang "Champagne Supernova up your bum", just months after making a similar scene at the Brit Awards. And in 1994, Snoop Dogg performed on stage right before he allegedly fled the scene and got arrested.
Above, Liam Gallagher of Oasis sticks the Brit Award you-know-where (1996). Below, Madonna way back in 1984 performs "Like A Virgin" with extra sexualism.(pics: MTV.com)
There weren't blogs back in 1984 but I'm sure there was outrage among both concerned parents and gossip philosophers over Madonna. Same with the VMAs in 1996, 2003 and later installments. Yet, in much the same way that MTV rehashes kitsch to get additional press and to get you talking, America always rehashes its need to be jacked up about something. Every television season, America gets outraged at a particular event involving some celebrity somewhere, whether or not what they're outraged about is actually that outrageous or even unexpected.
Sure, I get it. There are parents out there --mainly parents of girls and young women-- who are legitimately concerned that in today's society young women are encouraged to gather attention by objectifying themselves, especially on social media and TV. But at the same time, TV is NOT reality, even for the TV-obsessed among us with no life.
If you are outraged by what you see on music awards shows, "reality" TV, or even the news... well, remember that it's a free country. You have the choice as a viewer, a parent, or a concerned citizen not only to say no, but to change the channel. In today's 30,000 channel universe there's always a better choice.
Why not tune in to something else on the family flatscreen anyway? Maybe even Monday Night Football. Just be careful not to tune in when those rabble-rousing Cleveland Browns play.