VMAs: If You Scandalize It, They Will Come


Ah, the VMAs. If the media wanted to make an awards show that made me feel old, cranky, and fun-hating, they couldn’t have done better. Even the Teen Choice Awards feel sophisticated in comparison with last night’s crap-tastic spectacular (don’t believe me? Watch Ashton Kutcher’s acceptance speech at this year’s TCAs, and then compare it with whatever the heck aired last night. Hmm.)

And yet, is this really anything different than what we expected? Let’s consider last night’s most enduring, cringe-inducing four minutes: Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke. Briefly. Because the point I’d like to make today is why we should only consider it to convince others to stop considering it.

It’s no secret how I feel about Robin Thicke. I’m convinced, and I’m not alone, that he is capitalizing on shock tactics and female objectification to generate buzz about a sub-par song and a perfectly average singing voice. Would anyone have listened to “Blurred Lines” if it wasn’t accompanied by the most scandalous video of the summer? Probably not. It’s catchy, but it’s not a work of musical genius. Yet here I am, blogging about it.

Now let’s pull back and think about the VMAs in a larger context. Does anyone here remember what VMA actually stands for? If you guessed Video Music Awards, you get five brownie points. The awards given out last night were for the most interesting, most award-worthy music videos.

What was the last music video you watched?

If you can’t remember, you’re probably not alone. If you want to catch videos on cable TV, unless you subscribe to some fancy channels you’re pretty much reduced to VH1 between the hours of 6 and 10 am. And considering the age demographic of people who used to watch music videos, I’m guessing very few of them are popping out of bed bright and early on a Wednesday morning to watch the latest Kanye vid.

What to do, then, to get people to flock to MTV in droves on August 25th to watch awards given out for videos they haven’t seen? Again, hmm. The dilemma leaves me scratching my head in confusion.

Except it doesn’t.

Shock tactics have been in use at least since the Romans began performing live executions in their theater performances. Want to get people to watch your show? Give them the promise of something they couldn’t see anywhere else. Give them something gratuitous to talk about. Make it not about the actual awards, but the glitz, the glamour, the meme-worthy-ness of the spectacle as a whole.

If you scandalize it, they will come.

And scandalize it they did. I’m not going to recap Miley and Robin’s performance for a few reasons: one because I was half-watching, half-playing Bejeweled Blitz at the time, two because giving it any more write-up is playing into the problem, three because if you really didn’t see it, the folks at Jezebel have already taken care of that. But what could be more buzz-worthy than the creepy-sexually-inappropriate Robin Thicke taking total and inappropriate advantage of a coked-out ex-Disney-Star while being surrounded by teddy bears?

I expect we’ll find out next year, since Miley’s already out-Kaneyed Kanye in our last edition of “VMAs did WHAT?”

I definitely feel sorry for Miley, mostly because she’s been forced to play into the virgin-whore dichotomy so clearly. You can either be a Disney star or an extra in a Robin Thicke video, and there’s no space in between for women, especially not in the entertainment industry. But all those who say she’s too young to know better and she’s being taken advantage of need to consider how old she actually is. She’s only six months younger than me, which is slightly unnerving. It’s a social game she’s playing into, and while she’s not completely to blame for the latest move in it, she’s not completely innocent either.

So what do I think should be done about all of this?

Imagine this: next year, the VMAs put on all the glitz and glamour to shock us out of our senses. We have naked tightrope walkers snorting lines of crushed glass off of hundred-dollar bills while riding a bear on a unicycle. Eminem and Kanye get into a fistfight, and Lady Gaga starts swallowing swords shaped like dildos.

The next morning, the media is silent. Facebook talks about the weather. Twitter tweets placidly about nothing in particular. The New York Times reports the latest economic crisis.

And the year after, or maybe the year after that, or maybe decades down the road after repeat after repeat of the above scenario, the VMAs are a quiet, subdued affair that actually show music videos.

But NSYNC reunions can stay. I was born in the nineties, after all.


One comment

  1. I remember the VMA’s when I was a kid/teen. It was based on the actual music videos you saw on the channel – some of which I still have on a VHS somewhere. I haven’t watched the VMA’s for many years, but the few little clips I saw today disgusted me. I can’t believe how hard that girl is trying to make people talk about her. I wish she would realize that being a good role model and a classy person will also get you far.

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