Much to my own surprise, I just couldn’t do it this year. Truth is, I just decided not to. For years I’ve been watching the MTV Music Video Awards. I don’t think I’ve missed one since they started. Every year I’d assume my spot on the couch with pen and legal pad in hand. In recent years, my laptop’s been at my side. I’ve watched carefully, processed, thought about, and written/blogged on this annual event that serves as a cultural barometer. I’m convinced that the VMAs offer a window into where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going as a culture. That hasn’t changed.
So, what happened this year? I spent the days leading up to last night’s show preparing to watch. Then, halfway through the afternoon the thought of watching became increasingly troubling to me. I sensed strongly that there would be better ways to spend my time. One of the things I’ve learned over the course of 21-plus years of full-time youth culture watching is that sometimes you just get tired, especially when culture watching includes a lot of trudging through muck. It wears you out. That’s where I was at yesterday. I was too tired to be looking for signs of life in the midst of what always turns out to be two-hours of discouraging muck that all-too-often leaves me grieving over the muck-makers and the kids who so willingly ingest the muck. Make sense?
As the VMAs kicked off last night, I climbed into bed with a book. I decided to use the time to focus on the light that penetrates our cultural darkness. The book that seemed most appropriate to me was a new book that’s been sitting next to my bed ever since it arrived. Byran Chapell’s The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach is a collection of sermons preached by some highly respected contemporary preachers in response to some of life’s hardest circumstances in tragic times. I read George Robertson’s sermon that he preached at the funeral of a teenager who had committed suicide. I also read Dan Doriani’s sermon in response to the tragedy of child abuse. Both sermons threw the reassuring light of God’s Word into the midst of the darkness of two social problems that pervade youth culture today. I went to sleep pondering the life-giving realities of God’s Word rather than two-hours of mostly-troubling sermonizing by the cultural icons who are nurturing our kids. I’m glad I did.
At some point I’ll be watching this year’s VMAs. It just couldn’t be last night. All of us need to regularly step away to pause, pray, and reflect on that which is timeless and true. For me, one of those times was last night.
I always enjoy reading your post VMA comments to see if I am getting any better at “getting it”. I felt like last night was a turning point in some respects. To me the simple emergence of a classy and timeless talent like Adele gives young people an option to clanging cymbal that is pop music. She sings well and dresses classy and seems so comfortable in her own skin. Also, Russell Brand sent a good message about drug and alcohol abuse in a tribute speech to Amy Winehouse. He’s normally carefree about anything serious, but stewarded the opportunity well. Beyonce celebrated pregnancy and she was married long before conception.
A couple of dark spots to me were Gaga being Gaga and acting as her male alter ego through the shows entirety (though I think she is close to marginalizing herself). And Tyler the creator…..looks like the youngest group of hip-hopsters in years and used foul language and his cronies were all drinking in his acceptance speech. All in all though I think you will be pleasantly surprised when you watch.
Walt I completely understand! Its encouraging to know it’s ok to step back and refocus, refresh, and recharge!! Sometime teens don’t get it, but you’ve encouraged me as I’m recharging!! GOD BLESS!!
I was sad to read your blog this morning because I always look forward to your insights about the VMAs. HOWEVER, I completely understand. The muck and mire was thick last night. Here are some of the observations that I’m pondering today. I’m still trying to process what Lady Gaga did as she took on the persona of a man throughout the show. Women were the centerpiece of the show, through tributes and performances. They were still objectified but yet focused on with more positive lights also. Sadly, the seven second delay bleep was used consistently throughout the telecast. Justin Bieber thanked God and Jesus, which seemed to be a deliberate choice of words. I found that interesting. The Jersey Shore gang was glorified and mocked throughout the show. I found the Amy Winehouse tribute interesting as her talent was praised and alcoholism was acknowledged she was embraced for who she was, struggles and all. A ray of light–“the married” Beyonce sharing the news of her pregnancy.
I look forward to reading your comments Walt after you watch the show, but prepare yourself for the muck and mire.
The comments are great! I was hoping some of you would step up and provide some analysis. Good stuff. In addition, I think it is important to step back from time to time to just refuel. So glad some of you are doing that as well. Balance is so so important in this endeavor, isn’t it?