It seems like a lifetime ago -- before Tipper Gore cravenly
backed out of the culture-criticism business so her husband could more
effectively mine that Hollywood cash -- that MTV was criticized for its racy
music videos. What began more than 20 years ago as a music channel today is
mostly the headquarters for envelope-pushing, teen-driven sex and violence.
The "M" really ought to stand as a rating, except the last thing MTV cares
for is mature audiences.
How bad is it? A new survey by the Parents Television Council
analyzing last season's worst shows on basic cable television found that no
less than five of the 10 worst shows on basic cable originate on MTV. None
has anything to do with music, either.
There's "The Andy Dick Show," a truly weird and unfunny
sketch-comedy program from the former co-star on NBC's "NewsRadio." In one
skit, Andy plays host of a MTV "dating" show called "100 Percent Sex-cess,"
which forces contestants to have sex with one another almost immediately.
That's not too far off from the attitudes displayed across the schedule,
including the infamous weeks of spring-break coverage.
The most representative display of the MTV ethos is "Undressed,"
the teen-titillating show with an enormous and rotating cast of copulating
characters. We're not supposed to really get to know any of them, since
perhaps we'd conclude that they are hopelessly adulterous, pathologically
afraid of commitment, or worse yet, boring after too much exposure.
Let's be blunt. Adults with access to real pornography can
easily replace this playground with stronger stuff. This network is not
meant for them. MTV is sex entertainment, soft-porn designed specifically
for teenagers who can't easily hit the seedy side of town with a fake ID
card. Nearly every type of sexual adventure is fair game for the show. If
you want to wear a panda suit with leather underwear, go ahead.
But I'll tell you one idea that's too ridiculous for display:
Consequences. No one gets pregnant. No one catches a venereal disease. No
one is doing anything immoral or wrong. In a very real sense these "reality"
TV shows are based on anything
MTV was a real pioneer in this pseudo-reality genre some years
ago when it introduced "The Real World." Here MTV throws a bevy of
exotically named college kids into a house so the audience can watch all the
pairing and fighting as it happens. Obedient to Hollywood's cultural rules,
the show always carries a gay character, sometimes more than one. Also in
keeping with the rules of moral relativism it usually features one religious
(which is to say, repressed) person who will realize the errors of his
conservative ways by the fourth episode. It's not that these characters
aren't given some sympathetic portrayal; it's just that this sympathy is
expressed because the youngster has been so warped in his upbringing.
But that concept's getting a little old, so MTV made a big
splash last year with "The Osbournes," documenting the dysfunctional family
of drug-addled rock dinosaur Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy sits around his house
mumbling so badly it almost requires subtitles. (The man is so
incomprehensible it must take a linguistic specialist in the censorship
booth to figure it out.) Ozzy's a passing fad and will serve as a role model
for no youngster, so the damage here is minimized. Still, it's rather sad
watching some politicians trying to appear hip by praising him because his
bizarre family is still intact, as if that's some sort of superhuman
The slate of five terrible timeslots is filled out by
"Celebrity Deathmatch," where youngsters get to enjoy coarse clay-animated
human cockfights, replete with the mandatory sexual overtones, between
caricatures of famous people. Watch "Little Richard" rip off his own nipples
and throw them at "L'il Kim"! Hey, how about "Sex and the City" star "Kim
Cattrall" being impaled on a giant dildo? You are probably offended,
disgusted reading these words. But not to worry: The show isn't aimed at
you. It's targeted to your children.
Any parent who takes a few nights sampling this platter will
find the inconsistency in barring children from attending R-rated movies
while letting them watch anything unsupervised at home. Eternal vigilance is
not just vital for the survival of our freedoms, it's the clarion call for
any parent allowing a television set in the house.