Dear MTV Video Music Awards,
Let’s talk about the hot mess that vaguely resembled a music awards ceremony. The joke was on us. Some thought the purpose of the VMAs was to honor the best in the music video medium, but that’s clearly not the case.
Last week’s airing of the MTV VMAs was not the coveted alternative to the Grammy Awards, or what was once hailed as the musical Super Bowl for youth. I’m waiting for an official announcement that last Sunday’s production was a well-designed spoof. In all seriousness, please assure us that some clever executive decided to take the opportunity to mock drug abuse, idolatry and hiney implants.
Each year, I vow to never watch another trashy VMA show. It has been trending toward a Jerry Springer-style production since the late 1990s, when rapper Lil Kim generated controversy by gracing the stage in a fragmented piece of a dress that was reminiscent of a wardrobe malfunction. That debacle was the beginning of the VMA fashion faux paus. The following year, Lil Kim was outdone by Britney Spears, who ripped off a tuxedo to bare a skin-colored onesie. I will spare you the laundry list of the “worst-dressed” race to the bottom.
Since Ms. Miley Cyrus’ 2013 twerking incident generated so much attention, I understand why you had to invite her back to host this year’s show. I think giving Miley the microphone for the entire evening so she could curse incessantly and fuel her public argument with Nicki Minaj (which actually seemed rehearsed and unbelievable) was the perfect way to demonstrate what strong women do not look like. Thank you for bringing it to our attention that Miley is probably not receiving professional help, and now know how to pray for her.
I also want to offer kudos for the way you lured the audience in with a Taylor Swift versus Kanye West ploy. When I first heard Swift would present the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to West, I thought it was a sheer act of VMA desperation.
“Scantily clad women must not be pulling in the ratings,” I snarled. “How dare MTV ask Swift to stand there and degrade herself by rewarding a jerk who rushed to the stage and ripped the microphone out of her hands at the 2009 VMAs?”
I don’t completely understand what you were trying to accomplish by giving Kanye an award. The video highlighting his “epic” career wasn’t convincing. Perhaps your producers were hopeful that the new father had matured since his 2009 drunken indiscretions. I sat on the edge of my couch, wishing the artist would say something, anything, that would make me like him again. After all, “College Dropout” was one of my favorite albums.
But his speech evoked a lot of puzzling questions. Where was Beyoncé (previous VMA joke)? Why couldn’t a talented writer like Kanye make it through an acceptance speech without contradicting himself? Why was he having difficulty pulling together a single intelligible sentence without the use of the word “Bruh?” Then poor Kanye answered the question for us: “Y’all might be thinking, ‘I wonder. Did he smoke something before he came out here?’ The answer is yes, I rolled up a little something. I knocked the edge off. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight; I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.’”
Sure, some people were offended Kanye and several of the presenters bragged about drug use. But I am choosing to think that maybe someone at MTV had the bright idea that having Kanye give a sloppy speech like this was probably a far more effective anti-drug commercial. Overall, I think Kanye’s behavior and mindset exposed some of the concerns people have for the generation labeled as Millennials.
Acknowledging the VMA ceremony’s ability to draw millions of youths (from teens to 20-somethings) leads me to think about the show from a different cultural perspective. It was particularly enlightening when the 38-year-old Kanye said, “We the millennials, bruh. This is a new mentality.” Research confirms millennials have a different mindset, but Kanye isn’t a millennial. Perhaps someone should break the news to him; it’s time to grow up.
MTV, I was deeply disturbed — at first. After the fifth time, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Really, this can’t be real,” I finally had the ah-ha moment. You were almost too clever for this Gen Xer. I now see that this year’s over-the-top filthy show had to be a parody. Why else would you continue rewarding a parade of people who come on stage and display the most disturbing aspects of American popular culture?
Those of us foolish enough to watch each year need to see this production for what it is: a joke. By the end of the evening, around the time Kanye announced his run for 2020 presidency, I found myself laughing nervously. To borrow eloquent words of your beloved vanguard, “Real funny, bruh!”
Antionette Kerr is a syndicated writer and author of “Just Sayin’: Conversations My Mother Would Never Let Me Have at a Southern Dinner Table.” You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antionette Kerr: Are you kidding me, MTV?
Dear MTV Video Music Awards,