There’s an old adage which states, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I often wonder if this is true, but I know for sure I think of it when I recall my relationship with MTV.
Throughout high school and college I literally loved MTV. It joined me for dinners, went to sleep with me and was there when I woke up. It greeted me after a hard day and helped inspire me. The relationship eventually soured and when our goals sent us on different paths and our differences grew, we called it quits.
The reasons for the departure are pretty simple. I loved MTV best when it celebrated music artists and I could depend on it to play not only videos from the musicians, but also air programming about the singers, providing insight into their lives and careers. By doing this, the network gave its viewers a dose of their favorite music, but also allowed them to get to know the stars they admired and worshipped.
My heart literally aches as I recall watching the final episode of TRL last November. I can’t for the life of me understand the reasons for this, and I’m not even sure I could stand it if I knew. It was already bad enough for MTV to rarely play music videos so they could make room for prime-time garbage like “The Hills” which featured vacuous youth born into wealth and privilege and for them to play constant reruns of “Parental Control,” “Room Raiders” and “Date My Mom” in the morning, but this was a major upset. I had always defended MTV during its lean video years, because the network provided me with so much joy and optimism in my adolescence and early 20s. When people said MTV didn’t play music videos, I always reminded them of TRL, but now I can’t. It saddens me to think future high school and college students don’t have the opportunity to catch a few videos on TV in the morning as they prepare for school. I treasure the memory of watching Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time” in the mornings during my junior year. Each day after school, I eagerly awaited seeing it again on the countdown. But while I was at school, I put my work in, because MTV inspired me. I may have been inspired alone, who knows? However, I do know I wanted to do well on the high school newspaper so I could get into a good journalism school and move to New York and be a reporter just like the ones at MTV News.
What’s MTV News? Back before MTV had advertisements during their shows and commercials during the end credits of its shows they had news updates at “10 to the hour, every hour.” For years anchors such as Serena Altschul, Kurt Loder and the Stanford-educated Tabitha Soren brought viewers the latest on music artists, movies and even politics. As late as my senior year in college I can remember watching reports and hearing the deep-voiced announcer say, “MTV News. You hear it first.”
At one point, I realized I hadn’t seen any MTV News reports for a while. When I was in college tak
ing required courses, which of course had nothing to do with journalism, I would say my mantra, which was, (Celebrity journalist’s name here) had to take (irrelevant class name here). For example, when I was frustrated by studying for a biology test, when I wanted to be interviewing Avril Lavigne, I might say, “Jules Asner had to take biology.”
Now, I fear there is little source of inspiration on MTV for coming-of-age audiences.
Loder put in years of work as a military journalist and at Rolling Stone, among other publications, before working at MTV, but in today’s zeitgeist, nobody wants to watch someone who worked assiduously for an extended period of time to achieve their goal. People want to have someone sing a couple dozen karaoke songs and turn them into a multi-millionaire pop star with the power of their cell phones.
The culture celebrates maximum reward with minimal effort. People seem to prefer watching someone who is wealthy or famous if they inherited it or were born into it, rather than working for it.
People don’t celebrate talent and hard work as much because not everyone has talent, and hard work takes time. “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” is in its second season on MTV, and this is a prime example. The celebutante does nothing the average person couldn’t do, but she’s one of the most popular cultural figures because she proves to people it’s possible to live the dream of being fabulously wealthy without needing to lift a finger.