For years, we've been told MTV is changing our world for the worse—its quick-cut music videos shortening our attention span, its obsession with sex and celebrity lowering our tastes. It's one big honking wrecking ball—and Kurt Loder—fiddling while the culture burns, always positioned to reap the ancillary money streams while it defiles everyone who watches it.
Turns out that was all a bunch of crap because apparently nobody's been watching MTV for years. How else to explain the shock—shock!—when Justin met Janet during the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime show? Evidently, the folks at the NFL who commissioned MTV never dreamed that the network that gave the world "Cherry Pie" and "Baby Got Back" and "Dirrty" and whatever that video was in which Alanis Morisette's junk was all hanging out and digitally altered would possibly consider teasing its audience with a half-exposed breast.
The NFL said it would likely never use MTV again, having already more than reaped the benefits in exposure and righteous indignation. Likewise, Super Sunday so moved the Laguna Beach School Board that district officials canceled the $40,000 (plus royalties) deal to allow MTV full access to Laguna Beach High and its students for a reality show about the "real" OC. Jackson's breast convinced them they didn't want their kids exploited—not for a mere 40 large, anyway.
Folks in Laguna apparently did not know that MTV was the home of Jackass and the Real World (where the kids all get naked in the pool) and Real World (where they have the threesome in the shower with the waitress) and Real World (where the promiscuous girl sleeps with the guy from Big Head Todd) and the Britney Spears-Madonna kiss that was so disgusting and lowered our values and—hey!—let's take a look at that one more time. Slow down the tape if you can, Davey. Right there—do you see some tongue? Dr. Laura, any thoughts?
Laguna school board trustee Bob Whalen said he was under the impression MTV was "going to follow the kids around; go to athletic events, dances; and follow them doing college-preparatory things." Yes, Bob, and then they were going to broadcast images of kids drunk at parties and girls crying over boyfriends in fights and girls kissing girls and kids talking about promiscuous girls and kids in pools with their junk all digitally altered.
See, because unlike the NFL and the Laguna Beach School Board, MTV understands its customers. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is another matter (it's a very bad thing; the worst thing ever), the point is MTV is amazing, able to make Spears, a woman with no discernible singing talent, into a pop star and Carson Daly, a man with no discernible pulse, into a sex symbol. It can do remarkable things; it just can't do them without sex and tease.
You figure those who get into business with MTV know that, but the siren call of young viewers or having your high school reap the benefits of the kind of exposure only experienced by folks on the Road Rules dulls one's judgment. Either way, the thing is you should at least have the guts to admit you knew what you were buying. Or selling.