Youth Culture Window
While channel surfing past MTV, lots of parents and youth workers may be tempted to think that the network is a mindless one. After all, it was MTV that gave us shows like Beavis and Butthead, The Osbournes, and Jersey Shore.
But don’t let them fool you. MTV knows its raunchy business…and it isn’t afraid to show it.
Recapping the Weird
For quite a few years now, The Source for Youth Ministry has recapped this annual awards show on MTV. In 2012’s show, we found many of the same vile elements that were part of 2011’s show. As we’ve said before, the Movie Awards is one of two awards shows – the other being the VMAs, also on MTV – in which no one really cares about who wins what. Viewers don’t tune in to see who won Best Shirtless Performance, Best Scared-as-S**t Performance, Best Hero, or Best WTF Moment (and others). Instead, viewers tune in to see what wild antics the presenters and recipients will try and pull off on live television (though here’s the official list of winners).
Speaking of wild antics, this year’s show was crudely hosted by Australia’s own Rebel Wilson, the comedienne from Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids. (Yep, on the exact same day that Australia was honored by Adam Scott as the very first Australian to win The Masters, fellow Australian Rebel Wilson did this.)
But everything that happens at the Movie Awards happens for a reason. Those who carefully watch can catch a glimpse of what MTV knows best…and how it affects young viewers. Though there were plenty of disappointing moments to wade through, here are three observations that anyone could make while watching this year’s show.
Observation #1: MTV knows how to assault sensibilities.
During MTV’s awards shows, nothing is sacred. Nothing, at all. Executives, hosts, presenters, recipients, and other performers seem willing to do just about anything to get attention, even if it means assaulting the sensibilities of others…children included. Here are just a few examples from 2013’s show (MTV provides video of the entire show on their site).
- During the opening sketch, which supposedly took place Down Under, Rebel Wilson talked an awful lot about her vagina. She told the visiting James Franco that if she’d known he was coming, she would have “trimmed the bush.” She then went on to make a masturbation joke…which he turned into a masturbation joke of his own. Eventually, she was given a female version of Iron Man’s suit called “Iron-mangina” and when she used it to fly to the show in Los Angeles, she crashed on stage and bemoaned landing “right on my vag.” Finally, she made several jokes about female genitalia while opening up the show with her first monologue.
- During one of Rebel’s presentations, she revealed what was really on the cue cards in her hands. For anyone who thought the cards contained her lines, she revealed that they were really just pictures of Channing Tatum’s “backside.” When the female members of the crowd squealed in delight, Wilson exclaimed, “He has a magic mic I’d like to sing into,” referring to the movie about strippers trying to make it in the real world.
- When Adam Sandler and Chris Rock (from Grown Ups 2) came on stage to present the award for Best WTF Moment, they tried to squeeze in as many gratuitous F-bombs as possible. Later, during a glimpse backstage, the winners of that award, Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx, were filmed celebrating their win for Django Unchained. This duo also felt the need to toss around several highly unnecessary F-bombs of their own.
- When Seth Rogan and Danny McBride walked onto the stage with Zac Efron, the two of them managed to drop their pants in front of millions of viewers. Rogan’s crotch was hidden by a mountain of pubic hair while McBride’s was barred behind a chastity belt. Of course, Rogan found the key by digging in his crotch and proceeded to insert it into the lock hanging from McBride’s midsection…doing his best to make it look like protruding male anatomy. McBride then told Rogan that it would be better if he were doing it while on his knees.
- Almost an hour-and-a-half into the show, Rebel Wilson was still making crude jokes about her body. When Zac Efron joined her on stage to present an award, she asked him for an Australian Kiss. When he looked at her, feigning confusion, she explained, “It’s like a French kiss, but ‘down under.’” Towards the end of the show, she took to the stage in a fake body suit and pulled down her top to reveal a two-nippled breast.
- During one of her acts, Rebel Wilson introduced us to her koala bear named Chlamydia who had X-Ray vision. She took the camera-wearing bear and stuck him between the legs of Chris Evans to reveal a very hairy pubic region. After that, she pointed the bear at the purse of 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, from Beasts of the Southern Wild, to reveal that the little girl’s bag was filled with alcohol.
- And then there was whatever Snoop and Ke$ha were smoking.
Bear in mind that all of this, and more, happened in front of children sitting in the audience (and sadly, many more watching from home) even though the show’s rating was TV-14. Not only did Quvenzhane Wallis see this, but so did other kids who were part of later sketches. When it comes to ratings, MTV is willing to do whatever it takes to get them…including assaulting the sensibilities of adults and children.
Observation #2: MTV knows how to create heroes.
During the awards show that ran for more than two hours, three different actors were celebrated with specialized awards in addition to the regular awards.
First, Emma Watson was presented with the “Trailblazer Award” for the many films she’s squeezed into her relatively short life and acting career. I gotta say, her acceptance speech was one of the best in the show’s history; not only did she avoid dropping any F-bombs (or any foul language for that matter), but she also talked to her fans about “becoming yourself” in spite of what they’d face in life. Unfortunately, Jonah Hill drug the speech down as far as he could when he appeared via pre-recorded video claiming he and Emma were doing a screen adaption of the risqué 50 Shades of Grey.
Later, Will Ferrell was given the “Comedic Genius Award” for his many roles in films of that genre. He talked about his lifelong dream of making people laugh…and dressing like Dennis Rodman. He thanked his supporters and then invited anyone who didn’t like his work to a fight “to the death” in the parking lot after the show. He introduced and thanked “his family,” a woman and three children of Asian descent, and was interrupted by Aubrey Plaza who was trying to steal his Golden Popcorn award (while promoting her upcoming film by writing its title across her chest). Ferrell has been great for MTV, and so the heroic actor finally got his recognition by the network.
Finally, Jamie Foxx was presented with the “Generation Award” for his varied and acclaimed roles in films. During his speech, he awkwardly thanked his family while simultaneously embarrassing them. For instance, he called out his beautiful – and single – daughter, and told her to “dial down the dress.”
Good managers know it takes a lot of time and money to groom and train employees, but that makes them more valuable to the company. Likewise, MTV has invested a lot into creating these kinds of heroes, and during this year’s show, they took the time to celebrate them and their work…regardless of what it was.
#3: MTV knows how to promote themselves and culture.
Let’s face it; the MTV Movie Awards exists so that the network can advertise its upcoming films and shows. Viewers got a chance to find out what new shows were coming to MTV’s lineup and which favorites were returning. Hardly a commercial break went by without an ad for their brand new show entitled The Show with Vinny. Of course, MTV highlighted the upcoming seasons of Teen Wolf and Awkward, as well. But the most memorable commercials were those featuring “Hurricane Nia” from the latest installment of The Real World (Portland). These clips showed the sultry Nia seducing some of her cast mates with talk of sex and exhibitionism, arguing with others and threatening them, and taking center stage in the drama that is The Real World.
But because the M in MTV once stood for “music,” MTV’s awards shows are obligated to include at least a little bit of music. This year’s show included live performances by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Can’t Hold Us) and a more grown up Selena Gomez (Come & Get It). Both performances were well-received by the crowd.
More to the point of “movies,” exclusive previews from upcoming films were mixed in with the presentations and jokes. Viewers got a chance to see previously unrevealed clips from Fast & Furious 6, Iron Man 3, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire…which they loved.
But why wouldn’t MTV do this?
It’s their way of ensuring there will be a Movie Awards show in 2014….
Moving Past the Observations
After watching this year’s Movie Awards, it’s easy to see how this show appeals to and impacts young viewers, teenagers in particular. Not only is it a continuous celebration by our culture’s latest and greatest celebrities, but it flaunts a no consequences mindset at the same time. This annual show can give parents and youth workers valuable insight on what resonates with kids, but we need to be clear about one truth: many of those elements aren’t very healthy.
After the observations have been made, we need to know what to do with them. We’ve put together a few talking points to help you engage your teenagers, especially if they watched this year’s show (which we hope they didn’t). Under each point, we’ve even included a few questions that can help you get them talking about these important topics.
- Talk with them about standards. Just because MTV assaults viewers’ sensibilities doesn’t mean they’re right to do so. Without lecturing or condemning, you might recall some television programs from your childhood to contrast against this television show on MTV. Every TV show aims to entertain, but some do it very differently than others.
- Is anything permissible in the name of entertainment? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, when does a TV show (or awards show) cross the line? Give an example.
- How do you think the celebrities feel about their roles in these kinds of shows? Do you think they have to compromise their values in any way?
- Highlight real heroes. Without slamming Emma Watson, Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, or any other winner from this year’s Movie Awards show, take the time to point your teenagers towards real heroes…not just those on a stage. This is a really important subject, so acknowledge the fact that everyone likes heroes, and from time to time, all of us need heroes. But don’t let your teenager get sidetracked by an imposter.
- What does a real hero look like?
- Who should we look up to and why?
- Yeah, there are lots of heroes in the movies, but who has been a hero to you in real life?
- Promote wholesome choices when it comes to music, movies, and television. Let me say upfront: on this point, you’re fighting an uphill battle. MTV spent millions and millions of dollars on this year’s Movie Awards show…and they’ll do it all over again later this year at their annual VMAs. In general, studios, networks, and music labels spend tons of money to try and lure in our money. We need to help our teenagers be able to see past the hype when it comes to our culture.
- What do you think is most important to television networks, movie studios, or recording labels? Why?
- Have you seen advertisement/publicity change in the past few years? If so, how?
- Do these advertisements and publicity stunts tell the truth about our culture and ourselves? Why or why not?
Hopefully, these talking points will help you engage your kids on these issues. If MTV (and others) consider them important enough to invest millions of dollars, we need to be willing to make an investment, as well.
Movies are a huge piece of our culture, and MTV knows it. Since we at The Source also realize this, we’ve written a two-part article highlighting the biggest box office blockbusters coming to theaters this summer (PART I is our NEXT Youth Culture Window article—sign up to receive these free articles HERE). Both of these articles highlight the good, the bad, and the downright ugly, but more importantly, provide you with tips to make great choices about upcoming movies. Don’t miss them!
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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