Youth Culture Window
The MTV Video Music Awards (the VMAs) always provide a sobering glimpse into the world of pop culture embraced by the young people of the day. The 2015 VMA’s was no exception, embracing everything sensual, chemical and self-absorbed.
The show began with Nicki Minaj singing her song Trini Dem Girls and doing exactly what the lyrics of the song dictate, “pat the pum pum,” a dance move where you literally pat your vagina and do the “wine” (a Caribbean dance where you gyrate your hips and draw attention to the beautiful “parts” of a woman). Nicki finished that sexually charged performance, thanked her pastor for an award, then called Miley a “bitch.” Drama you’d expect on MTV, especially with Miley at the helm for the evening.
Fast forward well into the show and Kanye took the stage to give a… wait for it… 12 minute speech! The lengthy homily began with what seemed like a vulnerable self examination into the regret he felt for taking Taylor Swift’s moment away years prior, but then his discourse segued to a mishmash of scattered rants, even interjecting, “Y’all might be thinking right now, ‘I wonder, did he smoke something before he came out here?’ The answer is yes, I rolled up a little sumtin. I knocked the edge off.” (The crowd cheered.)
After offering advice like, “just worry about how you feel at the time,” “We the Millennials, bro,” and “We not gonna teach low self esteem and hate to our kids”… and saying the word “bro” about 50 more times… he concluded by announcing, “I have decided in 2020 to run for president.” And then he literally dropped the mic. The whole segment was like a conversation with Saturday Night Live’s Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party.
And every one of these moments was punctuated by Miley, clad in apparel that can only be described as Lady Gaga meets Lil Kim… but even less cloth. Miley probably showed every inch of her body, save maybe 3 or 4 inches. For those watching the live show, she even showed her complete left breast in an “accidental nip slip.” But frankly, by that point, it wasn’t even a big deal, because we had been forced to see most of the square footage of that part of her body all evening.
The evening was freckled with moments that celebrated sexual freedom, profane talk, smoking weed, and self-absorption:
- Miley had warned viewers she had a “raw” awards show planned for the evening, and she tried her best to deliver on that promise. Miley went all out to be controversial in every aspect of the show, even in the week approaching the event…like when she announced she was pansexual. Within hours of that declaration, she was voted as “worst celebrity role model for children.”
- All evening the show replayed snippets of past controversial moments like Britney and Madonna kissing and Miley twerking up to Robin Thicke.
- Pitch Perfect’s Rebel Wilson did an entire monologue about her frustrations hiring male strippers, all while wearing a shirt that read, “F*ck the Stripper Police.”
- Actor Jared Leto introduced the artist ‘The Weekend’ as someone who makes us all really horny, “so pull your pants down, your skirts up, and welcome The Weekend!”
- Commercials during the show ranged from Trojan condoms, 5 Gum’s irresponsible “Life Happens in 5” spots, to MTV’s new show Faking It about two girls posing as lesbians.
- Demi Lovato did a racy performance of her bi-curious diddy, Cool for the Summer, a song we wrote about in detail a few weeks ago.
- Miley referred to smoking weed all night, even doing a sketch where she ate Snoop Dogs “Mary Jane brownies” (weed brownies) and Snoop helped Miley navigate her “trip.”
- Taylor Swift announced, “I’m just happy that in 2015 we live in a world where boys can play princesses and girls can play soldiers.”
- Miley wrapped up the show by dancing provocatively with transgender dancers and singing her new song Do It, a song with the lyrics, “Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love peace, but I don’t give a f*ck, I ain’t no hippy.” She wrapped up the song by saying the final line of the song…and I quote… “Why do they put the d*ck in the p**sy? F*ck you!” (Modern poetry at it’s best, don’t you think?)
The entire evening celebrated doing anything and everything, with “Does it feel good at the moment?” as its only moral barometer. My friend, youth culture guru, Walt Mueller commented in his insightful summary of the evening, “Romans 1:16-32 just came to life for me in ways that it never has before. Praying for a generation tonight. “
Celebrating the Right Things
The 2015 VMAs celebrated the wrong things.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with sex…in the right context. There’s certainly nothing wrong with music, dancing and having a fun time with friends. And there’s nothing wrong with a healthy, positive, and confident view of oneself. But that’s not what was celebrated at the 2015 VMAs. The things that were put front and center were essentially unhealthy. They were the masked alternatives to what we actually want our teens to pursue.
So how do we get our teenagers to celebrate the right things? Here are a few ideas.
- Stay tuned in to your kids’ world. Helping your teenagers celebrate the right things begins with you being aware of the wrong things. Parents should be aware of what their kids are exposed to (In fact, parents can take steps to try to filter some of this content as well). The VMAs is one of the biggest nights in youth culture. If you took the time to watch this program, you’d be well-equipped to have meaningful conversations with your teenagers. But don’t limit your research to one night each year. Use the (free) online tools such as Google and YouTube to search for lyrics and music videos. Subscribe to free youth culture resources like these articles and blogs. It only takes a few minutes’ investment to ensure you’ll be able to engage your kid where he or she lives.
(We’ve included an entire list of the songs performed at the VMAs, with links to the lyrics, at the bottom of this article)
- Seize every teachable moment. That doesn’t mean lecture for hours on end; it just means that we should grab hold of every opportunity that presents itself and use it for the betterment of our kids. One of the best ways to capitalize on teachable moments is to ask well placed questions. For instance, if your teens happened to watch this year’s VMAs, you might consider asking them the following questions:
- Why is crude sexuality such a massive part of today’s music?
- What effect does that sexuality have on young listeners?
- How can you tell the difference between genuine faith and hypocrisy?
- What does the Bible have to say about our actions lining up with our words?
- How do we know we’ve crossed the line between a positive self-image and arrogant pride?
- What are some of the costs associated with being self-centered?
- Celebrate their choices that conform to your values. There’s nothing like positive reinforcement. No, our teenagers won’t always choose what’s best, but when they do, we gain the opportunity to celebrate that decision with them. Repeatedly show them what you value, and when they honor those values, don’t be afraid to reward them in some way. It doesn’t have to be an all-expense paid European vacation – it can be a trip to their favorite restaurant when they get good grades (where you get to have even more conversation with them!). Just make sure you make a big deal out of their good choices.
Our world has enough sexuality, false spirituality, and selfish pride to poison and mislead the entire generation of young people we’re trying to raise. Do everything in your power to put the right examples in front of them and then commend them when they choose what’s right.
Song Lyric Links
Nicki Minaj- The Night is Still Young
Nicki Minaj - Trini Dem Girls
Taylor Swift- Bad Blood
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis- Downtown
The Weekend- Can’t Feel My Face
Demi Lovato- Cool for the Summer
Justin Bieber – Where Are U Now
Justin Bieber- What Do You Mean http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/justinbieber/whatdoyoumean.html
Tori Kelly- Should Have Been Us
Twenty One Pilots- Heavy Dirty Soul
Twenty One Pilots, Lane Boy
A$AP Rocky, M’$
Miley Cyrus- Do It
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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