Youth Culture Window
No celebrity fistfights. No lesbian lip locks. Slightly fewer racy jokes and censored vulgarity. Has MTV gone soft? Unfortunately no; the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards still had plenty for youth workers and parents to detest.
This year provided some of the most ironic “I thank God” accolades yet, a host with no refrain from ridiculing the Jonas Bros about their purity rings, and an impressive retort from 2007 American Idol Winner Jordin Sparks. Who knows? Maybe the message communicated this night was “not as it would seem.”
Nothing Is As It Seems…
That’s what this year’s host Russell Brand kept telling viewers at the 25th Anniversary of the Video Music Awards (VMAs) hosted live on MTV. Not only did the entertainment include an exciting lineup of stars that just kept getting hotter, but the “nothing is as it seems” theme kept audience members on the edge of their seats. Just when viewers thought that a concert was happening across town, a wall would fall and reveal the singer in-house. A celebrity might go missing temporarily, only to be found by a frantic race around the studio. Several times, artists would strut in from the “back lot” of Paramount’s huge property. Remember, nothing is as it seems.
Even when it comes to God.
Now, I don’t want to lead you astray with my title; yes, we at TheSource4YM.com would consider this to be a “tamer” VMA than we’ve seen in the past, but keep in mind that “tame” is relative when MTV is involved. (Here’s our re-cap of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 VMAs so you can decide for yourself.)
Nobody ever truly knows what to expect from MTV’s live VMAs each year. But given that this was the 25th Anniversary of the awards show, and MTV has a reputation for being…well, MTV…some of us were holding our breath to see what was in store for America’s youth.
As far as celebrity behavior was concerned, most of them – I repeat – most of them, kept it fairly clean. However, while commenting on Katy Perry’s song “I Kissed A Girl,” host Russell Brand said, “I was so inspired by Katy Perry’s song’s message that teenage girls will do anything for the taste of cherry chap stick, that I’m currently going through nine chap sticks a day, and my bleep has never felt more moisturized.”
And when Christopher Mintz-Plasse (of “Superbad” fame) snuck on stage with Slipknot, the metal band’s leader explained that Chris had been doing body shots backstage. Chris’ reply? “Is that what I was doing? I don’t even remember how the hell I got out here…I’m bleepin trashed!”
Far more damaging than the verbalized personal moisturizing practices of the host, and the pre-show stunts of Chris “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse, were the comments about God. All of them!
I’d Like To Thank God…
That’s how several of the artists started their acceptance speeches. When Britney Spears held her first of three Moonmen aloft for Best Female Video in “A Piece of Me,” she gave credit to God for her “blessing.” When the same video earned her a second award, this time for Best Pop Video, she repeated her gratitude to God. (View the video here to see if God had any part in its production. Be warned; it’s typical Britney!)
Next up was the Pussycat Dolls. That’s right, the Pussycat Dolls. They won Best Dancing in a Video for “When I Grow Up,” a song all about becoming rich and famous. How they beat the incredibly talented (and fairly clean) Chris Brown with their mediocre yet racy moves is beyond me, but after securing their Moonman, front woman Nicole echoed Britney’s praise of God. So I guess God really does want us all to be rich and famous! (You can view that theologically-challenged video here.)
And, in a moment that I can only call ridiculous, Lil Wayne held up his award and thanked God for allowing him to win the Best Hip Hop Video award for “Lollipop.” Here are a few lines from his risqué hit:
Man, she ain't never had a love like mine
I don’t think I need to link the video. You can go ahead and thank God for that.
And man I ain't never seen an ass like hers
And that pu**y in my mouth had me loss for words
Told her back it up like erp erp
And I made that ass jump like jerk, jerk
And that's when she lick me like a lollipop (oh yeah I like that)
she lick me like a lollipop (I like that)
she lick me like a lollipop (I like that)
she lick me like a lollipop
Frankly, I wish some of these stars would stop thanking God. With celebs like Paris Hilton and Amy Winehouse, it’s probably true that there’s “no such thing as bad publicity.” But I do think “bad publicity” exists when it comes to God…and I think this was it.
But MTV wasn’t done.
A Poke At God’s Standards
A good portion of Russell Brand’s comedic material was aimed at the Jonas Brothers’ public stance on sexual purity. All three of these pastor’s kids wear a promise ring and have vowed to remain celibate until marriage.
I think we can all agree that a ring is a ring; they only symbolize something. A “promise ring” doesn’t give its wearer any sort of special power to resist sexual temptation. But on several occasions, Brand leveled criticism at the boys for the promise they “made to God” regarding their sex lives.
In his opening remarks, the British funnyman pointed out to the audience, “In case you are unaware, each of the Jonas Brothers does wear a tiny ring as a mark of their commitment to God. I’d take it a little bit more seriously if they wore it on their genitals. And also, it is a little bit ungrateful, cause they could literally have sex with any woman that they want…they’re just not gonna do it. That’s like Superman just deciding not to fly and to go everywhere on a bus. Bless em, though, them lads.”
Just moments later, while reminiscing the “happy days” of the 25 year history of the awards show, he recounted, “The first ever VMAs, one of the defining performances was, of course, Madonna singing, ‘Like A Virgin.’ LIKE a virgin, Jonas Brothers – not actually a virgin! Just pretending!”
Later in the show, just before the Jonas Brothers were to perform, Brand introduced Taylor Swift, who was to introduce The Jonas Brothers. When he said, “Here at their own request, to bring on the Jonas Brothers, is Taylor Swift. It’ll be a little while before she brings any of them off,” he solicited a roar of laughs from the crowd.
In a different monologue, referencing the “nothing is as it seems” theme, Brand asks himself (and millions of viewers), “I’m beginning to wonder, you know, are the Jonas Brothers quite what they seem? Cause if they were, how come I’ve got this little ring now?” He then shows the crowd a silver ring and boasts that he wants to have the entire collection before the night ends.
Brand wouldn’t give it a rest. Even Jordin Sparks must have thought Brand crossed the line. During her presentation of one of the awards (undoubtedly my favorite moment of the evening), she quipped, “I just wanna say, it's not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and girl wants to be a slut, OK?” Interestingly, her remarks also pulled applause from the fickle crowd. (Be careful Jordin! In Hollywood, those are career-ending remarks!)
Finally – and possibly due to Sparks’ comment – Brand cracked his last joke in a mock apology. “Promise rings – I’m well up for it. Well done, everyone. It’s just, you know, a bit of sex occasionally, never hurt anybody.” Again, the crowd seemed pleased with the host’s wit.
So, in a single awards show, personal purity was ridiculed, and teenagers were told that small amounts of infrequent sex are permissible. Well… that’s MTV.
One More Mention of God
During the post show credits, Brand was speaking with Kim Stolz, another MTV personality. After one final mocking statement of being “inspired to chastity,” Stolz asks Brand’s opinion on the big night Britney Spears had. (She won 3 VMAs!)
“This is the launch of a very new Britney Spears era. Consider this the resurrection of Britney Spears, very much. If there was a female Christ, it’s Britney.”
Does confusing Britney with Jesus scare anybody else?
Life goes on.
MTV will continue to pump the same stuff into our houses.
My personal word? Follow these instructions: MENU/PARENTAL CONTROLS/ENTER SECRET CODE/CHANNEL BLOCKS/BLOCK MTV/ENTER. (Or for those technologically impaired… grab cable cord firmly where it enters the wall. Now pull!)
For Those Interested in the Results
- Best Dancing In A Video went to The Pussycat Dolls for “When I Grow Up”
- Chris Brown took home Best Male Video for “With You”
- Best Rock Video went to Linkin Park for “Shadow of the Day”
- Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” scored him the Best Hip Hop Video award
- Best New Artist went to Tokio Hotel for “Ready, Set, Go!”
- But it was Britney who... won 3 Moonmen for “Piece of Me”: Best Female Video, Best Pop Video, and the Video of the Year.
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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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