Why I Don’t Watch MTV

MTV has a new show, Skins, that is creating quite a stir. Advertisers have been pulling money from the show. The Parents Television Council has been urging advertisers to pull funding for the show and for MTV to drop the show. There might even be a federal investigation into whether or not child pornography laws have been broken in the making of this show. The major defense of the maker of the TV show is that he is making a show about what teenage life is really like, and that may shock some parents.

I have not seen the show, nor do I want to. I made a decision almost ten years ago to stop watching MTV.

If you know me, this is not a typical stance I take. Patrick wrote a great blog giving a framework for deciding what stances to take toward culture. So, why did I take this stance on MTV? It began after watching a PBS documentary ten years ago called, “The Merchants Of Cool.” (You can watch the show by clicking on that link.) In the show, you realize MTV, amongst other companies, are studying teens in order to know how to better market products to them. The way to make the most money from teens, it seems, is to play on their baser instincts. And, it’s important in marketing to teenagers to shape their image of what’s cool.  That’s what MTV is trying to do: to shape what teenagers think is cool.

Let’s take a look of some of the other programs on MTV besides Skins:

  • 16 and Pregnant
  • Teen Mom
  • The Real World
  • The Hard Times of RJ Berger
  • The Vice Guide To Everything
  • The Hills
  • Jersey Shore

When you understand that MTV’s demographic is teenagers as young as 12 and that their intention is to shape teenagers’ sense of what cool is, what do these shows tell teenagers what cool is?  Are they merely depicting real teenage life?  Do these shows, taken as a whole, depict a typical teenage life?  No. Instead, MTV seems to show teenagers indulging their basest desires.  It titillates its audience in order to make money.

I feel like this influence on teenagers is a tragedy. The loss of virtue, the loss of the heroic, and the loss of self control causes devastating effects on our society. Ten years ago, I decided I didn’t want to support that effect on society, on teenagers, or on myself.

Here is a quote from David Kupelian that summarizes my thoughts well:

“[C]ompanies are creating new and lower and more shocking… marketing campaigns, disguised as genuine, authentic expressions of youthful searching for identity and belonging, for the sole purpose of profiting financially from America’s children…This would be bad enough – if corporate America were just following and marketing the basest instincts of confused, unsupervised teenagers. But they are not following, they are leading – downward.”  See more of his thoughts here.

What are your thoughts on MTV?  I’d love to hear your comments.


About Ryan Wampler

Much of my thinking is trying to connect the dots between the Bible, the lens through which I see the world, and the way I actually live my life. I’m a Mizzou grad, and got a theological education at a post-grad school in St. Louis. My particular areas of interest are: reflecting on books and films and connecting theology and culture.
This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Engaging Worldviews, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why I Don’t Watch MTV

  1. If you are reading this post and you are interested in the concept of intelligent marketing and how companies form cool and guide your buying habits…. Then I highly recommend that you read Buyology ($8 on Amazon).

    Here is a link to a free chapter that helps explain the logistics of the book: http://www.martinlindstrom.com/index.php/cmsid__buyology_about

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