I’m not a fan of Miley Cyrus nor MTV in that matter so I didn’t even bother to watch the MTV VMA Awards last night since MTV’s brand of pop culture has never been the kind that interests me. Nevertheless, the VMAs are a pretty big deal as far as the mainstream current is concerned since Miley Cyrus’ stunt is basically what everyone’s been talking about since this morning with every kind of media outlet giving their two cents in, including the local sports station my dad listens to on the radio. And from the pictures I’ve seen and the comments I’ve read which are universally, I could admit that, yes, she was acting pretty trashy and her performance seemed pretty tacky and disgraceful, especially being censored by MTV for it. It’s pretty clear that Miley doesn’t seem to have much class as a performer. Yet, as far as I’ve known, obnoxious celebrity behavior has always been a staple of the VMAs and there’s at least one scandal that comes up from it every year. Who could forget about Madonna and Britney Spears kissing each other or Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech? The VMAs have always been been pushing the envelope of what’s shocking and what’s not. Not to mention, MTV has always been a network known to stir controversy since it came on the air during the 1980s. Ditto the fact that it’s a network that doesn’t seem to have the least problem with making reality shows that pertain to teen pregnancy which I think is just simply disgraceful and exploitative.
Still, as far as TV goes, as bad as Miley Cyrus may look on stage during her performance at the VMAs, what she did only contributes to a small fraction of the limitless crap that hits our airwaves just about every freaking day. I mean there are reality shows about little girl beauty pageants for God’s sake. In fact, we have reality shows on just about anything and nobody is going to argue with me that most of them aren’t contributing to the betterment of society nor providing any cultural enrichment whatsoever. In some ways, reality TV is pretty degrading and exploitative in my opinion which elevates certain people to stardom who shouldn’t be famous as well as perhaps degrading entire demographics or maybe making certain things acceptable when they shouldn’t be. And in no way does it seem to depict the kind of reality I have or desire. I sometimes wonder who watches such unredeeming crap that has no educational or cultural value because I’m certainly not nor have any desire to watch another reality show for as long as I live for I don’t see much entertainment value in a TV genre that lacks all substance, insight, or charm. Rather, I’d be more than happy if all these networks just gave these awful shows the ax and resort to something that might be of cultural value like stuff they show on PBS. I may be in the vocal minority here but that’s my opinion. Still, I’m not the only one who thinks this way for reality shows seem to top the PPG’s Keep or Cancel Poll every year, but yet these shows are almost never canceled and keep airing year after year. Why? Is it because they’re so popular? Well, they seem to be with Snooki and Kim Kardashian being pop culture icons, oh, brother. Yet, I’ve never been fond of that kind of entertainment nor understood why reality shows have such appeal among the masses. Are people just that intellectually lazy? I don’t know. However, one thing I can understand is the fact that networks are oh, so willing to air them because they’re cheaper to produce and the fact that cable television doesn’t so much count on ratings since they make money from your subscriptions anyway. So just because reality TV is popular and cheap, does it mean it’s good? I wouldn’t say that.
However, while reality television may be seen as trashy entertainment, we can easily dismiss much of it as the trivial crap it is which isn’t supposed to improve the minds of anyone. Then there are shows that are supposed to pass as educational programming on networks like The History Channel, The Discovery Networks, and Animal Planet as well as others. I mean National Geographic is a name I have a great deal of respect for since I like to read their magazine every time I enter a waiting room, or at least look at the pictures anyway. National Geographic Channel? Not so much for much of it doesn’t seem to veer on the educational side of the brand I know and love. Then there’s The History Channel, which as a history major, I am told to like and appreciate. But do I? Of course not, since The History Channel’s line up doesn’t seem to consist of stuff that pertains to history (and none of my college professors like that channel either). Rather their line up consist of shows that pertains to the paranormal, popular superstitions, conspiracy theories, and other subject matter that have absolutely nothing to do with history. Then there’s The Discovery Channel which was recently mired in controversy about a documentary featuring an extinct shark which they said was still alive! And there was a great uproar on that from viewers who swore the network lied to them. But what do you expect of a network that brought you shows like Amish Mafia? I mean that program doesn’t portray Amish people accurately at all for most Amish aren’t violent and wouldn’t want to be depicted on film. As far as educational programming goes, I think I’ll just stick to PBS at least when they’re not on pledge break anyway.
A third category of trashy TV is a controversial kind which pertain to the 24 hour cable news networks that sort of make a mockery of the kind of journalism America was said to be founded on. Of course, Fox News is a great example of this since they’re perhaps the worst offender more concerned with spewing neoconservative propaganda than reporting the news. And they don’t seem to be shy about bashing Obama or the Democrats or saying hateful things about anyone who disagrees with the conservative agenda. Fox News is a network that has no integrity, no concern for facts, and no scruples about anything. Everyone on the network is mean and nasty as well as utterly clueless and willing to say things like the Pilgrims celebrating Christmas when in fact they would basically put people on the stocks for doing so. And the worst thing about Fox News is that they’re able to attract an audience that is willing to believe them and do whatever the network tells them. Then there’s MSNBC which is said to be the liberal alternative to Fox News yet though they may have their pundits, they also don’t seem to be as mean or careless with facts as their conservative counterparts. Still, they can be pretty tacky and have been known to have prison shows on the weekends if that’s something you might want to know. And CNN once held as a great pioneer in news is now descending into idiocy reporting on news stories that don’t seem to matter but cause a much bigger sensation. Yes, television has descended to this and I’m not happy about it.
So the Miley Cyrus moment is only the tip of the iceberg of all the crap on TV we see today whether they be mindless reality shows, so-called “educational” programming that isn’t, and the all day news networks that don’t seem to report the news at all at least in my opinion. Cable television in recent years is a crap machine with networks caring more about profits than the quality of their programming which I think is a shame because letting the networks air crap doesn’t makes everyone look like idiots even to those people who don’t watch it. And I think as viewers we need to call for better standards of quality programming that doesn’t degrade or exploit in any way. Yet, I understand that money is heavily involved as well which also makes changing the line up highly unlikely. Still, perhaps the best you can do is not be part of the demand and if you don’t like the program that’s on your screen, don’t watch it.