Youth Culture Window
Every year I watch the MTV Movie Awards for a glimpse of our youth culture, understanding that this show not only represents the content teenagers are already absorbing, but also knowing how much marketers use this show to advertise their junk to the millions of teenagers watching. And this year, we saw more literal “junk” (slang intended) than ever before: Andy Samberg’s “junk,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s “junk,” random skaters’ “junk”… let’s just say that male anatomy was at the forefront of the awards this year.
Yesterday morning, approximately 7 hours before the show, I stood in front of about 50 parents at my home church and shared a three minute “youth culture minute,” as I often do for the class, giving these parents of teens just a peek into the porthole of the teenage world. As I shared with this particular group, I encouraged them to put the kids to bed and turn on the MTV Movie Awards that evening, watching the first 15 minutes or so. Usually the first 15 minutes paints a pretty accurate picture of what to expect for the rest of the evening. Given the fact that Andy Samberg would be hosting, I told them to expect raunchy content.
My predictions were far from alarmist.
The show, and the male nudity, began with host Andy Samberg taking the audience on a pre-recorded voyage through a parody of the top flicks of 2008 and 2009. Even though he started off in a third world outhouse (Slumdog Millionaire), his clothes were removed by the naked (parts pixilated) Kate Winslet (The Reader), and he was eventually beamed (Star Trek), minus clothes, into Justin Timberlake’s limo that was en route to the awards show. After awkwardly crawling across JT trying to get out of the limo, giving everyone a pixilated view of his posterior, Samberg took the stage live, and the show was off to a telling start.
Samberg’s butt wouldn’t be the last guys’ booty viewers would see that night. Without a doubt, the most talked about moment from the entire show was when a mostly naked Brüno landed on top of Eminem.
When Brüno, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (most popular for his role as Borat), “flew” in to award “Best Male Performance” during the show, instead of landing on the stage, he landed upside down on Eminem in true pornographic pose, much to Em’s dissatisfaction. Brüno’s bare butt was about 2 inches from Eminem’s face. In the incredibly awkward and muted moments to follow (because of Eminem’s vulgar-laden disdain for the antics) the winner, Zac Efron, was announced. Meanwhile, Eminem’s body guards…um dealt with…Cohen. Eminem promptly left the audience pouting.
However, this wasn’t the first time in the show that Eminem had to be bleeped. He had just taken his seat after performing a couple songs off his new album, Relapse, where several phrases in his songs had to be muted because of the language he used. I can’t even begin to describe some of the lyrics heard in this little medley.
It’s amazing that parents actually let their kids watch this show.
But let’s not stray from the evening’s theme of male nudity. Viewers were in for more male privates with the constant barrage of “balls out comedy” ads for MTV’s upcoming programming. The three new shows advertized during the commercial breaks were, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” “Silent Library” and “DJ and The Fro.” In each of these commercials, viewers see lots of “guy stuff,” including young men skateboarding with their “pixilated” junk hanging out of their pants.
I’ve seen plenty of these MTV award shows—we’ve reviewed them for years. But this year my jaw hit the ground more than any year prior.
Apparently I wasn’t alone.
One person commented on MTV.com about these commercials featuring pixilated images of guys’ genitalia hanging out their pants.
“MTV DO YOU CARE TO EXPLAIN THIS NEW BALLZ OUT AND D*** HANGING OUT CAUSE THIS **** IS GROSS AND UNCALLED FOR!! WHAT DID YOU DO LET JACKASS TAKE OVER THE WHOLE ENTIRE SET!!! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED! THERE WERE SEVERAL CHILDREN FANS WATCHING ESPECIALLY FOR THE TWILIGHT MOVIE AND YOU WENT AND PUT ON A SHOW LIKE THAT!!!!!!!! THAT WAS THE WORST MOVE YOU COULD HAVE EVEN MADE AND UNLESS YOU APOLOGIZE AND MAKE A NEW SHOW YOU WILL LOSE LOTS OF FANS SUCH AS MYSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU THE WHOLE SHOW WAS RAUNCHY AND HUMILIATING!!!!!”Crossing New Lines
That pretty much covers the recurring male nudity portions of the show, but there were plenty of other vulgarities to spread across the two hour live broadcast.
For instance, a full orchestra performed a “classy” rendition of Samberg’s filthy songs in true medley form, with LeAnn Rimes and Chris Isaak singing “Jizz in my Pants” and “On a Boat,” Forest Whitaker performing “D*ck in a Box,” and everyone closing the performance in perfect harmony with the lyrics, “We should f*** each other’s mother,” an homage to Samberg’s most recent digital short with Justin Timberlake.
It’s a fact that Samberg is talented and creative. But his sketches consistently push the limits. Too bad his content is so readily available on iTunes—on the front page of the application right under “Top 10 Music Videos.” (I’ve ranted about this before.) Our kids are growing up in a world where vulgarity is commonplace, where foul language isn’t surprising, and promiscuity is expected. (And as soon as our students leave our house and go to college, they will be faced with even more temptations—for example, college campuses around the nation are now offering hard core porn in campus lecture halls.)
Though Eminem had his fair share of foul language, I think Hayden Panettiere and Amy Poehler took the honors of being the most-bleeped celebrities at the show. When Panettiere took the stage to present the Best W.T.F. Moment award (yeah, there really is an award by that name), she felt it necessary to define exactly what W.T.F. means. “For those of you still living in a cave, WTF stands for What the F***!” …and then she used the word in multiple sentences (just in case the audience still didn’t get it).
The guy in the soundbox in charge of bleeping out cusswords really earned his money that night. What surprised me were the words that weren’t bleeped. We heard the word “penis,” "balls," and “d*ck” throughout the evening, including a moment where an individual won an award and began literally humping his golden popcorn award yelling at Sandberg, “Suck my golden popcorn d*ck!”
Where is the line?
A Night of Vampires
Since this is an award show, a portion of this article should be reserved to recap who won what, right? (Does anyone care? Maybe I should rephrase that. Does anyone over the age of 18 care?)
As predicted, one film dominated the show, taking home five different awards. Twilight won “Best Kiss” (against two of its male-on-male contenders), “Breakthrough Male Performance,” “Best Female Performance,” “Best Fight,” and the coveted “Best Movie” award. Twilight’s sweep is no surprise. I haven’t seen kids respond so mindlessly to a film in decades.
And to make sure that the second film in the Twilight Saga would have as strong a reception at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards show that the first movie had at this show, the leading cast members introduced an exclusive trailer for New Moon. Samberg called it “The Big Commercial” and it was wildly received by the whole crowd in the Los Angeles arena.
This is nothing new. Each year this show has increasingly become a giant infomercial for upcoming shows and movies. Too bad the shows advertised are either rated R (like the upcoming movie, The Hangover, rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material), or should be R, like the heavily advertised new seasons of MTV sexually charged shows Real World Cancun, and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.
The Grim Future
MTV has pushed the limits for years. From Tila Tequila to their annual VMAs, the network truly has proved themselves to be smut peddlers.
What can we expect from television programming in the near future?
Media will continue to push boundaries, and “adult” content will continue to become even more readily available to children.
So what can we do about it?
Lawmakers are making some efforts, having success with a new rating system, but when it really comes down to it… the responsibility ultimately falls on parents.
Parents Making a Difference
Youth workers—help parents by providing them with articles like these and resources that open the doors of communication with their kids.
Parents need to do two things: continually engage in conversation with their kids about media choices, and help their kids set boundaries about what is acceptable… and what is not.
These two forces are hard to balance with our kids: rules and relationships. It’s hard to set rules without a relationship, and it’s dangerous to raise kids in an environment where everything goes.
That’s why we at TheSource4YM.com offer free resources (articles like these about current songs with discussion ideas for parents) and parent seminars to help parents with these very issues. We’re excited to see an increasing amount of youth workers and parents reading our Youth Culture Window articles each week and passing them on to other parents.
Continue to cultivate your relationship with your kids and dialogue about media choices.
In the meantime, go ahead and just block MTV. If you don’t believe me… turn it on for 15 minutes and take a peek for yourself.
is the author of over a dozen books including the brand new
More Than Just the Talk
, Sex Matters
The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket
The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation
and the 10-Minute Talks series
. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and
to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers
and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com
. You can follow Jonathan on his blog
a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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