Is Twitter Saving the VMAs or Banging in the Final Nail?

Last night’s MTV VMA show was by far the worst one of all time.

I’m of the MTV generation (the original one) and have watched every single year. Why? For twenty-something years the show served as a barometer for pop culture in the English-speaking world, much more so than any other annual program or awards show.

Last night’s edition, however, was all wincing and cringing for anyone with a brain and / or sense of style. The “music” being celebrated / performed was mostly terrible or corny, they really must’ve searched far and wide to fill the audience with enough mindless kids who could be cattle-prodded into enthusiasm for, say, 20-year old Miley Cyrus bent over, grinding her ass Jersey Turnpike-style into a middle-aged Robin Thicke’s crotch.

Speaking of Thicke, his dad Alan (Growing Pains) should’ve come out, got down on one-knee like all good sitcom dad-splainers, and walked the performers through all the reasons that their performance was the antithesis of sexy, assuming that’s what they were shooting for.

Also, wait til you see Will Smith and his family reacting to Miley’s grossness at Buzzfeed

They gave a white guy not named Mike D or Eminem the “Best Hip Hop” award and Katy Perry closed the show from a fake boxing ring under the Brooklyn Bridge, in full Rocky-regalia for some inexplicable reason. There wasn’t an guitar or drum set anywhere within a 20 mile radius of the Barclays Center and the one legitimate act that actually did make a major contribution to the year in music, Daft Punk, was for some reason marginalized to make more time for the rest of the iPod Jukebox. And for some strange reason, the four (or five, I don’t know) boys in the “band” One Direction are still being referred to as “artists” rather than “products”, which is precisely what they are – a widget directly off Simon Cowell’s assembly line, manufactured and packaged to sell sex to tween girls.

And by the time this was all over, you realized that essentially the entire thing was much better watched on Twitter than on the actual screen. The show we all made for ourselves and each other was far superior than whatever the experience was for those who actually watched with both eyes on the television screen.

Here’s Bob Lefsetz on the phenomenon:

I’m not gonna watch it. I figure if anything happens worth knowing about, I can see it on the Internet tomorrow. That’s how far we’ve come, used to be you DVR’ed it and fast-forwarded through not only the commercials, but almost all of the musical performances. Now you don’t want to waste the hard drive space.

And if it weren’t for Twitter, the show’s ratings would be so low they’d think about canceling it.

You see now it’s no longer about the show itself, but the snark. The people on stage don’t realize they’re fodder for those playing the home game, making fun of everything happening on stage and off. Search Twitter, it’s not pretty. Even youngsters are sneering. And every oldster with a modicum of followers is live tweeting, which proves that the paradigm is done, once you’re afraid of being left out, once you’re leveraging your fan base for personal aggrandizement, we know the whole shebang is history.

My daughter is seven. She is aware of most of the performers who appeared but would never sit through this two-and-a-half-hour disaster. Instead, she’ll ask me to go online and find her the video of Lady Gaga’s performance and maybe the Justin Timberlake mini-concert. She’ll consume the portion she cares about with almost no commercial interruption or exposure to the corporate branding hustle.

Assuming that this becomes the norm, the implications are awful for MTV. Unless the music gets better and the performances less about “shocking” people than actually entertaining them.

Until then, the tweeted version will continue to be the definitive version, no matter how much faux-porn they put on the program. Go sell ads around that, Viacom.

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