MTV Helps Kids Make Sense of the World?

Posted on: 09/1/15 5:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

dancing dirty“No art form in the world captures moments like this more powerfully than music. Music helps us make sense of the world. A song can elevate a movement.”
Jussie Smollett of Fox’s Empire, in his speech at the MTV VMA’s, 8/30/2015

Jussie is right. It was probably one of the few noteworthy statements from Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards (The VMAs).

Music is powerful. It always has been. In the Old Testament we even read about David soothing King Saul with his music. Perhaps today David would send Saul his newest Spotify playlist (at a safe distance from any spears being hurled his way).

MTV is happy to talk about music’s influence… for good. How come we never see them owning up to the contrary?

After observing the effects of music on young people for two decades, I’ve noticed two observations:

  1. Experts consistently discover cause/effect relationships between entertainment media and bad behaviors (I detail much of these findings in my book, More Than Just the Talk).
  2. Young people always deny these cause/effect relationships, but then scratch their heads when they eventually pay the price for bad behaviors.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting entertainment media is the only influence in a young person’s life. It just happens to be a powerful one (note the quote at the top of this blog). It’s kind of humorous if you think about it. MTV is happy to give music credit for “helping us make sense of the world,” but I have yet to see them own up to influencing teenagers towards negative behaviors. I guess they are suggesting that when kids listen to this year’s MTV “artist to watch” winner, Fetty Wap, and they glean from his song Trap Queen that they should “smoke backwoods dope” then “run in ya house” and “f*ck your ho”… those are all positive behaviors, correct?

Or does MTV expect a 13-year-old to inherently know not to watch the “artist to watch.”


The reality is, when I watch shows like MTV’s VMAs that aired Sunday night, I’m reminded of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. Remember that place? The young boys were lured there by games, candy and everything that filled the senses, and then they were hauled off to slavery. MTV’s VMAs is an overt attempt to titillate people with anything they want to see and hear (and kids saw plenty Sunday night). The show literally kicked off with Nicki Minaj and her dancers performing a song about “patting” her pum pum. I’m using Nicki’s exact words. Here’s the opening lines of the song:

Brixton girls, dem a pat the pum pum
Dem a wine up dem waist, dem a pat the pum pum

The song literally refers to the act of “patting” your vagina in a dance to lure men.

Believe it or not, the evening went downhill from there, ending with Miley’s closing words, “Thank you for tuning in the f*cking VMAs, I’ll see you all next year.” (We’ve posted a full summary of this iconic youth culture event in the brand new article Sex, Weed and MTV on our Youth Culture Window page.)

The scary thought is this:

This show reveals the most popular songs and most influential artists using a medium through which many of our children are “making sense of the world.” In other words, this music and these artists are providing our kids with a moral barometer that influences their daily choices.

So this means, today’s young people are learning…

When they feel self conscious: Look to Selena Gomez’s new song Good for You

When they are looking for what it means to rise above adversity: Look to A$AP Rocky’s Song M’$

When they are curious how to act on impulses: Look to Demi Lovato’s Cool for the Summer

When they are looking to please the opposite sex on the dance floor: Look to Nicki Minaj’s Trini Dem Girls

When they’re looking for answers about marijuana: look to Miley’s Dooo It

When they’re looking for what to do for fun: look to Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen

Need I go on?

So are you looking for opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation about music with your kids?More-Than-Just-The-Talk-BLOG