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The MTV Effect

 article about mtv effect
2012-07-05 02:48:38
MTV turned 30 years old last year, and the network doesn't much resemble what it was when it first launched. Once, MTV – Music Television – was a clearinghouse for new music and the latest artists. Today, the only time you see music on MTV is in the wee hours of the morning. Scheduled TV shows sold better for advertising, so MTV has become a network for teen culture more than music. Even still, it's a major powerhouse in the industry, and it's launched careers, buzz, and even the latest stuff we're all totally obsessed with. Whether you're a music lover or you just really love bad reality shows, MTV has a serious effect on what's hot and what's not on and off your TV screen.

Manufactured Stars
Despite the fact that MTV rarely has airtime left to show music videos, it's still been instrumental in launching careers based on what are essentially manufactured stars. Once upon a time, artists got by on their sound alone; Elvis didn't have to make a music video where he was carrying a snake or writing in the sand. Airing music videos and debuting them like a blockbuster film means that MTV is able to spoon feed culture with the latest and greatest; it's how the industry explains the boy band craze of the '90s. Today, MTV still shows the occasional debut music video, and then use various shows and channels to launch careers, which they did with LMFAO.

One of the most interesting effects that MTV has on pop culture is the pseduoceleb. Rewind 20 years, where there were two types of people: Famous people, and not so famous people. Famous people were those who had accomplished something of note. When MTV started launching reality shows, it challenged the hierarchy of fame. Now, celebs have to be listed according to their desirability, since there are so many levels of celebrity. MTV was instrumental in making people famous without having any marketable skills or accomplishments (See also: Mike Sorrentino). Thanks to a sudden change in how we view fame, MTV has handpicked people who they want to become famous, talented or not.

Guide Culture
It's no secret that Jersey is a punching bag for the rest of the United States. A state that is so much a caricature of itself practically begs to be the punch line to a trashy joke. But MTV somehow managed to capitalize on America's united hatred of the entire state, which brought Jersey and guido culture to the forefront. At one time it would have seemed a completely laughable pretense for a show; a bunch of drunk guidos in a house together, Really? MTV has managed to create an all-encompassing franchise that includes not only a show, but marketing deals, actors, an entire subset of current culture, whether you love it or just love to hate it instead.

Teen Pregnancy
A recent poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute found that just by watching MTV's "16 and Pregnant," the general public became more supportive toward pro-choice agendas. All reasoning aside (although I have a sneaking suspicious that it's because "Teen Mom" parents are terrible at life) MTV has created a dialogue about teen pregnancy and various options. As the show reminds us all at the start, teen pregnancy is 100 percent preventable, but some worry that glamorizing the choice to have a baby at 16 is bad news bears for young and impressionable teens. MTV has heard the complaints and doesn't seem to care; the network is wrapping up "Teen Mom" but still plans to air "Teen Mom 2" as well as "16 and Pregnant."

If the 'M' in MTV doesn't stand for music, maybe it stands for "media?" Or perhaps it really stands for "monotonous?" Whatever the case, it's a hit maker in society, so you'd better sit up and take notice of what MTV pumps out next. I'm kind of hoping it's a show about teens who do their homework, don't get pregnant, and don't break the law, but what do I know?

Todd Lam is a writer for

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