This item this morning made me think of something:
NEW YORK – MTV held a solid lead among 15 networks for its representation of gay characters last season, according to a report released Friday.
In its fourth annual Network Responsibility Index, the Gay & LesbianAlliance Against Defamation found that of MTV’s 207.5 hours of original prime-time programming, 42 percent included content reflecting the lives of gay, bisexual and transgender people. This earned MTV the first-ever “Excellent” rating from GLAAD.
“MTV programs like ‘The Real World’ and ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ have offered richly diverse portrayals of gay and transgender peoplethat help Americans better understand and accept our community,” said GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios.
And the something it made me think of was this: Remember when MTV showed … music videos? As in, that was its entire point?
I loved music videos. Back at the start of the 80s, when I didn’t get MTV on my cable in Jackson, TN, I would stay up late on Friday night (I think it was Friday — or was it Saturday?) and watch a program on TBS that was nothing but an hour or so of videos.
As a new art form, it was awesome. They combined the appeal of popular music with cinema in a way that stimulated pleasure centers in my brain that no other form had yet discovered. It was startling the way those fleeting images filled out and magnified the impact of the music. There was a popular music renaissance based entirely on the fact that new bands were well suited to this form. I found it entrancing. Before music videos, I would tell people that if I could wave a wand and do anything other than be a newspaper editor, it would be to direct movies. In the early 80s, I switched that idle wish to making music videos.
(And yes, I realize that something like music videos existed previously, such as the music sequences in “A Hard Day’s Night,” which spawned a new device in loads of other movies. And then there was the occasional free-standing video — film, actually, in those days, I suppose — with two impressive examples being Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” But MTV launched an explosion of the form, and innovated the concept of continuous videos like listening continuously to songs on the radio, with VeeJays instead of DeeJays.)
Of course, once I had access to MTV I could watch music videos any time. My favorite time was when I was working out. I used to go down into the basement gym at The State, get on the treadmill and crank up MTV or VH1, and the time just sped by as I sweated and got healthy.
But even then — the late 80s and early 90s — MTV itself started to betray the new medium, by polluting its schedule with such unmitigated trash as “The Real World.” And look at the harm that has done to the world. Now, we have hundreds of TV channels to choose from, but at any given moment, it seems that more than half of them are showing this putrid garbage that involves appallingly stupid narcissists obsessing about their mock-private lives. It astounds me that even one person on the planet would ever watch this junk for two seconds, much less support it to this extent.
MTV started it all, to its everlasting shame. And it started with such a wonderful product…