Nostalgia is the worst thing that has ever infected our jaded generation.
Social networking has become a nonstop assault on reclaiming childhood. Facebook often becomes little more than Nickelodeon inspired navel-gazing. Twitter has collectively allowed #whatIlovedaboutthe90s to be an almost weekly hashtag. I understand that there is an intrinsic draw to thinking about the good old days that never were, but just get over it.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when fake reminiscing about MTV. It’s easy to say “MTV doesn’t play music anymore” and get a couple of quick knowing har-hars from friends, but MTV had really quit being in the music business before our generation let out a collective groan.
After alternative nation dissolved when Kurt Cobain painted the walls with his brains, the network assumed a new identity. MTV was no longer about exploring a sub-culture, it wanted to create one.
And in fifteen years, it has.
Arguably, MTV controls contemporary youth culture. Jersey Shore is one of the most watched shows nationwide, a feat many thought would be impossible in a splintering television market. The gossip hogging “Teen Mom” and “16 & Pregnant” are cultural touchstones in an odd blend of schaddenfreude and misplaced hero worship. MTV allows us to momentarily be the people we pity and loathe, allowing viewers to, as Hannibal Lecter channeling Bob Dylan would say, kill our idols and wear their faces.
Two years ago, even one year ago, I would never say these things. MTV was junk food, but it has become culturally important, even necessary.
Today is a day where I watch “Jersey Shore” without even a hint of ironic detachment. It’s a sick character study, an analysis of modern day Caligulas who’ve been given everything while viewers walk a tight rope between seeing behind the gilded curtain and existing in willful ignorance. For God’s sake, The Situation wears an Ed Hardy shirt that says “The Situation” on it.
Jersey Shore is no longer marketed as or even considered a guilty pleasure; it’s the first and only show that constructs and occupies an alternative reality where multi-millionaires work in T-shirt stores for damn near minimum wage.
It’s a place where four people can pretend they’re having the time of their lives at an amusement park while security guards keep the sprawling camera-phone toting masses from interrupting the carefully constructed illusion. The Atlantic crawl has become a modern day “Paradise Lost.”
It’s the same thing with MTV’s newest import, “Skins,” essentially a half-hour long music video of flawless underage American-Apparel models pounding pills and swilling vodka, like, well, pill-and-booze addled teenagers.
It’s a salute to the remake that they are as true to the British version in the realm of underage consumption, although it may lack in the class struggles and the frank talk of homosexuality of the original.
Like “Jersey Shore,” “Skins” revels in the world of conscious self-destruction. Harmful, potentially disease transmitting, couplings and woozy car crashes have a sheen of tragic suicidal beauty and it allows viewers to revel in the delirious world of wasted youth. Like the uppers and beer that Tony pounds, “Skins” is a door into a good time.
Through the thick and thin of relative quality, MTV has remained a cultural institution. It is about time y’all recognize.