Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

MTV is pure evil. Discuss.

My mom used to tell me to turn off MTV because some of the Billy Idol videos were less than wholesome.  I much preferred MTV when it trafficked in unwholesome fantasy than now, when it tries to shape teenagers' perceptions of reality.  Remember that MTV has a target audience of 12 to 18 year-olds.  The network has announced plans to begin airing a new show ("Skins") about life in high school, which of course prominently features "sex and drugs."  (I'm not linking to the site -- they will be getting enough traffic already.) In the trailer for the new series, the featured plot line is a student's attempt to make sure his friend loses his virginity before he turns 17 so that the first student doesn't have to stop being his friend out of sheer embarrassment.  For good measure, throw in a drug overdose by the student who agreed to help the friend lose his virginity.  And make sure that the (decidedly non-teenage) creator pitches the whole series as "the most realistic show on television."  In other words, if you are a 16 year-old virgin out there, you are a total oddball and should be ashamed of yourself.  The middle-aged adults at MTV will undoubtedly defend themselves by saying, "We're just reflecting what's out there."  No, you're working hard to manufacture what's out there.  

(OK, if you're demanding a Catholic legal theory link before I step off my soapbox, how about this: the programming execs at MTV are prime examples of Pope Benedict's reminder that one's conscience “requires formation and education,” and can “become stunted,” “stamped out,” and “falsified so that it can only speak in a stunted or distorted way.”  Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On Conscience 62 (2007).)


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When I used to teach I would ask the students to relate what MTV told them. I would then point out that while it tried to present its ideology as radical and rebellious it was not. In fact it was various corporations and interest groups pushing its ideology on teens in order to make them think they were rebels, but in fact were conformist consumers of their drivel. It opened some eyes. I told them it you want to be a rebel then be fully Catholic.

Posted by: Fr. J | Oct 23, 2010 1:01:30 PM

If the target audience for MTV is 12- to 18-year-olds, it's interesting that they are putting on a new series rated TV-MA (mature audience), the most restrictive rating for television shows.

My parents were not particularly strict when it came to what television I was permitted to watch or what books I was permitted to read. In fact, I remember no restrictions at all. I do remember being very annoyed that my mother would not let me go see "A Summer Place," with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue:

Summer Place, A -- Soap operatics run amok in this tale paralleling the woes of teenage lovers (Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue) with those of their divorced parents (Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan). Adapted from Sloan Wilson's romantic potboiler by writer-director Delmer Daves, the result is glossy trash relieved only by the natural beauty of the Maine island setting of the title. Sexual situations and a shallow view of love and marriage. (A-III) (br) ( 1959 )

Now that I am 63, I may watch it some day, although I can't imagine I will enjoy it.

My first inclination is to mount some kind of defense of MTV, although I am sure if I had young teenage children, I would not want them watching "Skins," and I'm not even sure about "Glee."

Posted by: David Nickol | Oct 23, 2010 3:45:54 PM

I would not be one to discourage citation to Joseph Ratzinger's (brilliant) essay "On Conscience," but it seems to me to be only remotely related to legal theory. More relevant to legal theory is the oft promoted argument that the First Amendment requires us to accept widespread propagation of pornography. In this regard, Orthodox theologian and non-lawyer David Bentley Hart has an outstanding essay called "The Pornography Culture." http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-pornography-culture

Posted by: Dan | Oct 23, 2010 10:47:47 PM

"My first inclination is to mount some kind of defense of MTV." No kidding.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Oct 23, 2010 11:16:04 PM

I see that Matt finds it necessary to snipe at me even when I think twice about an issue before posting, and realize I am on the "conservative" side. I saw one episode of the British version of "Skins" (MTV is doing a remake), and it was extraordinary. If MTV were not aimed at preteens and teens, I would defend their right to produce and broadcast material rated TV-MA. (I am betting, however, that the MTV version of "Skins" will be far inferior to the original British version.) But even as a former teen who resented adult censorship, I do acknowledge the right of adults to limit what teens can watch on television.

The "scandalous" material back in my day -- Elvis Presley's hip movements, Jerry Lee Lewis singing Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On -- is not only tame by comparison to what kids are exposed to today. It was really pretty innocuous back in the 1950s and 1960s. And I think that Rob Visher has turned out okay even though he was exposed to Billy Idol videos. But it does seem to me that the music and programming aimed at young people today is of a different order than what I grew up with. I personally am not offended by a lot of the explicit language in rock music today. But imagining myself as a parent, I find it pretty horrifying that this stuff is out there.

Posted by: David Nickol | Oct 24, 2010 4:05:06 AM

I watched a few Skins episodes, the original UK version. It was an advertisement for pedophilia. After they finish bashing the Church for it they will try to normalize it. I complained to BBC, much good that did.

Posted by: Fr. J | Oct 24, 2010 12:28:59 PM

Fr. J,

I am unclear as to what you mean by "an advertisement for pedophilia." Technically, pedophilia is adults having sex with prepubescent children. I believe "Skins" focuses on adolescents. Do you mean that "Skins" put adolescents on display so that adults who were attracted to adolescents could watch them in sexual situations? That may be true, but it is not an advertisement for pedophilia. Also, I thought your position was that the problem in the Church was not pedophilia, but homosexuality.

Posted by: David Nickol | Oct 24, 2010 2:25:57 PM

David Nickel you sound like a right peado, or your one of them mtshit presenters. The gay issue is nothing compared to them trying to normalize pedophillia, the show "the middle" to my mind tried to suggest incest (a mother dating her son, supposed to be funny, but the way it was done was creepy) and peadophilia (a 40 year old women said this to a little boy "I filled him full of sugar and he never put out" meant to be funny because she wanted a little boy to play with her son (so their pretense goes) but seriously not funny) Sugar also possibly being a synomyn for "drug" and you begin to see how sick these buggers are.

Posted by: davie roy | Sep 18, 2012 9:15:47 AM