For years now, it's been fashionable (and easy) to make fun of MTV: "Remember back when MTV played actual videos. Boy, they sure do suck!" While there is a lot of truth to the criticism, the deeper truth is that MTV was never perfect. Yes, it devolved into more scripted reality shows (Real World, Road Rules, Cribs, Jersey Shore, etc.) but there were always problems with its content. For it's first two years, white male rock/new wave dominated, while artists of color were few and far between. Check out this awesome "bite the hand that feeds" interview with Bowie from 1983:
In addition to lack of diversity, there was the rampant sexist/misogynistic visuals in most of the heavy metal videos of the day. I watched a ton of rubbish just to see the few videos I liked. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) was real even back in the 80s because we didn't have a VCR in our home until 1988. In order not to waste my entire life watching MTV, I had to become a more savvy viewer and critical thinker to get the most out of the great stuff MTV did have. There was programming that profoundly shaped my life. IRS The Cutting Edge and 120 Minutes were a refuge and oasis from the Poisons and Bon Jovis that dominated the tastes of my peers. It turned me on to scores of bands a suburban dork like me would have no other way of knowing about. Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Young Ones gave me a healthy dose of weirdo British comedy. Overall, the exposure to music and art that MTV provided was captivating and inspiring. I know I would never have become a musician without MTV.
So, happy 40th birthday, MTV. You were never perfect. But I found a way to love you anyway. Thanks, old friend.
What are some of your MTV memories? Favorite videos? I'd love to know!