In case you haven’t heard, MTV updated its logo. “Music Television” has gone the way of, well, music television, which the channel hasn’t featured for nearly a decade. In its stead, peering out from a double-amputee M, isn’t this generation’s Lauper or Jagger, but the “personalities” from MTV’s latest reality trainwrecks. The company claims the logo, historically dynamic and malleable, now more accurately reflects MTV’s evolution from music-centric content to a broader expression of contemporary youth culture; that it’s more honest about what the company has become. Perhaps that’s true. But considering the fossil record of MTV programming, a spray-tanned Snookie framed in leopard print signifies neither evolution, nor intelligent design.
For decades, MTV ruled by inventing, seemingly at will, new genres of programming — from music television itself, to Real World‘s reality television, Beavis and Butthead‘s crude cartooning, and Jackass‘ strange masochistic voyeurism. It reinvented many more. Punk’d refreshed Candid Camera. Pimp My Ride offered a contemporary take on makeover. And the Osbournes spliced reality with celebrity lifestyle.
With such a bloodline, how did we end up with the mutants from Jersey Shore? Was it inbreeding — spawning within its own gene pool rather than searching outside of its successes for new inspiration? Or was technology the catalyst, introducing so much new competition the network could only attract attention by broadcasting loud-mouthed, scantly-clad neanderthals bludgeoning one another and copulating? Regardless the cause, looking at the faces staring out from the new logo, one sees a generation so far removed from its lineage as to appear not just unrelated, but alien.
Snookie and The Situation have much in common with Paris and Nicky, Kim, Khloe & Kourtney. Popular and successful, perhaps, but without the spirit or significance of those who carried the family name before them. It may be true that the new logo is a more honest reflection of what MTV has become. But looking at the collage of caricatures whose talents include teen pregnancy, sit-ups and getting punched in the face, we wonder: is honesty really the best policy?
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