The MTV Video Music Awards Are No Longer For You
*Note: by ‘you’ I do of course mean ‘me’
Now, in all honesty, the MTV Video Music Awards probably weren’t for you (me) in your (my) thirties, either. But if anything was needed to reassure me further of this fact, it was the sight of this year’s VMAs.
I say ‘sight of’ but of course I didn’t watch it at the time, not being a) American or b) 16. I caught up with clips and GIFs and photos not even the following day but the day after, being a) British (it was a Bank Holiday weekend) and b) 42. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to know exactly what had gone down – as I believe The Kids say – at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards and could quite happily wait until I was back in work on Tuesday. Because apart from anything else, my job involves me knowing – and being surrounded by people talking and writing about – what’s going on in the world, whether that’s the Middle East or an awards show. (Also: cat videos.) This means that I tend to have a slight knowledge of a lot of things, as opposed to a deep knowledge of several. As a result, I would make a terrible Newsnight guest, but, I hope, a good person to have at a dinner party, as long as I could keep the conversation flowing. If someone were to ask me to explain the intricate, complex details of the crisis in Syria or The Only Way Is Essex, I would have to make my excuses and grab another vol-au-vent. Or whatever it is they serve at dinner parties these days. I don’t know. It’s been a while since I went to one, as all my friends have children.
And speaking of children: back to the MTV VMAs. Watching The Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana shaking her bottom and sticking out her tongue, watching Lady Gaga strutting around in a G-string and a shell bra, watching the audience scream for N’Sync… all these things made me feel old. And while I’m aware that saying something ‘made me feel old’ usually has negative connotations, I don’t mean it in that way. It simply made me realise that I am most definitely far, far older than the VMAs target audience. I am most definitely over 40 because…
1. Billy Ray Cyrus holds more cultural significance for me than Miley Cyrus
Can I name a Miley Cyrus song? No. Can I sing along to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’? Most certainly yes.
2. Watching Miley Cyrus prancing around being sexually provocative in underwear slightly fascinates me – I’m only human – but it doesn’t shock me
Instead, it simply reminds me of this. Which is why I wrote this.
3. I see Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke and think of her as a daughter I want to protect and him as a dirty old man
He’s 36, so he’s pretty much of my generation, and thus should know better, frankly. Pop stars, honestly. I also realise Miley is of course an adult and can do what she likes (she’s 20) – but I am old enough to be her mother. Which means I’m old enough to have married Billy Ray Cyrus. Which, frankly, feels odd. Moving swiftly on…
4. I understand what ‘twerking’ is but have no interest in it
In this sense, I am old, but not yet John Humphreys. If this blog was called ‘You know you’re over 60 when…’ the title of this post would be ‘…you don’t know what twerking is’. Fortunately, I am young enough to know that it’s The Latest Craze (see also: Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake) but will happily let my knowledge rest there. Like I say: a little knowledge about a lot of things. This would be dangerous if only it wasn’t mainly things like ‘twerking’.
5. I understand who Robin Thicke is but have no interest in him
And I think it’s a shame that ‘Blurred Lines’ has such horrendous lyrics because it actually has quite a nice melody line. And nothing appeals to an Eighties child like quite a nice melody line.
6. I look at Harry Styles and Taylor Swift being all rude/coy/mean with each other and think “Ah, teenagers!”
Wait. They are teenagers, right?
7. N’Sync reuniting means nothing to me
As per no. 5. above, I’m an Eighties child, not a Nineties one. I would only get excited if Bucks Fizz were reuniting. (NOTE TO BUCKS FIZZ MANAGEMENT: PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.)
8. I am still slightly shocked that people just step out in clothes like this
How on earth did One Direction know where to look? Plus, she’ll catch her death.
If I was to add a number 8 to that list, it would be this: that I realise the more things change, the more they stay the same. I may be surprised by Lady Gaga’s G-string (and note: I am not disapproving of it. I can’t abide the way some women criticise and patronise Rihanna/Gaga/Beyonce et al for their clothing/performances/photoshoots. This is, to my mind, slut-shaming, and we can’t lament teenage boys calling girls sluts if we, grown women, are doing it too) – but I also know that it’s been done before, a million times over. From girls screaming for Sinatra to girls screaming for One Direction, from Elvis’s pelvis to Britney’s schoolgirl uniform, young people will shock the old and make the establishment feel uncomfortable. That’s their job. Until they have actual jobs.
And as the VMAs proved to me, I am now ‘the old’, the establishment; and I watch a show like this (or at least clips or GIFs of it) feeling like an alien, like someone who is standing outside of something. I sort of get it… but that’s the whole point. I’m old enough to be the target audience’s parent – I’m not supposed to completely get it. And that’s just as it should be.
The VMAs has always been America’s version of the Brits: a popularity contest that rewards how many products have been shifted that year, and a live show that tends to be memorable for its shocking and/or car-crash moments. As a result, as an over-40-year-old, it is of course my duty to not take it too seriously, and to realise that I should leave it to The Kids. Maybe next year I actually will.