Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Market Of The Senses

IMAGINE you're a TV critic assigned to write a piece on the 25-year anniversary of MTV and you have nothing negative to say about one of the most pernicious cultural developments in the history of western civilization. Instead, you use words like marvelous and ingenious, and state that, "In its quarter-century, MTV has done everything right." Now, I know the blogosphere is already filled with hateful invective and name-calling, so what's one more rant. Allow me to say that the "critic" in question, The New York Times' Virginia Heffernan, is no Frank Rich, or even Camille Paglia. Heffernan has "no complaints" with EmpTV, save for the white-guilt notion that it took them too long to flood the airwaves with disgusting, valueless, tasteless rap culture on a daily basis. In The Ever-Changing Eternal Youth Of MTV, Now 25 Going On 11, she credits the network with "amply compensating for early mistakes, like its notorious snub of hip-hop." The gushy airhead goes on to report that her mouth is agape at the splendor of the houses shown on MTV Cribs, the show devoted to flaunting homes purchased with the ill-gotten, obscene wealth amassed by these talentless, mumbling, crotch-grabbing video stars. Her breathless celebro-praise is worth quoting in full: "Paulina Rubio, the girlish Latin pop star, led the camera through her spectacular house in Miami. It was immaculate, airy, elegant, filled with light. As she seemed to float through the tour, she appeared to have no obligations or ties except to her yoga teacher. For a moment I thought she had the most beautiful house I'd ever seen. I was agape." Wow! That's how her article ends. The world now seems to be full of young people like this, lost souls desperate to demonstrate hipness at any price, even if a mindless allegiance to hip-hop is their ticket.

Compare that take with one by a real social commentator, someone with guts and an abiding inclination to go against the mainstream. Stanley Crouch of The Daily News, in a column titled MTV, Still Clueless After All These Years, writes that MTV "came to project the most dehumanizing images of black people since the dawn of minstrelsy in the 19th century. Pimps, whores, potheads, drug dealers, gangbangers, the crudest materialism and anarchic gang violence were broadcast across the world as real black culture." He laments the triumph of "the lowest common denominator" as well as the "misogynist images" and "rule-of-thumb-stupidity" that viewers have become accustomed to. You can read the whole column at www.nydailynews.com/news/col/scrouch.

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