"Hey, you know what Sunday night is?" my 11-year-old daughter shouted to me from the family room late last week. I knew she was spending one of her last carefree mornings of summer break fiddling around on-line. "Does 'Fred' have a new video out?" I ventured a guess. "My gosh Mom, that series hasn't been on in years," she admonished. "But the actor in it did just announce he was gay on You Tube."
I am clearly not up on what's going down with Internet stars under the age of 21. I am also clearly not up on what's going on with stars over the age of 21 either. Because according to my daughter the big event she was looking forward to on this past Sunday night was the 30th annual MTV's Video Music Awards.
The VMAs have been around for three decades? Wow. That means there are thousands of mothers and fathers running around the greater Madison area who have never known an entertainment world that didn't include the Moonman statue, a shocking Madonna/Britney Spears moment, or the opportunity for Lady Gaga to sport a caftan built for carnivores. This cohort of parents -- who have grown up in the age of music video relevancy -- have a generational name. They are called Millenials. And the VMAs, I always figured, were for them.
I am quite a few years younger than Madonna (who appeared on the award show's inaugural broadcast in 1984), but am probably a more typical example than the Material Girl of mothers born in the '50s or '60s. I am either a very young Baby Boomer or a very old Gen Xer. MTV didn't launch until I was already in high school. So if video killed the radio star, it did so well after my pop music coming of age. And up until last Sunday night, I'd never watched the Oscars of music videos live.
My daughter was born in 2002. "Total Request Live" went off the air when she was in still in kindergarten, so she's never known MTV to be the place to go for music videos. And to date (thankfully) she's shown no interest in watching "Teen Mom," "Catfish," or any of the other semi-disturbing reality shows that appear to make up the bulk of the network's current programming. So her palpable excitement for the MTV awards show kind of surprised me.
When asked though why she was so excited about watching it, my daughter replied, "There's a rumor that N'Sync may be getting back together. And I kind of like the oldies." We made plans to watch.
Fortunately I didn't need to end up censoring the Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana or any of Kevin Hart's crass but not-even-a-little-bit funny humor. Because my daughter, clearly underwhelmed (and confused) by the Lady Gaga opener, promptly fell asleep as soon as the show went to commercial break. She missed Taylor Swift's f-bomb and didn't get to see such lofty superlatives awarded as "Best Video with a Social Message" or the "Song of the Summer." With categories like that, I kind of expected some recognition for best use of a cat in a music video. Or at least a best foreign language video award tailor-made for PSY.
No, I guess you could say I wasn't particularly impressed. But I still couldn't bring myself to turn the TV off and ended up watching straight through the over-the-top (under the bridge?) Katy Perry finale.
As expected, when my daughter woke up Monday morning she asked first thing to see the much-hyped reunion and I showed her all 110 seconds of it online. "That was it?" she asked. "N'Sync didn't even sing a whole song," she said with a tone of bitter disappointment.
So I explained to her that sometimes things, like awards shows and boy band reunions, are just about creating buzz. They are about having something silly to distract us from much more serious world issues. And giving pop stars an award show to which they are allowed to wear jeans.
I told her that there were many people who enjoyed hyping the reunion of five cute singers they had adored in their youth. But many didn't want to spend too much time actually watching four of the same five guys, all likely pushing 40, perform.
The Millenials have probably known all along that the VMAs are more about gawking at the Miley-like train wrecks than spending a few minutes with the more "classic" models.
But the show has definitely turned off one 11-year-old member of Generation Z and her Gen X mom. I guess we'll never be a part of Generation MTV. And I can't help but wonder when a decade from now a Millennial mom sits down with her pre-teen daughter to watch the You Tube Video Awards how she will explain Beliebers or twerking during the inevitable Justin/Miley reunion duet.
Which will come right after the Fred lifetime achievement award.