Why even have award shows anymore
I hope you can allow me this one day of respite before jumping onto the already decomposing corpse of the 2016 VMAs and writing its undeserved postmortem. After all, we tend to long for the immediate gratification when it comes to today’s pop culture. Sure, the articles came yesterday, but the more visceral reaction happened live, almost as an unseen Director’s Cut version of the show unfolded on Twitter. Our fingers tap danced over keyboards and our 140-character hot takes tap danced over the debris of whatever it was Beyonce’s almost 25 minute performance interrupted close to the end. We tuned in less for the results and more for the self-gratification of knowing that people were watching you for your opinion of that other thing that they weren’t watching but you were while they were watching you instead of watching it with you. Which begs the question, what the fuck was the point anyways?
That know cause they seen us in the videos
That know, the day that you play me
Will be the same day MTV play videos
That was 2010, the year when Kanye West, ever the cultural historian turned self-grandeur fetishist shaded a pop culture channel that hasn’t been popular since the late 90s, or at least since you and your cousin discovered BET After Dark. Truth is, even in 2010, MTV has been an antiquated channel on an already-antiquated-yet-still-not-sure-how-to-deal-with-it medium. YouTube and such have already supplanted MTVs space for music videos, what with being able to watch on demand with little to no ads, in whatever sequence you want. And that was before the Vevo conglomerate took over. MTV was already reduced to peddling staged teenage tales about the perils of being a rich, white, twenty-something in LA and passing it off as reality drama with the same gravitas of that cat video your mom insists on sending you. So if it was true then, what’s up now?
MTV seems reluctant to learn from its mistakes. For one, the death of the music video channel is directly correlated to the rapid decline of the human attention span. We don’t even watch video’s whole anymore, we just kind of skim to our favorite part to see if Rhianna in fact knows how to wink, if Drake will ever drive a car or to that skimpy part where you can catch a glimpse of ass in various stages of undress. It doesn’t make sense that they expect us to sit through two hours of content they haven’t even planned yet (giving ‘Ye four minutes to do whatever and then the same to Beyonce for another 24 is basically the J[Ye]esus Take the Wheel production philosophy).
The whole procedure can be boiled down to 15 tweets of congratulations (or a billboard with a bunch of names on it, word to Drake), but alas the rich and famous are really good at, and what’s more really enjoy, being rich and famous. So in the past the VMAs and other various award shows provided a platform for unabashed narcissism to take center stage and celebrate itself in most hedonistic ways possible while the rest of the world looked on. Except not even the rich and famous can give enough of a fuck about the VMAs to bring as much as their B game (outside of Beyonce, who brought her B game, which was a significant improvement over everyone’s A game).
Kanye did something, meandering through his speech aimlessly like a student trying to pad his essay to meet the arbitrary length requirement. Rihanna was given the grand stage which amounted to little outside of possibly the curve of the internet era (so far). Drake got stuck in traffic, but not long enough to not get curved on live television as an inspiration for his next 20 song opus about broken 20 minute relationships padded with 30 minutes worth of discarded voice mails. Britney Spears was sacrificed at the altar of Beyonce and Beyonce did a victory lap that still paled compared to her BET self styled parade.
BET had a purpose. It highlighted a culture not as much in peril as in appropriation. It was a platform, yes for the rich and famous, but also for the marginalized to come together and have a voice that echoed. Whether they accomplished that, is not up to me to decide. The only thing that echoed through VMAs was cacophony that faded as soon as the show was done.
So what exactly were we watching? An archaic establishment trying desperately to cling to life, pleading it’s case to those who could no longer be bothered to give a fuck about it, let alone show up to receive their awards. Frankly, the Twitter chatter was infinitely more entertaining than the actual proceedings on screen and given the very serious and very consequential discussion happening around a player’s right to stand or sit to the anthem of a country that systematically abuses and disregards the rights of its people… Maybe we should have been talking about something else.
At least BET could say it was making a racial statement.
All we got from VMAs was this.