• 5 Take-Aways from Last Night’s VMAs

    by  • August 31, 2015 • Advertiser Accountability, Awards Shows, Cable Choice, Misrated, Ratings Reform, Sexualization • 7 Comments


    1. MTV doesn’t seem to know who their target audience is.

    It’s a bit of a jarring juxtaposition to see an image of a fresh-faced, young teen girl still wearing braces in mascara ads right next to an ad for Trojan Studded Bare Skin condoms. Or to see commercials for PG-rated “Pan” and “Jem” alongside ads for R-rated “We Are Your Friends,” and “Black Mass.” Who are they targeting? Pubescent or pre-pubescent kids, or sexually active young adults? Are they marketing adult entertainment to kids? Or are they marketing kiddie entertainment to adults?

    2. Why is MTV telling kids not to smoke during the commercial breaks, then encouraging recreational pot smoking during the actual program? 

    Anti-smoking campaigns have been successful in reducing the number of children who take-up smoking, and the reason for much of that success is that they were able to persuade Hollywood to reduce or eliminate entirely the depiction of “role-model” characters who smoke on screen. They recognized, and persuaded Hollywood, that if kids see the people they admire and esteem smoking on screen, it increases the likelihood the child will take up smoking themselves.

    To their credit, MTV aired several ads by Truth.com encouraging kids to not smoke. So why then did the actual VMAs become a celebration of pot smoking? We get that Miley smokes Pot. We got it when she took her Instagram selfie and instructed everyone to say “Marijuana” instead of “Cheese.” We got it when she pretended to be tripping on hash brownies in a pre-recorded bit with Snoop Dogg. We got it when she told Kanye that if he’s smoking weed he needs to “pass that sh*t.” We got it when she closed the show with a song whose lyrics are basically, “Yea, I smoke pot… But I don’t give a f*ck.” Actions speak louder than words, MTV. And YOU allowed all of this to happen, which either makes you a hypocrite or a liar.

    3. What exactly was MTV’s criteria for using the dump button?

    Ahead of the VMAs, MTV announced that they would be running the show on a tape delay so they could stop any inappropriate content before it went out over the airwaves. There were ample “f-words,” and “s-words” during the course of the show, and the network censors seem to have gotten them all. But there were also several “bitch”es and the Instagram photo of Miley “blow[ing]” a cob of corn, at the beginning of the program. There was Rebel Wilson’s “F-ck Da Stripper Police” shirt – which actually spelled-out the same word they’d been muting elsewhere. And then of course, there were the transitions into and out of commercial breaks, they chose to highlight every attention-grabbing stunt from VMAs past from the Madonna-Britney Spears kiss, to Diana Ross jiggling Lil Kim’s breast, to Miley grinding against Robin Thicke’s crotch. If they were concerned about the viewers at home, why highlight every controversial moment from VMAs past? Why allow the visuals but not the words?

    4. The V-Chip wouldn’t have stopped kids from seeing Miley’s “nip-slip.” And oh, by the way, there’s no way that was an “accident.”

    Like the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime show in which Janet Jackson exposed her breast to millions of American viewers, audiences for the VMAs got an unexpected eyeful of Miley’s bare breast – and the V-chip wouldn’t have prevented kids from seeing it. And let’s be honest, MTV, you knew Miley would #FreeTheNipple. Shame on you.

    MTV is a case study in the systematic failure of the television ratings system to adequately inform or warn parents about potentially problematic content. Nearly all television programming falls into the very broad categories of PG or TV-14. Parents might use the age-based ratings to block M-rated programs, but very few shows are given that highly-restrictive rating. Consequently 99% of programming falls into the over-broad age categories of PG or PG-14; and because PG-14 runs the gamut from slightly off-color sitcoms to graphically violent dramas, parents who use the V-Chip will be relying on the content descriptors more than the age-rating to block content from coming into their homes. Last night’s VMAs were rated TV-14 with a “D” descriptor for suggestive dialogue, and an “L” descriptor for strong language.  But the ratings are wholly ineffective at anticipating unscripted events, which means the ratings inevitably let parents down anytime there is a live show.  

    5. Even without the nip-slip, there was enough raunchy sex talk, crotch grabbing, and simulated intercourse to justify an “S” descriptor.

    Even allowing for the presumably unplanned “nip-slip,” MTV still should have put an “S” descriptor on the VMAs. There was no “S” descriptor, despite choreography that had Nikki Minaj pulling a man’s face toward her crotch to simulate a sex act. There was no “S” descriptor, despite Miley’s ever-more revealing costumes (which surely MTV had a chance to approve before the show?).  

    Last year’s broadcast brought in 8.3 million viewers and was the number one cable telecast of last summer with viewers ages 12 to 34. MTV knows millions of kids are watching, yet they continue to pull crass stunts year after year on the VMAs. MTV shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    7 Responses to 5 Take-Aways from Last Night’s VMAs

    1. Cathy Roberts
      September 5, 2015 at 5:40 am

      As parents, it is our responsibility to train and guide our childred in a manner that will lead to their success. We live in such a busy world with mom and dad both working to support the family that today it is hollywood and shows like MVA that are training our children. “As the family goes, so goes the nation,”

    2. Phyllis Bove
      September 4, 2015 at 3:55 am

      Oh, how I wish MTV would disappear forever.

      • moax429
        September 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        That makes two of us. MTV today *isn’t* like it was when I was in college in the 80′s, fun and enjoyable.

        Glad I “cut the cord” last December. I *certainly don’t* miss cable anymore.

        I *wouldn’t* want my MTV *now!*

    3. Elissa
      September 1, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      I would love to see MTV taken away all together. This network shows nothing but garbage. I have blocked the channel so that my children aren’t exposed to it.

    4. Regina
      September 1, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      TURN IT OFF . REALLY PEOPLE !!! Why watch trash . Stop patronizing these freaks. Stop buying the music, don’t go to the movies. Hit the pocketbook. …..

    5. Really?
      September 1, 2015 at 7:03 am

      Why would you even let your kids watch the show? The vmas have never been meant for kids anyway so stop making it somehow mtv’s fault because you’re too lazy to put the damn channel (oh no! I sad damn) behind a passcode or tell your kids not to watch it
      The vmas don’t represent anything that doesn’t already get played during daytime which is music videos by artists that include smoking, swearing, sex, etc. so you might as well also make a post telling artists to stop expressing themselves the way they want
      with the standards you people have on this site you might as well throw the tv away (sex, drugs and swearing are always gonna be on tv – deal with it) and send your kids to church

      • moax429
        September 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

        But – as the PTC wisely and rightfully pointed out dozens of times before – even if you block MTV, *you’re still paying for it!* So it *isn’t* as easy as you might think.

        I repeat, as I said in a few other postings: I’m glad when I moved to Charlotte, Michigan last December I “cut the cord” and now enjoy such free, over-the-air (and *decent*) channels as MeTV, Antenna TV, and Retro TV. If more people would do as I did, then Viacom would *really* be hit where it hurts most – their bottom line!

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