Tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards began with Nicki Minaj, who performed alongside Taylor Swift just a month or so after Swift clumsily inserted herself into Minaj’s pointed critiques regarding the racial makeup of this year’s nominees. It was supposed to be a Shocking VMA Moment but was entirely pre-packaged, which may or may not also be true about Minaj confronting Cyrus over her rather boneheaded comments about race.
Jose Antonio Vargas’s one-hour doc White People premiered on MTV yesterday. Controversial upon its announcement, the special attempted to put the onus of grappling with race on whites, as opposed to the people oppressed by racism who already grapple as part of their daily lives. While in practice, the special may have come off as too breezy and inconclusive, its m.o. is logical: One of the clearest effects of white privilege is whites’ ability to ignore race and racism while chalking it up to “not my problem,” if it’s considered at all.
MTV’s crack at converting the Scream movie franchise into a weekly show premiered last night. It was so wrong, I can’t think of a thing it did right. Aside from the motormouth genius (the show’s de facto narrator) and the lesbian, the characters are indistinct, poorly acted, and their lines are mumbled at least half the time. The back story that emerges when the current rash of murders breaks out (a guy with Proteus syndrome went on a rampage 20 years ago in the town in which the show is set), is some straight-to-VHS Friday the 13th knock-off crap. The updated killer’s mask looks melted and his distorted phone voice is too high to be scary.
While many would argue that MTV’s 17-year-old “docu”-series True Life has long passed its prime, I would not. In the past two (or so) years, we’ve been blessed with a young woman who claims that being pretty “sucks,” a Juggalo wedding, molly addicts, a furry in a lynx mask exclaiming, “This is cool!,” and the most beautiful (clothed) butt that I’ve ever seen in my life. True Life continues to be essential viewing. That not just true, it’s also my life.
Meet Chanel, a 19-year-old "freelance model, actress," and wrestling ring girl who lives in California and is so obsessed with staying young that she agreed to be profiled in MTV's True Life: I'm Obsessed with Staying Young. Chanel has "eaten a baby's placenta" and undergoes hours of beauty treatments a day to keep her supple young skin looking that way. A particularly intricate, especially harebrained stay-young-quick scheme involved bathing in pig blood like people did "thousands of years ago and...it worked." MTV's cameras captured her adventure.
In this fraught American media landscape, who can be trusted? Brian Williams is a faker, and Bill O'Reilly is too. The credibility of our most cherished cultural lodestars is crumbling before our eyes, and the mighty haven't stopped falling. That's right: Xzibit is a fraud, and Pimp My Ride was insane bullshit.
Last night, MTV aired a follow-up to its 2010 documentary Nicki Minaj: My Time Now, best known for its Minajalogue on bossing up and being a successful woman in a sexist industry. Nicki Minaj: My Time Again didn't feature any pontificating so impassioned, but it did feature an excellent scene in which Nicki returned to the Queens neighborhood in which she grew up. I've never seen a depiction of Nicki existing so casually without a shred of pop-star bravado.
Five years ago today, Jersey Shore premiered and was pretty instantly dubbed the worst thing that ever happened to American television. Rewatching that pilot, available to stream free on Amazon, is a masterclass in the reverse logic of time and money, how different everyone seems when they are young and poor, before the show became MTV's last real phenomenon. (And set the tone for, oh, probably 65% of all cable television programming, of course.)
Tonight is Teen Wolf's Game Changer. We get about three of these a season and tonight promises the reveal of The Benefactor, the him or her who has hired a coterie of assassins to clear out the show's supernaturals. More people will die, and there are already so many corpses, like Allison Argent, the series' nominal third lead, who was murdered by demons at the end of the super-long third season and amid several cast changes.
Undressed rightfully earned its smut because it was not smutty. It had no shame, only the complications produced by its characters' misplaced sense of the same. It had the lowest possible stakes (there's a joke among fans that the show was lit by a string of Christmas lights), so it invited the largest swath of players.
This is the true story (true story) of fifteen virgins picked to have the most agonizing moments of their young lives broadcast to millions of fellow terrified young people who, like themselves, are intimidated unto paralysis by the idea of doing something incredibly athletic that cannot really be practiced beforehand, and involves offering a body they most likely hate, with and to someone whose opinion in that body they care about to some degree or another... All while trying to synthesize the one million contradictory messages about sexuality, gender, power, respect, disease and control that society hands them each and every day.
Last week's episode of The Challenge was one of its best episodes in history. Or it would have been if the ending hadn't been chopped off in what could be safely called the tease of the year, decade, and Willennium. Look, we know The Challenge has its, uh, lower-rent aspects, but its willingness to straight up deprive us of an arena showdown ranks lower than a drunken topless floozie throwing a chair and walking directly into a swimming pool. How could you do that to us, The Challenge? And it threw off the energy of this week's episode—which was also excellent, admittedly—by starting with a climax and then ending with another anti-climax. But I guess complaining about the producers' cheap tactics would be like complaining about the constant dubstep or the instantly dated slow-mo editing of the competitions. This is the beast we've chosen to love and it's probably not fair to point out its flaws now. But still. Man, what an episode.
I may not have any friends due to having a bad personality and also eating with my hands too much, but even I know that friend breakups are one of life's saddest stories. We've all dumped or been dumped by people we were having sensual relations with, but it's the platonic friends who've known us longest and best who are the hardest to part with. This week's episode of MTV's saddest comedy soap since Spyder Games was all about the dissolution of a best friendship. And whoops, turns out there's something even more painful than an unrequited crush on a friend: calling off that friendship entirely.
One of The Challenge's biggest charms (out of its thousand thousand charms) is how ramshackle its titular challenges can be. Whereas Survivor employs a baker's dozen genius puzzle masters and hundreds of hunky Australian carpenters who spend upwards of three months building a single maze, it sometimes feels like The Challenge's competitions were brainstormed in about four minutes and assembled in ten. "Uh, we've got a bunch of straps, maybe the players can just sort of, uh, dangle for a while?" "Sounds great. But will it look interesting on camera?" "Have them do it in their underwear." "Done. Somebody wheel in T.J."
There's something so special about a show geared toward young people that would give their parents a panic attack. Despite a fair amount of chill, enlightened parents out there who might possibly be OK with their 13-year-old watching a show like Faking It, I'm guessing most would be horrified about the prospect? A colorful, clever, frank, and sex-positive show like this is exactly the kind of thing I would've had to quickly turn off anytime my mom entered the room and that's why Faking It could be considered capital-I Important in the future. The teens who'll have to watch in secret are the ones who need it the most.