From the Braver Institute
I was walking past a television set that happened to be on and I couldn’t help but notice Alan Hunter in a commercial. I have no idea what the commercial was for since I have little use for television and even less use for commercials, but I did notice Alan.
For those of you who don’t know who Alan Hunter is, allow me to enlighten you. Alan Hunter is one of the people directly responsible for the end of the civilized world as we knew it—or at least that was what some people who were “too old” (i.e. our parents) thought back in the early days of Music Television, more popularly known as MTV.
Alan was one of the original video jockeys (or VJs) on MTV. In those early days MTV actually played music videos, much like a video version of a radio station.
When MTV first appeared on cable systems across the country I can remember being fairly anxious to get a chance to see it. It wasn’t available in my area and even if it was I still wouldn’t be able to watch since my parents didn’t have cable. I had read about its existence and the idea of being able to watch performances by the artists I had been listening to seemed to be almost as good as going to a concert.
I am not sure when MTV became available in our area but I remember being amazed by it. The first thing I saw was a program called Friday Night Video Fights where you could call in and vote for the best video. Amazing this technology stuff.
I don’t recall there being much, if any, controversy when MTV was added to the local cable lineup but I do remember some other communities getting up in arms about the prospect of it being offered.
As kids we used to say “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” and Munising (if memory serves me) was one town where there was a large and vocal group of the “too olds” who were demanding that MTV be kept off of their televisions. It would seem that hearing music was one thing but seeing music was another thing completely. Music videos were going to completely corrupt the youth of the day. MTV would be the final nail in the coffin of the future and the world would be brought to ruin at its hands as it dragged countless teenagers down the road of anarchy and rebellion. I am sure they speculated it would bring about a real-life version of the film Over the Edge, (about a group of teens who listen to rock and roll and take over a small town) which was released a few years earlier, the terror of which still smoldered in the minds of the “too old” everywhere.
In reality, MTV didn’t cause mass rebellion by the youth who were watching. If anything it kept them home, firmly planted in front of the tv for hours on end watching video after of video of songs with images that had absolutely nothing to do with the song. Frequently we wondered if the video director and the musicians themselves had actually listened to the lyrics of the song they were making the video for.
If MTV had originally planned on destroying the world using music videos, their plan must have backfired or they simply had a change of heart somewhere along the way. One day we discovered that they had broken out of the mold of “radio on tv” and introduced a game show called Remote Control. It was interesting enough and it did use music videos, but it wasn’t the same thing as playing music videos or concert footage.
Remote Control marked the first step down the slippery slope of cable channels getting away from their original mission. Not long after this, The Real World made its debut on MTV, which has largely been regarded as the first “reality tv” program. The show was a hit.
Suddenly cable networks across the country realized that they could dispense with high production costs associated with actors, directors, and scriptwriters, and simply follow real people around with video cameras and call it a program. This of course led to countless notalent people, with last names like Kardashian, rising to celebrity status for no reason at all.
I know that I have railed against reality television before, but it really does deserve every beating it has coming. This garbage is corrupting the minds of our children. It is going to turn them all into a group of self-centered brats. Reality television is going to destroy the world.
Wait just a second. Maybe that was MTV’s game plan all along. Alan Hunter was our friend. We trusted him. All he wanted was to bring us the music but the music was just a red herring and reality television was actually the thing that would undo us.
Well played MTV, well played.
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