Nothing makes me set my phasers to “get off my lawn” quite like MTV. I’m not going to pretend it’s become suddenly bad during the exact same years I turned from a high school student to a nominal adult. I accept that it was bad back when I watched it, too, just differently. The mash of payola-saturated reality shows and ads for teen botox looks to me now probably the same way it looked to my older brother when I was 15 and it was a mash of payola-saturated music video countdowns and ads for dot-com startups.
The problem isn’t the content, it’s what it represents. MTV is pure, uncut youth arranged into pixels accessible by every cable subscriber in the country. I’m not talking about “youth” as in young people with jobs starting to make their way into the world. No, MTV is for people who just learned that there is a word called “youth” and it applies to them. They probably don’t even say “youth” – they call themselves “tweens” or something like that. When you’re in that bubble – that zone where MTV actually speaks to you – it’s the most compelling thing on the dial. It’s a remarkably sharp focus. All the kids younger than their target think MTV is torture and would rather watch (MTV-owned) Nickelodeon. The college students (if they’re smart) and twenty-somethings (if they’re not completely stupid) look down on it with the cynicism and disgust it deserves. Once you get into those upper-twenties, though, it’s that first taste of hating people younger than you. It hits you like a ton of bricks.
Tonight while I was eating dinner the only thing that looked the least bit watchable was True Life. True Life is a documentary series that holds the distinction of being one of the few shows on MTV that isn’t trying to sell you something between commercial breaks. It dates back to when I was passing through the MTV demographic and tends to be at least worth a look if you don’t have any other choice. Tonight’s episode was “I’m a Sugar Baby.” I didn’t know what a “Sugar Baby” was so I watched. Let me save you an hour:
You know prostitution? That’s the new word for it. Make a note to yourself.
These women “date” an older man with money that they meet on a dating site specifically for this practice (the practice of prostitution, specifically) in exchange for money. The money isn’t technically for sex, it’s for “companionship.” If sex happens, that’s simply a result of the young woman hitting it off with the wrinkly old dentist she met on the internet who is paying for her car. You know, like it always happens in non-prostitution situations. If this fiction sounds familiar it’s because it is exactly the line put out by “escort services.” You might remember escort services from the one that was frequently patronized by New York Attorney Eliot Spitzer. Did he resign because of all that companionship? Noooope, it was the money-sex thing. Continue reading