MTV: The Good, the Bam, and the Ugly
Whether I'm trying to find something good among dozens of TV stations or I'm just bored during commercial breaks, I surf over to channel 37. It's like my default channel–surfing stop. I guess I figure that no matter what time of day it is, something cool will be on MTV.
A few weeks ago when I flipped over and saw a Real World rerun with lots of sexual activity, heavy drinking and bitter fighting. I thought, Why is this the station I return to again and again? I think the answer is that MTV gives me a peek into a life I don't have.
In fact, MTV is like an alternate reality where I can experience a world that I don't see when I walk out my door every day. Sure, shows like Alias or Smallville are very different from my life too (you know, because I'm not a secret agent or a superhero), but unlike them, the shows on MTV seem like real life—they tell the stories of real people and their lives. But the lives on MTV aren't like mine. Instead, MTV shows a reality close to mine—but with some slight differences I sometimes don't notice at first. These differences—let's call them "myths"—create an exciting world that doesn't really exist but seems to. What are these myths? Here are four I've noticed:
You Are What You Have
The 16–year–old looked like any one of the girls I went to school with—well, until the interviewer for My Super Sweet 16 asked her how much her dad spent on her birthday party. She answered: "I don't know. The last time I heard, it was about $400,000."
$400,000 for a birthday party? Obviously, this is not normal—nor is having Blink 182 play your party, like this girl wanted. The truth is, people on shows like Sweet 16, Laguna Beach, Rich Girls, and Cribs are not like us. While the extremely wealthy only make up a small percentage of the people in our country, they are somehow the majority on MTV. And because that lifestyle is so common on MTV, it can seem normal. We can start to think that we are missing out. We start to equate possessions with what gives a person worth and value. In fact, Room Raiders is completely about judging people based on what they own!
In Jesus' time on Earth, he talked more about money than almost anything else. He didn't condemn possessions. He did, however, warn against putting too much faith in them (Luke 12: 13-34). We see these warnings throughout the Bible. In 1 Timothy 6:10, we're told, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (NIV). Psalm 62:10 says, "Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them" (NIV).
You're Interesting if You're Famous
Shows like The Ashlee Simpson Show, Meet the Barkers, Newlyweds and Trippin' are based on us caring about the lives of celebrities simply because they are celebrities. Other MTV shows feature people wanting to become celebrities (Making the Band) or even just to look like them (I Want a Famous Face). The message these shows give is that people with fame are more interesting, have more value and have cooler lives than the rest of us. However, this is not reality.