Sunday, September 13, 2009

VMA Thoughts. . . .

Did you get to see the VMAs? I'm hoping you did and that you're up for sharing your thoughts about the broadcast, the questions I posted here on Friday, and the implications of it all in terms of our ministries with kids.

I decided that this year I'd do something a little bit different. Rather than watch and then let it all ferment in my brain overnight, I decided to blog just a few of my thoughts in real time, posting them as soon as the show ends. So here comes Madonna to the mic . . . . talking, as expected, about Michael Jackson. . . and I'll be jotting my thoughts as they occur. Hopefully you'll be able to glean something from it all.

-Is it me, or is Madonna's monologue a little bit creepy? How does Joe Jackson feel about Madonna talking about the fallout from his son's lack of a childhood? And what would that have been like if Michael Jackson and Madonna had wound up as a couple? In his death, will Michael Jackson continue to be deified in spite of Madonna's claims that he was only human? Yep. . . Michael Jackson was good and really talented. But we continue to slide into holding celebrities up higher than we should, doing ourselves and them no favors at all.

-Russell Brand's opening monologue picks up where he left off last year. There are no bounds in what we talk about when it comes to sexuality. Brand has set his mark for the evening. . . Lady Gaga. He's expressed what he wants to do with her, while telling the world about her bisexuality. The censors did kick in a couple of times, but you have to wonder how long those conventions will be held.


-And then the Best Female Video goes to Taylor Swift. Considering what this 19-year-old was up against, it's good to see something and someone more wholesome take home the moon man. But surprise surprise. Kanye West ruins Swift's moment by grabbing the mike and making a fool of himself by talking about Beyonce. . . nominated in this category. . . having one of the best videos of all time. Again, more evidence of our collective loss of respect, kindness, civility and decency. Another inflated ego tries to steal the show. Thank goodness, many in the crowd stood and applauded the shocked Swift. Wow. . . it didn't take long for the first wacky moment of the night.



-I know Jack Black was trying to be silly in his mock prayer to the devil. . . but again . . . . creepy. When you know the enemy is real, it's not silly.

-After a wholesome performance from Swift, we're told to hang on for Lady Gaga and whatever it is that she's going to do on stage in 6 minutes. Maybe the Body Heat fragrance commercial is a sneak preview.

-Okay. . . her onstage rendition of "Paparazzi" was artsy and spooky. What's the song about? Here's what she's said about it in the past: "The song is about a few different things – it's about my struggles, do I want fame or do I want love? It's also about wooing the paparazzi to fall in love with me. It's about the media whoring, if you will, watching ersatzes make fools of themselves to their station. It's a love song for the cameras, but it's also a love song about fame or love – can you have both, or can you only have one?"

-Green Day performs "East Jesus Nowhere," a song I'm still trying to totally understand. The song goes after religious hypocrisy (a legitimate target in many ways), and the intertwining of religion and politics (again, a legitimate target in the way the relationship often manifests itself). A song like this shouldn't necessarily make us (as people of faith) angry. Rather, we should listen and then ask if there's any truth to what they're singing. Again, in many ways I think there's some truth. But I always worry about songs like this that tend to lump the baby in with the bathwater, leaving vulnerable young listeners thinking negatively about both. Our lack of a fully integrated biblical faith with stuff like this to devalue true Christian faith.

-Wow. . . .what a marketing coup with the exclusive showing of the extended trailer for New Moon, the second installment in the Twilight saga film series. The fascination with Vampire culture continues to grow.

-Whenever I watch Beyonce I can't help but think back to what she wrote in the liner notes of the Destiny's Child Survivor album back in 2001. You need to check it out.

-Muse performs their anti-establishment/resistance song "Uprising." They sing,

The paranoia is in bloom,
The PR, the transmissions, will resume,
They'll try to push drugs to keep us all dumbed down,
And hope that we will never see the truth around,

SO COME ON!

Another promise, another scene,
Another package not to keep us trapped in greed,
With all the green belts wrapped around our minds,
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined,

SO COME ON!

They will not force us,
They will stop degrading us,
They will not control us,
And we will be victorious!

Anyone out there know much about these guys from the UK? I wonder if their words are prophetic in the sense that they point to a looming and growing generational divide over ideologies? I've long thought that the cultural-generational gap that exists in today's world is due more to the pace of cultural change than to ideological differences. In the former, people on both sides are more prone to want to come together. With the latter, they are ideologically divided. . . like in the sixties. Is that what we're heading towards?

-Oh man!. . . Lady Gaga is winner of the Best New Artist. They zoom in on her wearing that red thing. . . . and I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight! She won her award "for God and for the Gays." I think that more than anything else at this year's VMAs, Lady Gaga is the best indicator of where we are and where we're going as a culture. For that reason, she warrants our attention, and a deconstruction of her music, story, and worldview. Her popularity means that her message is getting through.

-Best performance of the night. . . . Pink. Gutsy and pretty creative.

-Now that's a classy move on Beyonce's part. She wins Video of the Year then steps aside to have Taylor Swift come out and have "her moment." In a world filled with posturing, bad sportsmanship, and egos, this was a wonderful moment of redemption for Taylor Swift, courtesy of Beyonce.

So. . . what caught your eyes and ears this year? Who are we as a culture? What do we value in our culture? What do we believe in our culture? Who are we choosing to live in our culture? And what does all this mean in terms of how we minister to kids?

Feel free to share your insights.

17 comments:

Ben McClary said...

I watched out of duty as a youth pastor. Other than some mildly interesting tidbits that I will be able to say "I saw that" about, I'm sorry I wasted 3 hours of my life on it. All the highlights will be reported in the news. I'm not surprised at what it says about our culture--it's the same hyper-sexualized, push the envelope of obscenity trash every year, punctuated by a litany of bad music with one or two noteworthy performances that are basically lost in the chaos.

Miguel Guzman said...

I didn't get the chance to see the VMA's this year, but when Maria, my sister told me about what Kanye West did to Taylor Swift, I just thought, "What was he thinking??" or "Can he be anymore narcissistic?" He just NEEDS to have his moment, even if it comes at the expense of Taylor. If I were her, I would grab that mic back and tell him off, politely of course. What is happening to our decency as individuals? And another thing, Kanye calls himself Christian, I don't think this is how we want to be portrayed as. He is giving us and Christianity a bad rep. Those are my thoughts on what I saw of the VMA's, all two minutes of it.

Kim said...

I taped the VMAs but haven't watched the whole thing yet. My thoughts on what I've seen so far:

- Madonna's monologue offered some insight into her life. When she talked about losing her mother and spending her life looking for a mother role model it made me wonder what she would be like today if another woman had taken Madonna under her wings. What about kids that physically have a mother but are emotional orphans. Are we looking for them and taking them under our wings?

- Hollywood doesn't understand what a hero is. Michael Jackson was extremely talented, but talent doesn't make a person a hero.

- Madonna paved the way for Lady GaGa. Is this a passing of the torch in regards to the woman who causes the most controversy?

- Hollywood doesn't like religion and politics to mix but they have no problem with entertainment and politics mixing. Why the double standard? Why is a non-American entertainer cheered for his comments regarding what he thinks should be done in American politics?

- Is Russell Brand known for anything other than hosting last year's VMAs? Was a not-well-known foreigner chosen over somebody who might be much more well known simply because he will push the envelope farther?

- Kanye is a narcissist that goes unchallenged. If a stranger had rushed the stage they would have been removed from the building. Was Kanye kicked out or does his celebrity status allow his actions to go unpunished?

- I found Lady GaGa's performance to be super creepy and I was very uncomfortable with the ending and even more so when I saw her red "outfit" afterwards. Was she trying to continue with her performance even after leaving the stage? Was the red outfit supposed to be blood covering her face?

- When Lady GaGa won, the camera captured Perez Hilton standing and cheering. Why does somebody who is simply a blogger have such a presence in the celebrity world? Will Walt Mueller be seen cheering in the background at the Oscars? :)

Adam Lehman said...

Walt, Great commentary.

Ben, let's be sure not to just condemn the music industry as a whole. We are in a period of time right now where some pretty revolutionary music is being made and it is being done in pretty revolutionary ways. The "bad" music you claim you saw is simply an indication of your preference and says nothing about the actual quality and style of musical preference. This is the kind of rhetoric that has tainted the image of Jesus in today's world.

Walt Mueller said...

Ben. . .I share your "waste of time " sentiments to a point. In fact, it was difficult keeping the TV tuned to the VMAs (and all the commercials) without flipping over to ESPN Sunday Night Baseball to watch the Phils (killer at times!). But if I can offer a gentle nudge to the overwhelming majority of people who would feel the same. . . I think we do need to go there with our own eyes and ears in an uninterrupted fashion. Here's why - I hope we have enough truth and wisdom stored up in the well of our lives to be discerning on these things. Our kids don't. They soak it all up as normal fare. Last night was a party for the culture, and we were given access. If we want to effectively communicate the Gospel, we have to go to the party and look and listen hard before speaking. To speak truth into that hyper-sexualization and bad music (that we see as such while they don't) with compassion and credibility, we have to have been there first.

sue s said...

My 15 year old daughter asked me to unblock the channel (MTV's not all bad mom!) to watch the show. At Walt's encouragement in yesterday's post, I happily complied. "I just want to see Justin Bieber," she said. Believing that we "see" things differently when we're with different people, my hope is that watching the show with her mom would make her think a little differently than just watching with her cousin (by cellphone, in another state).

We enjoyed the musical and video portion of the MJ tribute.

My daughter loves many of the songs and artists who were nominated for awards, but when she saw some of the video footage, she was quick to point out to me that "it's about the words and music, not the videos, mom." It encouraged me that she was acknowledging at some level that the videos were inappropriate.

My hope is that Brand's raunchy and crude humor, Kanye's ignorance, Lady Gaga's disturbing performance, and Black's tribute to the devil highlighted for my daughter the huge indifference and sometimes hostility of the pop music culture to the things of God.

Other comments from my daughter - "Noone's laughing" after several of Brand's "jokes." Raised eyebrows over West's interruption. Loved the Taylor Swift performance. Justin Bieber's 2 minutes in the spotlight - disappointing. Miranda Cosgrove's dress - gross! slutty! After LGG - "hope i can get that image out of my mind." Beyonce's performance - "letting it all hang out"

She chose to go to bed before 11.

My prayer is that she, and other Christian children, are THINKING about what they're seeing and hearing, PRAYING for their favorite lost artists, and with our help and the power of God will be WILLING to consider "whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is right, whatever is pure. . ."

Will my willingness to watch and listen with her make a difference? Please, Lord, give me wisdom and hope, and make my child your faithful servant.

joe.rob said...

I agree with some of the sentiment being expressed here, but I want to point out one thing that no one seems to be noticing. Yes, a lot of the culture on display at the VMAs is borderline obscene, disrespectful, and narcissistic. But in the video Walt posted, notice a few things: 1) Taylor Swift looks genuinely surprised and humbled to win her award; 2)When Kanye made a fool of himself, Swift did NOT retaliate or lash out in return; and 3)the crowd at the VMAs seemed to be as offended on behalf of Taylor Swift as most of us are, and they showed her support.

I think those things are well worth noting. We should latch on to them(as well as Beyonce having some class and giving Taylor Swift 'her moment') as signs of hope that even though some entertainers in today's culture are crass, classless, tasteless, disrespectful, and vulgar, not all of them are. And not all of the young people who idolize today's performers share their values.

joe.rob said...

Addendum:

According to a couple of news sources, Kanye was asked by an MTV big-wig to leave the VMAs immediately. Also, apparently for the rest of the night even his name was taboo, as every mention of it immediately drew chants of 'Taylor!'.

That says to me that even today's generation still recognizes that there's a line that shouldn't be crossed.

Jason from Indiana said...

Let's not forget Brand's comment during his monologue (or was that a sermon?) to the Jonas Brothers after ridiculing them at last year's VMA's for their stance on abstinence:

"They HAVE to forgive me-they're Christians!"

Now, that's an interesting comment, isn't it? Christians getting a shout out for what they 'have to do' from a presumed non-Christian during the middle of his otherwise gratuitous prologue.

Let's unpack that one...

As I was lying in bed last night, trying to shake the VMA's out of my head (I eventually did fall asleep about 2 am), I considered what would have happened if Brand had said exactly the OPPOSITE of what he actually said. What if he made a positive statement about the Jonas brothers and their courage to do what they believe is right, or instead of accusing Americans for judging the English for having crooked teeth and acting 'like perverts,' apologized for those Brits who have maligned their nation, and then treated those he spoke of over the course of the evening with respect? What the night have looked like then?

Clearly, though, MTV KNEW what they were getting with Brand and gave him the green light to speak openly...which he did. He has now revealed himself as a misogynistic womanizer, vile, intolerant of those of faith, etc.

Now, I'm left to wonder...will this make Brand more, or less popular? Or will Kanye's conceited act overshadow the atrocity of Brand's 'humor.' Will Kanye's actions make people forget the macabre and disturbing images of Lady Gaga hanging, bloody and 'dead' on the stage? Will it overshadow Madonna's self-serving speech that actually drew an equal amount of attention to herself as it did M.J.? Will it make people forget that Beyonce (a self professed Christian and 'power woman')is still selling her goods through sex and not her vocal talents (hello, mixed messages!?

These are just a few of the ???'s still running through my head and heart.

I am thankful for one thing, though...at least Amy Winehouse didn't make an appearance. : )

Guinevere said...

-Did anyone else notice that Kanye's behavior was immediately making headlines, while Beyonce's classy move only trickled into the news several hours later? I think Kanye's rudeness was glorified, especially by MTV - which makes me wonder whether the outburst was staged. One thing's for sure - you can't stage graciousness and poise. Beyonce has both, and I just wish more media attention would have been drawn to that.
-The impression that I got from Lady Gaga's performance was simply that she attempted to be as bizarre as possible. What a mess! I mean, I'm only 23... but I don't see why she is being lauded as this great star.
-Listening to Madonna made me both sad, AND roll my eyes. Sad because of what Madonna revealed about her own childhood, roll my eyes because I'm so tired of the entertainment media glorifying Michael Jackson! He was the King of Pop, not the King of Kings... and just because he's passed away and was arguably the greatest entertainer ever does not make him a hero.
-Brand is rude, crude, and unimpressive to me. I wanted to throw something at my TV LAST year - it irked me tremendously that he and the whole MTV culture were telling my generation how to vote, because I knew a lot of them would. Given the combination of Brand and Kanye, I'd say narcissistic rudeness is being glorified these days. Gag.

Elizabeth R said...

I think what you have to realize is that absolutely none of the behavior you've described here is new for the VMAs. If you ever watch one of MTV's "best of the VMAs" type specials, you'd see one of the guys from I think it was the Beastie Boys in disguise upstaging another band to talk about how awesome their song/vid was (and I believe people cheered, not booed, and that other band never did get to say much, just kind of watched unfazed); you'd see Howard Stern decend from the heavens with a false nude bottom on; you'd see that intensly creepy Jeremy video sweep the awards that year; on and on. And everything I've just said happened before the year 2000.

My point is, the VMAs have always promoted this exact same "agenda"; basically it's kind of a pubescent boy sense of humor amped up a bit to be a bit more raunchy. If you're going to talk about them, don't represent them as somehow worse than they used to be... what a short memory we have... they've always been like this.

Jenn said...

I think everybody's already said what I think (though I didn't get to watch the VMAs), but I did want to latch onto WM's Muse comment. I DON'T know much about that band, but you should check out the titles of the songs on their soon-to-be-released CD. Extremely intriguing. Also . . . that guy is very musically talented.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm going to try to leave a comment again as anonymous (it wouldn't let me last time--I don't have a google account, but I'll try again this time and we'll see). About Muse: they started in 1994 and are still relatively young (around 30). They are mostly progressive rock, though their sounds are all kind of different in their albums. Their latest album (The Resistance) sounds a bit more like Queen in some of their songs. They gained more fame with their album, Black Holes & Revelations released in 2006 because a song (Take a Bow) was featured in the trailer for The Watchmen) and also their song, Supermassive Black Hole, was featured in the movie, Twilight (the Twilight author is a HUGE fan of Muse and calls them her muse--it makes me wonder if a song off their new album, Undisclosed Desire, will be in the new Twilight movie--). They are very talented and are classically trained. Their songs, while sometimes sounding upbeat musically are generally more hopeless lyrically. One of their lines from the album, Black Holes & Revelations, go like this: "Come ride with me through the veins [it sounds like "veins"] of history; I'll show you a God who's asleep on the job..." so they aren't religious and most likely not Christians. Their lyrics sometimes remind me of U2 where it's hard to figure out what their lyrics are meaning (and incidentally, they are opening for some of U2's tour this year). I know that Nestle used a song of theirs in a commerical so Muse sued them and Muse donated the money they won to a charity. The lead singer doesn't like George W. Bush and that is about all I know. Walt, you should espeically check out their album, Black Holes & Revelations, as well as their new one, The Resistance.
-Kristina

Anonymous said...

Sorry Walt, but I could not stomach to watch the awards. I saw the Taylor Swift clip and continue to be a fan of hers.
Jean Rodgers

bignateym said...

sorry I was not able to be at the presentation at Central Christians school today. Both my girls (a freshman and fifth grader) were really impressed by you. They got alot out of what you said to them thanks for your ministry keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

No one is talking about the most talked about and best performance of the Night to me and most of the teens I interact with. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys singing "Empire State of Mind" I think teens see Jay-Z and Beyonce as the model couple with respect to marriage. What's not too love, she is pretty, and he is an urban hip hop king. How does Jay-Z sing a song with expletives and as self-centered as anything that happened during the night and it come across as cool and well....classy. To me, most of our kids know that Russell Brand is an idiot, Kanye is all about Kanye, and Lady Gaga is from another planet, but this Jay-Z and Beyonce throws me off a bit. It's interesting to me that like few famous people that come along every decade or so, that nothing sticks to them and it is anti-american to talk negatively about the two. They need some fair attention as well.

Jason Mangrum
Perry Georgia

Anonymous said...

"...the cultural-generational gap that exists in today's world is due more to the pace of cultural change than to ideological differences. "

NO!!!!! The generational gap is due to foolishness being bound up in the heart of a child" (Whether that child is 4, 14, 24, 34, or 44 years old) and the failure of parents to be parents as described in God's Holy Word. To blame the gap on cultural change is to discard God's stance on this issue in favor of an academia, elitist view.