MTV Then and Now: “Reality” replaces music

By Jessica Clayton
Staff Writer

“Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.”
These were the words spoken by John Lack, Chief Partner Creator of MTV, on August 1, 1981 to launch MTV as the “new face of music videos.” Since then, the channel has evolved from solely airing music videos to an endless marathon of reality TV.
“When I was a teenager, MTV was geared more towards music and music appreciation, so there were many more music videos and interviews with singers and rappers… There were definitely no reality shows or sexual content,” said assistant principal Melanie Williams.
Most people know MTV today as a host of television shows, with very little to do with music and music videos.
“There is not much music on there anymore; it is not the same MTV it used to be when it first came out,” said sophomore Madison Straits.
In 1981, the station was based on airing things only about music 24/7. Northwood phys. ed teacher Russ Frazier thinks that the current MTV does not air enough music videos to be called Music Television. In fact, in 2010, MTV dropped “Music Television” from its corporate logo.
“They mainly play music videos when [students] are in school or should be asleep,” Frazier said. “When I was in high school, people went home from school to watch TRL, [a daily showcase for music videos].”
MTV used to feature a wide variety of music on a regular basis. There were shows devoted to specific music genres. For instance, TRL, or Total Request Live, was a television series that featured popular music videos that stopped airing in 2008.
“MTV focused on rock-and-roll, alternative and pop music and maybe one or two shows that focused on rap and R&B,” said Williams.
Now, most viewers that watched MTV in its early stages no longer watch the station because it has changed so much. Frazier says he doesn’t watch it because there’s nothing he wants to see.
But since 1986, the percentage of teenage viewers climbed from 43 percent to 75 percent.
“It’s got a lot of reality shows and it’s entertaining most of the time. It’s interesting to see different people’s lives; it’s people our age and it’s just what’s going on now. It’s pop culture,” said Straits.
Senior Anna Brown thinks MTV has changed from being centered on music to being centered on television shows.
“MTV is reality, but it’s more like teen reality and stuff that goes on in our lives and stuff that we find interesting and funny,” said Brown.
Some teenagers enjoy watching MTV because they feel like they can relate their lives to the shows aired, which they also find entertaining and full of drama.
“I watch MTV because a lot of the reality shows portray extraordinary lifestyles of teens and it’s entertaining. It gives you a good laugh because some of the people are just ridiculous,” said Straits.
Some people think that MTV is a bad influence on younger viewers. Shows such as Jersey Shore and The Real World depict people partying, fighting and participating in other extreme activities.
“I don’t like all the reality shows because I think it gives kids the wrong impression of what reality is,” said CTE teacher Delisa Cohen.
A few Northwood students believe MTV has a negative influence on people’s lives.
“MTV has a bad influence on people because it’s all about partying and going to the clubs,” said junior David Candelori.
Others believe that MTV, and television in general, should not be blamed for the decisions of teenagers.
“I think that there is so much information in the world and teenagers are smart enough to make their own decisions. Just because you see it doesn’t mean you have to do it; I wouldn’t attribute anything to one television channel,” said Williams.