the fun thing about twitter is that, if all your friends are watching something (that isn’t breaking bad – i just can’t watch one more show starring a hard-ass white man engaged in violent crime), you often tune in yourself to see what everyone’s laughing at. last night, that happened to be the 30th annual (!!!) MTV video music awards. i started watching the VMAs in 1990. i was nine, in the fifth grade. daddy was in a bluegrass band in those days, and we were all at the house of the parents of one of the guys in the band. there were a bunch of girls aged 8-13 at whatever thing we were at – probably a labor day cookout or something – so we were all crowded around the TV. madonna’s “vogue” and aerosmith’s “janie’s got a gun” were the biggest songs i remember, and “nothing compares 2 U” won video of the year. goddamn, that was a pretty song. but anyway. it was a REALLY different situation then. don henley won best male video for “the end of the innocence.” MICHAEL PENN won best new artist for “no myth.” “U can’t touch this” beat out “the humpty dance” and biz markie’s “just a friend” for best rap video. janet jackson won video vanguard. this is the list of performances from the 1990 VMAs.
i don’t need to run down for y’all what happened last night. i did not see the miley cyrus performance. i’m kind of glad i didn’t, and not just because i think both her song and that god-awful robin thicke paean to date rape are just awful on every level. i saw the one still picture that was all over twitter last night of miley rubbing her posterior on robin’s crotch while he has this look on his face like what? sluts dig me. i can’t help it. (have i mentioned that i really, really, REALLY detest robin thicke and his gleeful celebration of date rape?) this whole miley cyrus thing lately doesn’t seem like a young woman embracing fun and freedom. it seems like a calculated, frenzied flip-off of her old image. by the way, if miley cyrus’s 20s aren’t exhibit A for why it’s probably bad to turn a human being into a multi-million-dollar empire before she’s old enough to own a training brassiere, i don’t know what is. it just makes me sad. she doesn’t seem to be enjoying any of it; she seems to be holding angry middle fingers up to her childhood.
all that sadness aside, i spent much of the time i watched giggling like a fool. so much silly. i felt like an observing anthropologist in a foreign culture. i dug the 20-minute justin timberlake ode to self/left-handed “tribute” to N’SYNC, because hubris is often funny. i actually enjoyed bruno mars and lady gaga, which i didn’t expect. the lady gaga performance had really nice dancing (and gave me warm fuzzy nostalgia for how much i loved the dance sequence in the “vogue” performance from 1990). i legitimately enjoyed the bruno mars song (so of course i’m going to learn today that the lyrics, which i could barely make out due to the hideous sound leveling, are just ungodly awful). but there was a lot that just… ew. please stop subjecting me to kevin hart, world; every time that no-talent assclown opens his mouth, all i hear is “WOMEN BE SHOPPIN!” and though i LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the gloriously beautiful “same love,” i would’ve loved to hear mary lambert, the lesbian who makes the song beautiful with her GORGEOUS hook, actually speak for herself about her own rights instead of macklemore and ryan lewis hogging the mic.
2013 is… a different place, y’all. that’s natural, of course. in 1990, my dad was 38, and i’m a WHOLE lot closer to 38 than i am to 9. in some respects, he probably felt then the way i do now watching the VMAs. but really, popular culture in 1990 had more room for older adults to participate than pop culture now does. like i said, DON HENLEY won a VMA in 1990. in 2013, justin timberlake and N’SYNC were the throwback nostalgia acts. i have actual, formal confirmation from the researchers who invented the way we think of generations that i am solidly a member of generation X. (take that, millennials – that is YOUR generation’s baggage, and not mine!) it makes sense, if you think about it – the defining events of the millennial generation’s youth all happened basically right behind me. the boy-band/pop-tart explosion happened right after i turned 18. i was graduating from college as 9/11 happened. i spent my high-school days reading sassy and YM, watching my so-called life, 120 minutes and yo! MTV raps. i stopped watching the real world with the hawaii cast, when the focus abruptly shifted towards drinking to excess and sleeping with each other instead of a general observation of how everyone lives. i mean, even though empower america was a nest of fascists a mile wide, the san francisco cast still went to a political action group meeting. from what i can tell, from hawaii on, the most adventurous thing the cast has done is gone to a bar on the other side of town.
speaking of my so-called life, jared leto showed up last night to introduce kanye west. that was a fabulous little bridge to keep us second-wave Xers plugged into the show, for some reason. i giggled like a fool at that, too. the kanye segment as a whole really didn’t feel like it fit. i don’t feel like kanye is really all that popular among the same kids who are screaming their fool heads off at one direction. that segment was a sop to the 30-plus crowd. that was weird in two ways: 1) kanye’s attempt at a very serious song was swallowed up in the pomp and sort of a momentum-killer; 2) why would MTV care about us anymore; our time is done?
it seems to be really hard on my clique of thirtysomethings to get the message that, folks, we’re allowed to like whatever we want, but we are no longer teenagers who are solely defined by pop culture allegiances. we’re all so scared of aging. i don’t know why. i fall into the OMG I HAZ THE OLDZ trap way, way more than i wish i did. it’s frankly unbecoming at this point. humans spend, if the average US life span of 78.64 is applied, 21 years as youths and 57 years as adults. that’s nearly 3 times as long in adulthood as it is in youth. thus, it’s time we all start getting happy about being grown. so watch the VMAs if you want. have fun watching if you want. but don’t be sad/angry/etc. if it doesn’t speak to you the way it used to. it’s not meant to. in the words of steely dan, who got this message in 1972 and tried to warn us all: the time of our time has come and gone. in the words of another old song, seasons change, people change. and the sooner we all get okay with that, the happier we’ll be. i’m fine with it more and more with each passing day. i am happy with my status as a pop-culture/youth-culture tourist. i can visit that world, giggle like a fool, hope i wasn’t that silly (and know that i was – just refer back to that 1990 VMAs wiki page to see how silly), and go back to the grown-folks world. just passing through, kids. just passing through.