MTV’s 2011 VMAs

Tonight, with millions of others, I watched MTV’s 2011 Video Music Awards. I enjoyed the comments on Twitter more than I did the actual program. I came away with 6 conclusions from tonight:

1. There are so many young, insanely rich “stars” that sing, act, perform and live completely pointless lives that are driven by nothing else than getting famous, and hopefully rich at the same time, it makes me literally want to throw up.

2. If 99% of the people featured on the VMA’s tonight died, no one would care and forget about them in a week. This doesn’t make it right, or even something I wish would happen, it’s just a fact. Case in point, when Amy Winehouse passed away, the music world and its rabbid fans were sad for a day or two. She trended on Twitter for a while, then nothing until tonight’s tribute. She’ll trend for one more evening then be gone again. This time probably forever – or until next year’s Grammys when she’s got one last tribute to go, at which point I would be shocked to ever hear her name uttered again. I feel like the biggest lesson that these “stars” need to learn from Winehouse is more than the dangers of addiction, but more importantly, that a waste of a life to selfish matters of fame, money and stardom are the epitome of worthlessness. Being famous for being famous is a sad, sad life. Because when it’s over, it’s over. They’ve made no lasting mark and will be forgotten as quickly as their sex tape burst them into stardom. At least Amy Winehouse had a discernible talent, and look how quickly she’ll fade away.

3. People either love or hate Lady Gaga. She is without a doubt totally strange. I think she’s wildly entertaining because she owns her weirdness (as so many others try to annoyingly copy it Nikki Minaj, Ke$ha and to some extend Katy Perry) and she knows no other way than to keep it real. I believe she sings so much about music as a new religion because she, and so many others she represents and speaks for, yearn for a connection with something greater – an all powerful and loving Being that has the power, authority, grace and judgement to give and take away. It’s a shame Christians haven’t figured out how to love those better who feel less than and outcasted. Those in such a space have, at least for now, a new god… Her name is Lady Gaga. She has never proclaimed herself as a god or someone others should follow or worship, all she is doing is giving those with no hope a voice to be heard and loved. I don’t know why anyone is amazed at the response she’s getting – the largest and most rabbid following in the history of music.

4. The more F-bombs you drop live on air, the cooler you are. What are we, in 3rd grade when kids start swearing for the first time and the kid who swears the most is the new leader of the pack? Once again, literally want to throw up.

5. Authenticity shines even brighter when surrounded by thousands of posers. Adele is the real deal. The candid shots of her when she didn’t know she was on camera were priceless. Her real and raw performance was breathtaking. Justin Bieber – I can’t stand the kid, don’t think he’s at all talented and have not one inkling why he’s so, so huge. However, I genuinely believe what he tried to say about Jesus in his acceptance speech. Even though Bieber tries waaaay too hard to be cool (and akwardly mimics some street ghettoness in his expressions) I would take the next generation loving him 10 out of 10 times over the embarassing slop trying to be passed off as popular. Well, maybe I just answered my own question on why Bieber is so famous…

6. I love gangster rap… I have since I was much younger. Why? It’s because the old school rappers lived a hard life trying to survive and the raw words, emotions and convictions that oozed out of their songs and albums stirred my soul for justice against the systemic oppression laid upon them by circumstance of being born black and poor in the ghetto. This new stuff – please. How much more can our culture take from rappers rapping about hoes, money, power, alcohol, cars, bling and whatever else. Give me someone from the streets rapping about what it means to survive day by day (enter the transgenerational messages of TuPac), not this auto-tuned fluff as every rapper swears they’re great singers now. How ’bout it Kanye and Lil Wayne?

For most of my life I have genuinely loved pop culture. Especially over the last decade. It’s an escape for me, from the difficult and overt seriousness of the daily grind that makes up my everyday life. But I’m tried. I would rather not escape at all than to turn any longer to what I saw tonight. My heart aches for the realness of what I grew up with in the late 80s through the 90s. I’m 30 years old, and I know every generation in history has a love affair with their childhood era – its morals, values and worthiness of cultural, social and religious exploration. Whether or not I’m falling into that same pattern, time will tell. But for now, I’m willing to be content with knowing that what I see is without a doubt driving me to learn more intently what it means to live a life and faith of significance – something that has an eternal value that cannot be measured by our culture’s current metric of worth. Over the course of my life I have come in personal contact with a few people that I irrevocably don’t want to be like (yes, some of those are diva Christians). Although I have never met anyone on tonight’s VMAs (or VMA pre-show), I can now add a few more to my list. Worst case scenario, if I’m the exact opposite of those folks I know at least I’m headed in the right direction.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Chris Ware

    I understand your comments completely. I am 35. I do not even bother turning on shows like the VMAs any longer. I just don’t get those shows any more. I always swore I would never turn into one of those old people who complained about ” those kid’s now days.” I feel that is what I am slowly becoming. I too long for the 80′s – mid 90′s. For some reason the whole music and culture was different then. It seemed to have some meaning. Everything now seems to be about selfishness and nothingness. Do you think that is why as we grow older maybe we grow more “spiritual” or think more about God and the afterlife? When I see today’s culture it truly makes me want to look toward God and Religion more. Your comment about Lady Gaga spoke to me. I never saw her as a beacon for the Gay Community, but that is actually what she is becoming. My friends are actually seeing her as a gay “messiah” figure. I, being a gay Christian, can see why they are drawn to her. She does not judge them, but offers them radical love and acceptence that they have been wanting; an emotional leader for their hearts. Thanks for your comments.

  • Cori

    I love the VMA’s. I’m turning 39 next month and I still love them. I have all the same issues that you have with the F-bombs and the materialism and relentless pursuit of fame for fame’s sake. However, I continue to do my best to keep an open mind and see it from the point of view of the young people who eat it up. Because to do so is just one way, and an excellent way at that, to try to understand the lives that they are leading. We may not love it (we listen to a lot of pop in my house, and my kids LOVE when Ke$ha comes on the radio but know that I will never purchase, nor allow them to use their allowance to purchase, her music because of the message it sends young girls), but it’s what our young people are literally feeding on. Just as we grew up on 80′s/90′s pop, they’re now growing up on this. I attempt to embrace it as much as I can, knowing that to listen to it and hear the messages will open doors for me to their world and hopefully let me understand what it is that they experience in their day-to-day lives. I can’t stop the tide, I can only try to ride the wave. For that reason, I try to give each new artist a chance and see what it is they’re trying to say. Sometimes I can’t get past the language, sometimes I can, but I’m doing my best, just as we all are!

  • Scott

    Andy, I’ve met you a few times at the NYWC YS conventions and just enjoyed your heart. You wrote a lot of how I feel about the VMAs. These so-called icons won’t last and GOD’s Word will never fade. It is sad that the church isn’t being Lady Gaga to the lost, troubled and hurting. Shouldn’t us followers of Christ be the voice of the oppressed? I join you in calling out to GOD on their behalf. Thanks for being real and being Jesus to those who you are called too!

  • http://twitter.com/mckeetr Travis McKee

    When I saw they headline on twitter, I knew the Lady Gaga part would be on here. It is amazing how attached some can become and even overlook the flaws. I completely respect the outreach that she has had, but still find her over-the-top sexualization to be a misrepresentation of embracing healthy sexuality. I’d love to see if the church could step in, after the conversation now started by her, and help clarify what healthy sexuality looks like for all orientations.
    Aside from that, I think what she does as a performance artist helps her stick out as one of those authentics. She puts it all in there and, you’re right, not just for looks like Minaj or Perry.
    Two other things: didn’t Russell Brand’s “rememberance” seem to truly exemplify the issue you brought up? Even when hearing it, I felt like we were supposed to have moved on and this was just obligatory. No heart or care in it.
    And secondly, Katy Perry’s acceptance for video of the year, saying something to the effect of I finally feel like what I’m doing matters. I hope that’s an outward sign of something more than the disconnected singles she’s put out.

  • Bill B

    I happened to see a small portion of the rebroadcast only because it was the VMA’s or infomercials. I am not the least bit interested in being famous. I have no desire to be a music/movie star. I gladly give-up my ’15 minutes of fame’ to someone who can make use of it.

    What strikes me about all things ‘celebrity’ is the phoniness of it all. When Brittany Spears came onto the scene, she was everywhere. Everyone professed to love her and the media ate her up. Yet the minute Brittany had her personal struggles, those same people turned on her in an instant. And she is one example of many. The truth is that it is ALL business and the industry will spit you out in a heartbeat with no regret.


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