Still Strong: After Three Decades, MTV's Multi-Generational Appeal Rocks On

As MTV celebrates its 30th anniversary, University City Patch takes a look at the great MTV debate and some of MTV's metro St. Louis connections.

Are you part of the MTV generation? You are if you’re a member of Gen X or Gen Y. According to Wiktionary.com, the MTV generation can be defined as simply, "the generation which came of age watching MTV."

It all started 30 years ago, on Aug. 1, 1981, with an image of the Apollo 11, immediately followed by the network's first video: It featured a song from one-hit wonder Buggles, aptly titled Video Killed the Radio Star.”

The Great MTV Debate

Despite the success that followed its 1981 launch, MTV had its share of critics, many of whom first believed that the channel couldn’t succeed.

“Back in 1981, the idea that there would be a 24-hour music-video channel was unheard of,” said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone in an interview with MSNBC’s Tony Sclafani. “It was like, ‘Who’s gonna watch that? How is that gonna work?’ It just seemed silly. But it was one of those things that created the audience for itself.”

Still, MTV’s appeal has spread from generation to generation, and the network has had plenty of bright spots in its first three decades, as Guardian blogger David McNamee pointed out in his recent post, Happy Birthday MTV: 30 best moments.

At number 23, McNamee highlighted Yo! MTV Raps.

“Although cynicism around 90s MTV shows such as The Real World hardened quickly, programmes (sic) catering to niche interests, including 120 Minutes and, particularly, Yo! MTV Raps, are still remembered fondly,” McNamee wrote.

Another Guardian blogger, David Stubbs, took a different approach to MTV’s history in his recent post "MTV: 30 years of innovation and corporate rock and roll."

“MTV has often been accused of cowardice, of backing down to calls for censorship, excessive use of the ‘bleep’ button, or for banning the likes of Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden,” wrote Stubbs. “Is it really possible to preserve the spirit of rock'n'roll with such a neutering approach? Can "attitude" merely be a branding exercise, a gel, a sheen? Certainly, you look at the main MTV channel today and it appears to exist in a post-rock'n'roll landscape, perhaps of its own making.”

The St. Louis Connection

Many St. Louisans have been MTV fans since the beginning, and the media certainly reflects it. Earlier this year, for example, St. Louis Sprout & About reported that an MTV reality star-turned-author planned to visit a St. Louis County Library.

In 2010 MTV and KSDK both reported that St. Louis Lady Gaga fans faced anti-gay protesters from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church at a June concert. Thanks in part to a statement from Lady Gaga herself, fans ignored the protestors and the concert went off without a hitch.

"At the risk of drawing attention to a hateful organization, I would like to make my little monster fans aware of a protest being held outside the Monsterball in St. Louis tonight," Gaga wrote on her Facebook page.

"Although we have had protesters before, as well as fundamentalists at the show, this group of protesters are hate criminals and preach using lewd and violent language and imagery that I wish I [could] protect you all from. Their message is of hatred and divisiveness, but inside at the Monsterball we preach love and unity."

Some St. Louis teens were featured on the show Made, which helps young people achieve a favorite dream. Teens at Pattonville High planned to be featured on the show, as this unedited (and, fair warning, curse-filled) version of their MTV Made Rap Battle in May shows.

St. Louis radio station Y98’s website offered a full history to celebrate the anniversary that’s not to be missed. Staff writer Nadia Noir presented a ten-page breakdown of the network’s highlights, including photos and videos.

“On its first day, MTV was still full of flaws. Black screens showed up in between videos when an MTV employee was literally putting a video into a VCR,” Noir wrote. “But a bumpy start couldn’t stop MTV from becoming an instantaneous hit; television audiences loved having their favorite musician right in their living room. ‘I Want My MTV’ wasn’t just a brilliant advertising slogan; it fast became a way of life, with music video addicted kids running home from school to see their favorite videos play.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been covering MTV for years, and local media sources such as KSDK and the St. Louis Business Journal  also gave a nod to MTV’s 30 year anniversary today.

Candace Jarrett August 01, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Good article Angie. Last year a Hazelwood West teen was featured on Made and this year a St. Louis area teen was featured on 16 and pregnant.
Andrea Haase August 01, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Great article Angie!
Angela Atkinson August 01, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Oh very cool! I didn't realize that. And thanks! :)
Angela Atkinson August 01, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Thank you! :)
cam August 02, 2011 at 03:51 PM
It is not a church, this is a hate group. Westboro Baptist Church says they hate the Gay-Community. But, they also hate African Americans, Dr. & Mrs. King, Canada, Sweden, the Fire Department of N.Y., victims of 911, other Christian churches, the pope, Judaism, America, our American troops and the list goes on and on. This group spreads its hate through picketing in our streets, provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to create a confrontation. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a "church." It is a scam. They go after any thing that can get them in the news. The city of Topeka, the state of Kansas and the U.S. at large, its citizens and their churches, schools and events are all held hostage by this "hate group” and always at the tax payer's expense.
Angela Atkinson August 02, 2011 at 05:10 PM
You're right about that, Cam. That group should not even be allowed to call itself a church. I seriously detest everything it stands for. Thanks for your comment.


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