The Super Bowl of pop-youth culture

Topic / Culture

MTV VMAsEvery year MTV gives an accurate peek into the world of pop-youth-culture with their Video Music Awards (the “VMAs”), and this past Sunday night, literally millions upon millions of teenagers were watching, as the show drew a record audience.

Why is it that one simple show reflects and influences youth culture so much?

First, the VMAs isn’t just a show. This is the most watched “non-sports” program on cable this year in total viewers, and the most-watched program overall by viewers age 12-34. This year the show drew 12.4 million total viewers, another 10 million page views on, and then 2.7 million mobile site views. (VMAs draw record MTV Audience, Media Life).

This awards show isn’t the lone hit from this network. MTV also provides the most watched show on cable, Jersey Shore, and other weekly series like Teen Wolf that continue to rank in the top watched shows each week. In short, MTV reigns once again at the center of pop culture for young people, and last Sunday night was basically the “Super Bowl” of pop-youth-culture, from the network that hands down has the biggest impact on teenagers.

The recipe is simple for the VMAs. Give heaping spoonful’s of as many of the most popular musical artists (they were all there) and then sprinkle in a few celebs from movies and TV, then mix in racy dancing, highly sexualized lyrics, a little controversy… and whalah! You have good ratings.

This year the show began and ended with a bang, staring with Gaga, literally dressed up as her male alter ego Joe Calderon and giving the “bleeper” guy in the sound booth a workout, only to be trumped by Lil Wayne who put a nice bow on the evening by rapping a new song from his album that literally had to be censored every three seconds or so.


The parents and youth workers who watched the show probably wondered, “Is this really where pop culture has landed?” What happened to the good old days when Michael Jackson grabbed his crotch and Madonna wore lingerie on the outside of her outfit? (Now the girls are wearing “just lingerie” and artists are grabbing each other’s crotches!)

My friend David R. Smith and I wrote an article unveiling four inescapable realities we observed about today’s youth culture from watching this show (we also provided over 20 links to research and resources about youth culture).

QUESTION: For those of you that watched this pop culture event, what did you notice?

Posted on August 31, 2011

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