MTV says the VMAs are coming back in 2020 - and in New York City, no less. I'm hopeful this will give us the cultural reset we need.
MTV’s Video Music Awards are consistently a controversial ceremony. The fact that they’re happening in person this year (in New York City, of all places) is probably the most VMA-move of all time.
Will we be in a post-pandemic world by August 30th? Unlikely.
That’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo says this year’s celebration will look a little different. Variety summarized the set-up like this:
Among the measures all parties involved have aligned to include extensive social distancing procedures, meaningful capacity limitations, the virtualization of components where possible, and limited capacity or no audience.
Of course, the most significant moments in VMA history aren’t very good examples of social distancing.
Remember the time when Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears consecutively kissed Madonna (during the 2003 telecast)?
What about Kanye West taking Taylor Swift’s mic?
That would’ve been hard to do from six feet away:
But it’s still a good thing the show is happening in person because “traditional” VMA performances are significant spectacles.
They usually involve dancers and pyro and crazy-expensive lighting, and it’s just not a vibe that translates to a teleconference.
So, in other words, it’s going to be tricky at any audience level.
But the show is happening nonetheless, and I’m hopeful it can give us the “cultural reset” we desperately need.
Here’s how Buzzfeed defines that term:
The internet has used the term to define any moment that they feel has influenced the zeitgeist and changed pop culture as we know it.
And here’s a definition from the culture itself:
We’re consuming entertainment differently than we were before the pandemic broke out.
Celebrities started filling our feeds with live-stream concerts. This trend eventually moved into primetime gatherings (like Lady Gaga’s “One World: Together At Home” benefit).
The social tone shifted after George Floyd’s senseless death, but the theme was still togetherness.
Celebrities have been anything but silent during the great dumpster fire of 2020.
I’m not saying celebrities are the sole reason for change, but I am saying they’re one common denominator. Likely, some (if not most) of their fans would not have stepped up during the current crises if they wouldn’t have seen “their fav” do it first.
I don’t doubt that whoever ends up performing or showing up at the VMAs this year will remember recent events.
What I’m hoping is that they’re empowered to do what they do, which is entertain – because I think the stars have felt stifled this year.
Some felt selfish for putting out art during these times, which is understandable.
But from the start, this whole era we’re living in has reminded me of something: The Great Depression.
An actual, real-life cultural reset came out of The Great Depression, despite it being the tragedy it was. The Library of Congress prefaces a compilation of related documents:
Even during “Hard Times” and wartime, people need to be entertained. The American people in the 1930s and 1940s were no exception. They enjoyed many forms of entertainment, particularly if they could do so inexpensively.
With the addition of sound, movies became increasingly popular. Comedies, gangster movies, and musicals helped people forget their troubles.
Among the unemployed in the Depression were artists and performers of many types. Government programs to assist these people resulted in production of plays and artworks for all to enjoy.
Entertainers can capture the same essence during the current cultural crisis – and the VMAs are the perfect place to start.