news Sports Opinions arts variety interact Wildcat On-Line QuickNav

I want my MTV

By Brad Wallace
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 29, 1998
Send comments to:


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Brad Wallace

It goes without saying that MTV is the whore of Babylon.

Nonetheless, I found myself watching several consecutive episodes of "The Real World," trapped in the glare of beautiful people prancing around Seattle to the pulsing strains of modern rock. I desperately tried not to be interested, but found myself unable to turn away from the commercialized spectacle that MTV so consistently provides.

On paper, "The Real World" sounds better than it is: A group of carefully selected market demographic archetypes stuck in some outrageously expensive house somewhere, and over the period of a season we get to watch them bicker and sometimes die of AIDS.

If you're not careful, after a few episodes you may find yourself believing that these folks are real and that their interactions are not controlled by an MTV exec in a silver suit.

The urge to drink Gatorade and buy the Fastball CD can become overwhelming in just a few hours of viewing.

It's charming to watch the show and see how marketing people think twentysomethings behave. "The Real World" folks exist in a strange netherworld of continual hot tub parties and tense discussions about who left the peanut butter out.

Maybe my life is just lacking, but I can't remember the last time I got in a screaming fight wearing a $200 outfit on my way to an espresso bar.

The priceless part of the show is the confessionals, in which these mockeries of human beings stare directly into a camera and soliloquize about the torrid complexities of their life, often with Oasis in the background. Their deep thoughts about timeless and relevant issues often end with "whatever."

So, it's established that the show is garbage fit for nothing.

I still have to explain why I sat riveted for hours, my pulse escalating with every finely crafted scene of emotional drama. It can't be voyeurism, because nothing worth watching ever happens. [Picture]

My best explanation is that my early childhood was too heavily tainted by the presence of MTV for me to have much choice in the matter. MTV first came into my life when I was eight, a critical developmental age in which my brain soaked up MTV's foul influence, robbing me of my ability to process visual information without rapid cutting and synchronized music.

Furthermore, my youthful mind was forced to bear the weight of Duran Duran's "Rio" video, which to this day makes me want to run around on a yacht wearing fingerpaint.

So now, I have no choice but to watch the MTV ideal of what my life is supposed to be like, feeling like I went astray somewhere because I don't live in a cool loft with models. Perhaps I would be happier if I embraced MTV's twisted vision of life, and strove to achieve a perfection of vacancy and many, many cool shirts.

What I really dread is having to explain this show to my kids, someday. Doubtlessly there will be an MTV rerun channel in the future, and one fine day after an eight-hour marathon little Johnny or Susan will come up to me and ask, "Pops, was that what your life was like in college?"

Doubtlessly I'll try to explain the subtle irony of "The Real World," and how it is supposed to be examined allegorically like a fine piece of literature.

My kids will chuckle derisively and open their favorite storybook, Puck goes to the Mall.

We are the first generation that had access to music videos during our childhood. I suggest that our collective unconscious belongs to MTV, all those stupid videos have become our mythology, the sacred geography of our hearts.

The video of "Video Killed the Radio Star" fills me with a certain sort of reverence, much like the Egyptians must have had for the raging Nile. It's sick and horrible, but it's true.

At least I'm able to distinguish "The Real World" from the real world, which is remarkable considering the diligence of those MTV execs at blurring the difference.

"The Grind" is indistinguishable from reality, though.

Brad Wallace is a creative writing and molecular and cellular biology senior. His column Handful of Dust appears every Tuesday. He can be reached via e-mail at