Photography by Matt Wyatt

Dear MTV: An Open Letter

On August 1st, 1981 you changed everything. Not only could young people at the time listen to their favorite tunes on the radio, and cassette tapes, they could now watch their favorite artists; Pat Benatar, The Beach Boys, Rick Springfield. Like anything new you started out slow, with sub-par technology and a small audience. You were even accused of exclusion when you didn’t allow certain African-American artist’s music videos, an aspect of your past you would like us to believe is completely extinct from your current agenda.

You didn’t stay small for long, however, and you certainly didn’t let your name MUSIC Television stop you from expanding your horizons and taking on new ventures. You learned how to play the game and you did it well, teaching young people to become their own advertisers, making them slaves to unattainable ideas of perfection that they created and you sold back to them. They look at you to tell them who they are and you look right back asking them who they want to be.

You even tried to convince us that what you do is actually for the good of society, touting studies that point to a ‘direct link’ between your show 16 and Pregnant and reduced teen birth rates. I’ll admit, I’ve watched the show, along with Teen Mom both were actually very insightful to me as a youth development professional examining this specific population of teenagers.

Of course, the study was obviously a little biased. Your other shows and what I suspect would be correlations of increased teenage drinking and promiscuity aren’t mentioned. I’m glad you supposedly have one show that’s having a semi-positive influence but as a youth professional, I wish you would see MTV,  I wish you would see the incredible opportunity you have!

I wish you would capitalize more on the potential to create positive change as one of the largest networks reaching teens. I’ve seen you do it before with the Halo Awards program that exemplifies teenagers who are making a difference in their community but you could do so much more.

Instead you choose programming that is basted in sexuality, verbally pornographic and overly dramatized. One of your more recent endeavors ‘Faking It’ caught my attention. In the episode ‘Homecoming Out’ the school stands behind two students they believe are lesbians making them homecoming queens, getting rid of the traditional king and queen roles. After contemplating sex with a straight guy in the back seat of a car, one of the queens comes back into the dance hall to look for her partner. Her partner’s Mom whose values are deemed ‘overly conservative’is a news reporter there to interview the couple and finds out for the first time her daughter is gay.

I have about 500 different objections to just this 30 second scene included but not limited to the way persons with conservative values are portrayed, sexual promiscuity and the discouragement of parent/child relationships. But that’s not what I am writing about. No, you made it more personal for me. When the Mom asks another girl where the queens are, the Mom’s daughter spots her and asks what she is doing there, the other girl further distancing healthy communication between Mom and daughter, tells the Mom that the couple she is looking for ‘went home with Spina Bifida to their tiny tiny bedrooms’.

Now, I wouldn’t expect you or anyone on your staff to be medical experts. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, maybe whoever wrote the dumb line didn’t realize that Spina-Bifida is not a communicable disease. More than likely they did know better as that seems to be the point of the ‘joke’. I can relate actually. I have a couple of friends who I have on occasion laughed with about ‘catching Spina-Bifida’ as a result of hanging out with me. But here’s the difference; I have a right to make fun of myself in the privacy of that friendship.You don’t have the right to mock my disease publicly.

Look, I’m not surprised that my conservative Christian views are picked on. I’m actually told by my savior that I will be hated for His name’s sake. What I am surprised by is a company who is so quick to promote inclusion that they make entire stories around minority gay students yet in the process stampede over another minority group in the process. Perhaps then you haven’t come as far as one might think. You broke the color barrier when put under pressure and you joined the rest of mainstream culture in promoting homosexuality. I’m fairly confident I know how you feel about Christians but what about the teenagers sitting in wheelchairs, wearing braces on their legs like myself or laying in hospital beds?

I’m not big enough to tell you to change your programming or improve your morals but I will put my foot down (braced and all) to tell you that I  find the joke offensive. Not only that, I ask that you edit it out from future airings


A Concerned Youth Worker who has Spina Bifida


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