New Year's Eve means different things to different people, but one of the common themes with the way it is celebrated in the U.S. involves reviewing the past year. We are encouraged to recall the big events of the past year, both personal and shared. But New Year's Eve is also about hope. As we look to the year ahead, we hope it will be better for us. We hope that we will learn from our past mistakes so that we do not repeat them, and we hope that our circumstances will improve in various ways. As far as traditional themes go, these seem like largely positive ones. So why is it that watching a mere 10 minutes of MTV's New Year's Eve party was enough to make me feel less hopeful about nearly everything?
The best hope for atheism lies in the triumph of reason over superstition and ignorance. But when ignorance - and even outright stupidity - are celebrated by a culture, it is very difficult to remain optimistic that we are even moving in the right direction. The wholehearted glorification of idiocy indicates a culture in decline, and not simply in the way one often hears conservatives complain about the sliding morality.
I have to admit that seeing MTV continuing to cling to this absurd Jersey Shore cast as if they are celebrities worthy of our interest came as somewhat of a surprise. I mean, does anybody still watch that show or care that they will soon be starting their third season? And then it hit me: of course there is an audience for this stuff! They are the future of America.
I know that this sounds like the bitter old man shaking his fist as those damn kids. I can't pretend to be in touch with the youth culture. That ship sailed long ago. But I think it is more than that.
Since they gave up on music, MTV has been about creating a market by pushing largely untalented people on their audience. It has been a very successful strategy in much the same way that Fox "News" has been successful. Catering to idiocy works. But with this Jersey Shore thing, it seems that they have managed to strip away any possibly redeeming qualities their previous "reality" programming might have had.
When we begin to idolize our idiots and market them heavily, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that ours is a culture in decline. Happy New Year!
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