Friday, September 01, 2006

MTV, the VMAs, and the Racial Divide

Watched most of MTV's Video Music Awards into the wee hours last night, and was struck by the tension between rock and roll (white people) and R&B/Hip-Hop (black people). The attempt to provide equal airtime and honor both kinds of music felt jarring. I watched with my brown boys who are neither white nor black, and it seemed to me that the show underlined the gap between the genres -- and the two races.

So how do teens like mine who aren't black or white deal with MTV? On the one hand, they have the freedom to pick and choose without feeling like they're betraying their own heritage. On the other hand, music has always been a way for young artists to fuse the old world with the new, and to be welcomed and celebrated by the wider culture. Probably because the MTV execs were carefully walking the line between black and white, there was little room for anything else last night -- apart from half-Lebanese, half-Colombian Shakira with her Bollywood-esque backup dancers, a fleeting mention of Christina Aguilera's Latina roots, and the mixed race Black Eyed Peas, which includes Allen Pineda Lindo, better known as apl.de.ap, born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and an African-American father. (Interestingly, the Peas also recently launched a campaign to help free political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.)

Of course, I didn't stay up until 2:30 in the morning, so I might have missed something. But is that the reason why MTV Desi and other ethnically-oriented entertainment channels seem to be growing in popularity? Are non-white and non-black teens saying: "I want my MTV, my BET, and my ethnic-TV?"

2 comments:

Pooja said...

Did you see Shakira's Bolly-inspired "My Hips Don't Lie"? It was choreographed by Bollywood master-choregrapher Farah Khan and I loved it. All the backup dancers were desi! And the graphics flanking the stage were so cool!

Mitali Perkins said...

That was my favorite part of the show. They were gorgeous!

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