Every year around this time, the Fox network takes it upon itself to remind us of the cultural poverty in which America’s teens are growing up. The annual Teen Choice Awards is a sort of showcase of the very worst in pop culture. When you take Hollywood’s desire to make scads of money off kids, and combine it with Hollywood’s desire to push the envelope as far as it will go, it’s not surprising that you end up with a cesspool.
Not surprising, but disheartening.
Take a look at some of the nominees that teenagers across the country are being asked to vote on this year:
- In the film category, teens can vote for Bad Teacher, one of the raunchiest R-rated films of the year. In various acting categories, they can cast their vote for actors from other hard-R films like Bridesmaids or The Hangover II.
- For best female artist, their choices include Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry, known for sexually explicit personas and performances. One of Rihanna’s singles this year was titled “S&M.” Male singers nominated this year include Cee Lo Green, performer of “F— You,” and Eminem.
- Among animated shows, they get to vote for the decidedly adult cartoons Family Guy or American Dad.
- In the reality show category, they can choose among various Kardashian sisters, or go with Jersey Shore.
Actually, this year is relatively tame. In past years, nominees have included Sex and the City, South Park, Desperate Housewives, and Kick-Ass. Even blogger Perez Hilton, known for drawing filthy pictures on photos of celebrities and for publishing upskirt photos of minors, once got a nomination.
Did I mention this is a show for teens?
The nominees aren’t the only problem. As usually happens with award shows for adults, controversy and scandal during the ceremony itself are celebrated. It was on the Teen Choice Awards that Miley Cyrus did her infamous pole dance–and that was just one of the sexually provocative performances that teen viewers have been treated to over the years.
Once, not so long ago, there was widespread recognition that teens had ways of getting hold of music and movies that were generally considered too adult for them. But the phenomenon wasn’t always publicly encouraged like this. The open acknowledgment that the entertainment industry sees teens simply as so many dollar signs, rather than as kids who still need guidance and protection, is a fairly recent development. And a deeply disturbing one.
It’s often been said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. The no-holds-barred approach of the Teen Choice Awards–which is really just an annual snapshot of the debauchery pushed on American teens all year long–should have us asking ourselves if we have any virtue left at all.