Even though they hardly play a music video these days, it is clear that MTV has a pulse on what this current generation wants from pop culture.
And it was apparent at Saturday night’s MTV Movie & TV Awards – which aired last night – that what they want is equality and transparency in their media and celebrity experience. From a clear presence of diversity, to Tiffany Haddish dominating as the first black female host and gender neutral categories, last night’s awards made it clear that this generation will not be defined by the rules of those preceding it.
Haddish came out ready to play (she ready!) and didn’t waste a minute before objectifying Michael B. Jordan and impregnating herself through an immaculate conception eye f*ck with him. As a stand-up comic by trade, Haddish proved to be quite the scene stealer successfully jumping between pre-recorded skits, presenter introductions and audience roasts like a true comedienne. She set the foundation with which younger artists could confidently take the stage because if anyone proves that being yourself pays off, it’s Tiffany Haddish.
There were minimal surprises in the actual award categories, with Black Panther leading the pack as the big winner of the evening. And with the opportunities to accept these awards, came opportunities to showcase a new voice. Chadwick Boseman shared his Best Hero award with James Shaw Jr. – who wrestled an assault-style rifle away from a gunman at a Tennessee Waffle House in April. Boseman brought him up on stage and presented him with the award “to live at his house” as it was more important to “acknowledge the heroes we have in real life.”
On the flipside, Michael B. Jordan won the Best Villain category and used his opening regards to throw some direct shade at Roseanne, stating that he thought she had the category win, “in the bag.” While there was an initial shock, it was quickly extinguished with laughter and applause from the audience. The fact that two men of colour won two of the biggest awards, for a movie that was the first of its kind, and felt the confidence to use their moments to make a statement are just a couple examples that this new wave of social pioneering is going to be direct and to the point.
There is a confidence in Gen Z and their pop culture environment that stems from what I can only imagine is being educated about the world around them. Whether it’s unavoidable access through the internet or a genuine desire to better understand current events, this generation is staying woke and they are here for the confrontation that comes with change. Lena Waithe showcased this education perfectly during her acceptance speech as MTV’s Trailblazer Award recipient. Calling out how we must understand the past to impact the present and future, she noted those who came before her, using the documentary Paris is Burning as an example, saying, “They strutted through brick walls so we didn’t have to.”
Rounding out the fantastic examples of this engaged and vocal group were Millie Bobby Brown accepting her award for Best Performance on a TV Show. She simply shared, “Since I know there are many young people watching this — and even for the adults, too — they could probably use the reminder that I was taught: if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say it,” Brown said via video. “There should be no space in this world for bullying, and I’m not going to tolerate it, and neither should any of you.” Brown even offered for those experiencing bullying to DM her on Instagram as she recently deleted Twitter as a result of internet trolls. Again, tolerance for negativity is low and the support you will feel with this group is high and accessible.
While she slayed in her efforts to bring awareness to those who are less than kind, Love, Simon’s Keiynan Lonsdale had the most heartfelt words of the evening. Accepting the award for Best Kiss on behalf of him and his kiss co-star Nick Robinson, Lonsdale passionately expressed, “I just want to say to every kid: You can live your dreams and wear dresses; you can live your dreams and kiss the one that you love no matter what gender they are. You can live your dreams and you can believe in magic; you can live your dreams, and you can be yourself.”
So it is obvious this is a generation defining their own #goals, with their own terms and their own narratives. And that my friends, is how Gen Z wants their MTV. I’m happy to report, that MTV has heard them loud and clear.