For a network that has always either been, or striven to be, on the cutting edge of pop culture, MTV revealed itself to be remarkably out-of-touch with the zeitgeist. Apparently the youth-oriented cable channel didn’t get the memo that there is a cultural backlash against political correctness in effect, and that half the country is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.
MTV released a stunningly tone-deaf PSA video titled, “2017 New Years Resolutions for White Guys,” in which a gaggle of young people dispense insulting advice to “white guys” on how to “do a little bit better in 2017.” Accompanied by jaunty music designed to lighten the mood and make the offensive message more palatable, smug twenty-somethings lecture “white guys” about their presumed racism and sexism.
The video goes off the rails right from the get-go when a young woman of color declares that “America was never ‘great’ for anyone who wasn’t a white guy.” This is obviously a jab at President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” which resonated with those Americans who understand that this country has been a beacon of freedom and prosperity for countless millions of citizens and immigrants of all races and religions, whose lives were made immeasurably better here than wherever they left behind. This woman’s ignorance is a sad testament to the degree to which many young Americans have been indoctrinated over the decades to believe that their country is not history’s most successful melting pot, but rather a shameful bastion of white supremacy.
The speakers proceed to straighten us out on how black lives matter, but “Blue Lives Matter isn’t a thing” because “cops weren’t born with blue skin.” The lame attempt at humor aside, Blue Lives Matter is most definitely a thing to the decent heroes in law enforcement and their families who live with the daily threat that their next patrol might be their last.
“Learn what mansplaining is,” one nerdy young woman in the video lectures the viewer, “then stop doing it.” Womansplaining, on the other hand, is clearly acceptable. “Just because you have black friends doesn’t mean you can’t be racist!” says a black male. In other words, white people are assumed to be racist no matter what they do or don’t do.
“Stop saying ‘woke,’” another speaker commands, referring to a grammatically annoying neologism that indicates one has become enlightened about social justice issues. Frankly, I wish everyone would stop saying “woke” in that context, but singling out white guys for it is, again, insulting and condescending.
The video also includes a completely gratuitous swipe at Fox News for no other reason than to signal to its like-minded audience that the video is targeting conservative white guys, because white progressives are assumed to be “woke.”
The video was such an epic fail on every level that the backlash was immediate and overwhelming—so much so that MTV pulled the video within 48 hours.
Did no one at MTV realize that such a sweeping condemnation of one segment of the populace is blatantly sexist and racist, not to mention a grossly ineffective way to encourage them to be more socially conscious? Full disclosure: I’m a white guy. Did MTV think that I and other white males would watch this video and nod in chastened agreement that we need to be less racist, less sexist, and more woke?
It would be unthinkable for MTV to address any other race or “gender identity” this way. Imagine if the video told “black guys” or Latinas or transgenders to be less of a disappointment in 2017, and that their complaints of discrimination are not a thing. The uproar would be deafening. But white male shaming has been such a longstanding cultural practice that I doubt anyone at MTV had any reservations about the video.
The backlash showed that the culture is changing. Americans who do not share the values of those who dominate the entertainment industry have been complaining for decades that pop culture has become too politicized, too one-sided. Too many showbiz folks today march in ideological lockstep, live in a bubble of self-congratulatory superiority, and feel no compunction about expressing their contempt for the mass of Americans in the flyover states. The result is an enormous reservoir of cultural frustration and anger, shrewdly capitalized upon by candidate Trump. Smug, heavy-handed lectures like the MTV video are a significant part of the reason why The Donald, himself a pop culture icon, took the White House. And if the pop culture world doesn’t take this lesson to heart, Trump will take it again in 2020.