MTV Movie Awards: Adults Behaving Badly

06/08/2011 05:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2011
  • Ed Martin TV Critic, MyersBizNet; Editor, MediaBizBloggers; Contributor, TV Worth Watching

MTV on Sunday treated kid, tween and young teen viewers of its annual Movie Awards extravaganza to the spectacle of some of their favorite adult stars using foul language, grabbing each other's breasts and genitalia and dropping a number of f-bombs. Nothing new there -- live appearances on MTV seem to bring this sort of arch juvenile behavior out of grown-ups. But, just for fun, allow me to grumble about the inappropriateness of it all, as if it were 10 years ago (or maybe 20) and people still cared about what kids watched on TV, rather than dismiss questionable content by pointing out that there is nothing they might see or hear on television that they haven't seen or heard online.

If people still cared about such things, I would note how interesting it was to see Justin Timberlake once again fondle a woman in a highly suggestive manner, reaching from behind and cupping the breasts of Mila Kunis, his co-star in the upcoming movie Friends with Benefits, when the two took the stage to present the first award of the night. Remember the last time Timberlake grabbed a woman's breasts on live television? The fallout from that talent malfunction lit a nasty fire under the collective behinds of the FCC and set the presentation of sex and skin on broadcast television entertainment back at least 20 years. (Violence, on the other hand, continued as ever to escalate in increasingly graphic and profane ways for the enjoyment of all.)

As you will recall, during the infamous 2004 Super Bowl half-time show Timberlake was so rough with co-star Janet Jackson that he actually ripped off part of her top, alarmingly revealing one of her bare breasts for an entire second or two. (By the way, that Super Bowl was telecast on CBS, but the half-time show was produced by MTV.) Adults everywhere recoiled in horror, not so much from Jackson's breast as out of concern for the many children who were also watching. (Timberlake later apologized for his actions on CBS' telecast of the 2004 Grammy Awards.)

He wisely played it safe this time, acting naughty on a show that kids likely weren't watching with their parents. And, he played around with a woman who wore a half-sleeve top he couldn't possibly remove without making a concerted effort to do so. I know the whole MTV thing is all about easy shock value, but I would think this very talented and uninhibited performer (who really should host Saturday Night Live at least twice every season) could have come up with something memorably funny that didn't involve doing something in front of millions of kids that would get young boys expelled from school and older boys thrown in jail.

Kunis' response -- reaching around and gingerly cupping Timberlake's genitals -- was similarly disturbing in dissimilar ways. She's got quite the following among kids who continue to discover reruns of That '70s Show, as well as young adults who remember her from that program and are now old enough to have seen her very adult performance in Black Swan. Like it or not she's one of the new role models for young girls everywhere. In that capacity she probably shouldn't be letting a guy grab her boobs on live television; nor should she respond by taking hold of his junk. There are better ways for girls to get noticed ... and to get even.

I'm not personally offended by such carefully constructed suggestive behavior, except for the part about a giant media company authorizing it and serving it up to impressionable kids in the interest of fun and profit. I'm just making this hindsight observation in the hopes that someone who reads it might be prompted to take a moment and explain to their kids that it isn't okay for boys and girls to casually grab each other's private parts even if adults they admire make it look like so much innocent fun. I expect more from performers of proven talent. I wish we could expect more from giant media companies.