SEPTEMBER the 25th sees the arrival of ‘The Valleys’ on MTV. A lot of people seem excited about this, but isn’t it alarmingly cynical to relish seeing such embarrassing behaviour and idiotic judgement representing something that was once so proud?
It wasn’t so long ago that they were the envy of the world, where it seemed like nearly everyone in western society couldn’t get enough of their output. With every new resource discovered, demand only increased. Ridiculous sums of money changed hands, and the good times were well and truly rolling. But of course, nothing last forever; eventually others could offer the same things but better, cheaper, or both. A once mighty institution couldn’t move with the times fast enough, and fell victim to combinations of success, greed, and the inability to adapt to an increasingly quickly changing world.
So it ends up in the state we see it now. What was once something that was respected, depended on even, far and wide is now known largely as a joke, supplying little more than self-centred ignorance, overblown and unpleasant caricatures of people, and an obvious cluelessness about the world and how it works.
But how did MTV end up this way? It’s hard to deny that the Welsh valleys themselves have experienced a decline since their glory days, but that can be pinned on global economics, cruel government policies and the physical properties of coal meaning it isn’t the most convenient fuel source for more modern technologies. But MTV provided music videos. How did they go from that to what they appear to be now; a channel seemingly dedicated to exploiting the limitless human capacity for public embarrassment, while still acting like they’re cutting edge and ‘cool’?
What does the ‘M’ in MTV even stand for these days? It used to be ‘music’, but actions speak louder than words, and it’s been quite some time since MTV was about anything to do with music. So what does it mean now? ‘M-indless pap’ TV? ‘M-oney making shite’ TV? ‘M-y God what have we become’ TV?
The Valleys is the latest manifestation of this desperate desire to appeal to cater to questionable trends. And as a Doctor of Neuroscience who was born and raised in the Garw valley, this ‘look at the Welsh idiots’ approach is one I take great exception to. The supposed concept is that MTV have taken a number of valley residents to Cardiff to show them how city life works. But a simple bit of research shows that MTV haven’t even grasped the basics of this concept. Many of the welsh valleys are about 30 minutes away from Cardiff, not a 3 day donkey ride as is implied. Also, several of the cast aren’t even from valleys. One of them is from Swansea! Did MTV actually go to Swansea and ask people ‘would you like to go to Cardiff to see what a real city is like’? How many scouts did they get through before someone actually said yes?
Also, the logo for the show is, depressingly, a sheep. I’ve encountered the sheep reference many times on mentioning my valley origins, and it’s never a compliment. I don’t watch any of these pseudo reality shows; is that a common thing, using offensive stereotypes in the marketing? I’m guessing that ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ has as its logo a bottle of fake tan and an STI clinic?
Although close to home for me (metaphorically and literally, as I live in Cardiff), The Valleys would be just as depressing if it was about any other region with a parochial stereotype. It’s another example of MTV trying to make money out of people’s tendency to point and laugh at the desperate and the clueless. But it is MTV themselves who are deserving of this scorn, not the hapless saps who line up for a shot at fame based on where they happen to be born.
MTV are like an ageing, unmarried relative at a wedding, dancing to Kanye West in order to impress the younger ladies, because that’s what he’s heard they like these days. The fact that he gets a lot of attention means he thinks his plan is working, rather than the more likely explanation of him looking like an absolute tool suffering an almost terminal self-awareness failure.
One day MTV will realise what they have become, and it’s likely that they will finally produce some original sounds then, even if they are screams of horrified realisation.
Dean Burnett (PhD) is from Pontycymer. He teaches Psychiatry and neuroscience at Cardiff University. He also writes for the Guardian, via his Science-comedy blog Brain Flapping