The 2013 VMAs Didn't Reward Many Women, But It Didn't Really Matter
Every year, attention-hungry pop stars gather at the VMAs like ravenous seagulls at a beachside restaurant. They confine them to a big auditorium for a three-hour concert and just epic amounts of twerking, and in between songs, I hear they even hand them little statues.
This year's VMAs featured performances by the likes of Lady Gaga (accompanied by her nun-cube outfit and a seashell bra), Miley Cyrus (accompanied by Beetlejuice in a Robin Thicke mask), Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Justin Timberlake (accompanied by those four dudes no one's heard from in a decade).
It also featured a surprisingly male-heavy nomination field for its biggest award. Unlike its perhaps less twerk-heavy peers (the Oscars come to mind), the VMAs usually do fairly well when it comes to the gender distribution of their statuettes. For every Justin Timberlake there's a Beyoncé, for every Bruno Mars a Rihanna, for every Kanye a Taylor Swift. This year, however, the award for Video of the Year — presented last, which is how you know it's important — held but one female nominee, the aforementioned Ms. Swift. She ended up losing out to Justin Timberlake and his fun-house video "Mirrors."
It's not the fact that she lost that's notable, or even who she lost to — Timberlake was undoubtedly this year's VMA MVP. He performed a 20-minute medley and brought 'NSYNC back into our lives (albeit briefly), so we can't begrudge him his big win. What's interesting here, though, is how rare such a gender disparity is for these awards. What's even more interesting is just how thoroughly no one even cares about the awards part of this awards show.
Think back to the last seven years or so of VMAs shows. This isn't the Oscars, so you're not going to remember Katy Perry's heartfelt acceptance speech like you remember Jennifer Lawrence's win for Best Actress. You'll remember Beyoncé's baby bump reveal, or Lady Gaga's meat dress, or Britney Spears making out with Madonna. Like MTV itself, the VMAs barely even pretend to be about the music videos anymore. They're about the spectacle.
Let's tap into the mass pop culture memory box to take a look at the most memorable things about the past few years of VMAs:
One Direction seemed to be the focus. Katy Perry kissed one of 'em. It was also the least-watched VMAs since 2007.
Beyonce announced her pregnancy on the red carpet and then showed the world her baby bump during her performance. Other things happened: Britney Spears got the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, Chris Brown performed, Katy Perry won three awards. We're betting you just remember Beyoncé.
Lady Gaga won eight awards (Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best Pop Video, and Best Collaboration for her work with Beyoncé on "Telephone" were among them). She also wore a dress made entirely out of meat.
This was the year of Kanye and Taylor. Kanye West burst into the middle of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech to sing the praises of Beyoncé. Later that night, when Beyoncé won for Video of the Year, she pulled Swift up on stage to return the stolen spotlight.
Rihanna performed "Disturbia," Britney Spears won her first VMA. Russell Brand commented on the Jonas Brothers' purity ring situation, and Jordan Sparks responded by calling a lot of people sluts. Christina Aguilera was accused of copying Lady Gaga.
Britney Spears botched her comeback with an incredibly awkward performance of "Gimme More." I think something also went down between Kid Rock and Tommy Lee.
Sometimes, the VMA award winners are super memorable: You can pretty much guarantee most people people who've read entertainment news in the past four years know Swift's got at least one VMA under her belt — if she didn't there'd have been nothing for Kanye to bust in on.
But it's the celebrity shenanigans that make or break a VMAs show. And what's notable about the VMAs in general is that if you take a look back at those most memorable moments, most of them have been executed by — or at least involved in some crucial way — women. Swift may not have exactly planned for West to interrupt her speech, but it sure did swing a big wave of sympathetic PR her way. Lady Gaga won eight awards at the 2010 ceremony, which is pretty damn impressive, but what the world remembers most is her meat dress. There's not really much any awards winner could do to upstage Beyoncé announcing she's in the midst of producing a progeny. Lil' Kim showed up with her boob out in 1999 and people still talk about it. For better or for worse (we're looking at you, Miley), it's the ladies we're often talking about, no matter who goes home with the trophies.
For the VMAs, the winners get another stroke to their egos and a souvenir for their mantles, but they don't really matter. With Beyoncé not touting any new videos lately, Taylor Swift may have been the only lady nominated for Video of the Year, but it's Miley Cyrus' bump'n'grind with Robin Thicke that's got people talking the day after.