10 Times MTV Defined Our Childhood

Take a walk down #VMA Memory Lane. 

By Valerie Williams

Voting in all MTV Video Music Awards categories opened today! And this got us thinking... was there any larger pop culture force in the lives of 1980’s and 90’s kids than MTV? They were the voice of a generation and I’m willing to venture that some of your most indelible childhood memories involve something that happened on MTV. Between the always-zany antics at the VMA's and the ground-breaking reality TV shows, MTV had their finger on the pulse of what kids and teens wanted to hear and see. Of all of the memorable moments over those years, here are 10 of the most notable:

1. Britney and Madonna Kiss

When Britney Spears and MadonnaFrench-kissed in front of a stunned 2003 MTV Video Music Awards audience, viewers at home were shocked right along with them. Madonna, twice the age of Britney and Christina Aguilera (she got a kiss with no tongue), was there to perform her hits "Like a Virgin" and "Hollywood." No one expected her to make out with two of pops biggest young stars in front of all of America. It left an impression, no doubt.

2. Singled Out

I can’t be the only middle school kid leaping off the bus and sprinting into the house so I could open a bag of Doritos and tune in to Singled Out. This show was so hilarious and amazing, thanks to hosts Jenny McCarthy and Chris Hardwick. Watching the dating pool get whittled down to just one was somehow fascinating to my tweenage brain and I know I’m not alone. Bring back Singled Out, MTV!

3. Beavis and Butthead

Uhhh…huh huh. Uhhh…hehehehe. Beavis & Butthead spoke for a generation of bored and disgruntled teens as they bobbled through their world, missing key details about every situation around them and befuddling the adults with their doofy antics. The best part of this show was their commentary over the top of popular music videos, new and old. Beavis & Butthead may have been hated by parents everywhere for their vulgarity but it’s now beloved by those of us who grew up laughing hysterically at their profound stupidity. I wouldn’t let my kids watch any time soon but as teens, I’ll probably be forcing them to.

4. The Real World

The first few seasons of The Real World were incredibly educational for so many average American kids. It was the very beginning of reality TV and this window into the “real” life of such diverse groups of people was nothing short of fascinating. Who among us 30-somethings can forget when Pedro Zamora died of AIDS or when Puck was kicked out of the house? We all laughed and cried with The Real World and miss its early splendor.

5. Courtney Love and Madonna’s 1995 VMA’s Encounter

When Courtney Love tossed her make-up onstage during Madonna’s post-VMA interview with Kurt Loder, viewers at home all knew something was about to go down. As it turned out, that something was an incredibly hilarious and awkward segment with Courtney crashing Madonna’s big moment and prattling on drunkenly for several minutes while Madonna did her best to be cool. The fact that MTV let the cameras keep rolling is something we should all be grateful for because it gave us one of the funniest (and most real) TV moments of the entire decade.

6. House of Style

Who can forget the 1990’s supermodel craze, led by the original supermodel, Cindy Crawford? House of Style was her show, though several other models of the era presented segments, and it was a pivotal series for MTV. Cindy and her posse taught us so much about style, design, the modeling industry and even touched on harder topics, such as eating disorders. There was a 2012 reboot, but of course, nothing will ever touch the amazingness of the original.

7. MTV News announcing Kurt Cobain's death

Does anyone else remember seeing Kurt Loder’s somber face fill the screen to let us all know that Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain had died? To my 12-year old heart, this was a terrible blow and I know I was not alone in my mourning. A major recording artist dying at the height of his fame at an incredibly young age made a huge impact on us as kids and MTV was the station that probably let you know about it. (P.S. Kurt Loder is 70 now. Feel old yet??)

8. Nirvana- Unplugged

Speaking of Nirvana, am I the only one who still regularly listens to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album? MTV brought us this new style of grunge rock in a live setting, so we could witness its greatness right from our living rooms. Before the internet and iTunes, this was the only way to be exposed to new styles of music. MTV was a huge influence to kids in this way, introducing us to artists we may not have heard about otherwise.

9. Daria

If you loved Beavis & Butthead, then you probably rejoiced when Mike Judge created a spin-off show for B&B character, Daria in 1997. She was a teenage girl but definitely wasn’t portrayed in a way that teen girls usually were back in the Saved by the Bell era. Girls were usually expected to be cheerful all the time, and focused on their appearances but Daria was droll, sarcastic and sullen. She spoke to thousands of young girls who never saw themselves reflected in the typical TV characters of the time. I still watch old episodes of this incredible 1990's gem.

10. Michael Jackson and Lisa Maria Presley Kiss

During the 1994 VMA's, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley took to the stage and shared one of the most awkward televised smooches in all of history. Michael prefaced the kiss by saying, “Just think, nobody thought this would last,” and spoiler alert, it didn’t. They divorced two years later, but not before grossing out the whole world with their little public make-out session. 

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