In its early years, MTV was once solely dedicated to music videos that played at all hours of the day. However, the network is now more famous for its reality TV shows and some of the most binge-worthy series of all time. However, as the network has grown, their dark secrets have slowly come to the surface.
Some of the most important musical moments, television phenomena, and live moments in pop culture history have been captured thanks to MTV. However, MTV has a dark side, with plenty of scandal surrounding its biggest stars, most popular shows, and the people behind the scenes.
On many MTV reality shows such as The Real World, there have been issues surrounding what the network lets pass when violence occurs between castmates. MTV has always specified that any physical violence would result in a person being removed from the show immediately, but they haven’t always followed through.
Fans have realized that despite the rules, some incidents have not been dealt with properly. On a season of The Real World: Portland, Nia Moore launched several violent attacks on her housemates, yet she was never removed from the show. While Moore’s transgressions were ignored on The Real World, she eventually had to face the consequences on another series.
Although her aggressive tendencies were used for drama on The Real World: Portland, when Moore joined the cast of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes 2, her transgressions could not be ignored. On an episode of the show, Moore argued with her former Real World co-star, Jordan Wiseley.
The two had gotten in physical altercations on The Real World, but she went too far this time. During their argument, Moore pulled down Wiseley’s pants, touched him inappropriately, and called him a derogatory name. The following day, she was removed from the show, and she was banned from the show.
Things seemed like they were going great for Tonya Cooley in 2002 when she was a housemate on The Real World: Chicago. Cooley went on to star in eight versions of the franchise and became a well-known name on MTV. However, her last appearance on the network came in 2009.
After two years of not working with MTV, Cooley filed a lawsuit against Bunim/Murray Productions, who worked with MTV to create The Real World. She claimed that she had been assaulted several times. She also blamed the production crew because they would force the cast to drink, leaving her vulnerable.
If there’s one thing a prominent network like MTV wants to avoid, it’s a major scandal. They didn’t want their dirty laundry aired for the world because it would hurt their business. Therefore, Viacom, the network’s parent company, claimed Cooley never filed complaints properly. They basically blamed everything on her.
To make matters worse, Viacom added that Cooley was often out of control during one of her seasons. She allegedly would become “rowdy, combative, and flirtatious,” and she turned to drink. They also accused Cooley of exposing herself to other contestants. The case was later settled out of court.
While we all want to believe that reality TV is authentic, that’s never the truth. Many MTV fans have spoken out about the network and its producers faking scenes or manipulating situations to create drama. Former Laguna Beach and The Hills star Kristen Cavallari has been vocal about this.
Cavallari said that the shows take advantage of young teenagers. She added that many of the dramatic scenes were set up by producers for ratings. For example, the famous clip of Lauren Conrad shedding a slow tear was edited in slow motion to look more dramatic.
In another instance of MTV faking scenes in their “reality” shows to boost ratings, they staged a fight between two Teen Mom stars. While Amber Portwood and Farrah Abraham haven’t always gotten along, they revealed that their physical altercation was produced.
Abraham revealed that MTV directed Portwood to slap her. The crew removed many people before staging the scene, including family members and children. Abraham added that these manipulations get in the way of portraying the cast members’ true stories and affects their family dynamics.
Farrah Abraham was one of the first four stars on Teen Mom, which premiered in 2009. After being a primary cast member for years, no one knew why she suddenly walked away from the series. Shortly after her departure, Abraham’s life away from the show hit the headlines.
Abraham’s left the show because she made a film with adult movie star James Deen. Many of the other Teen Mom OG cast members threatened to quit if Abraham stayed. Many fans turned on her, so producers fired Abraham because she wasn’t portraying the right message.
Teen Mom is no stranger to scandal, and the stars bring a lot of drama to our screens. Amber Portwood is one of the show’s original cast members, and she has been causing a stir since 2010. She assaulted her then-partner, Gary Shirley, which was aired on the show.
Child Protective Services launched an investigation and found narcotics in Portwood’s home. She was charged with assault and sentenced to probation, but she broke the rules, and her sentence was upgraded to five years. She was later forced to serve 17 months in prison.
While many Teen Mom stars have had controversies throughout their time in the spotlight, Janelle Evans is the most controversial. Wherever she goes, scandal follows her, even in her home. Her husband, David Eason, made headlines in 2019 after an incident with their dog.
Their dog allegedly nipped their two-year-old son. Instead of putting the dog through training, Eason ended the dog’s life. He claimed the dog put people in danger, but everyone saw right through that. As soon as it became public, Teen Mom 2 kicked the couple off the show.
When MTV picked up Beavis and Butthead in 1993, it looked like they hit the jackpot. The two animated metalheads loved destroying things, and Beavis liked to use fire. A few months after the show premiered, five-year-old Austin Messner used a lighter to set his bed on fire.
Most of the family got to safety, except for Messner’s two-year-old sister, who perished in the fire. Messner’s mother blamed Beavis and Butthead because it gave children the idea that it’s fun to play with fire. MTV quickly cut all the fire-related jokes from the show.
Buckwild was a controversial show in itself and had more scandals than episodes. The rural version of Jersey Shore followed the lives of the cast as they got into strange antics in West Virginia. Things like hunting squirrels, using dump trucks as pools, and drinking in the woods were regular activities.
One of the cast members, Salwa Amin, made headlines just days after the finale. She was caught with illegal substances and charged with possession. After a court-ordered drug test, it was found that Salwa had other substances in her system.
Buckwild only lasted for one season because tragedy struck the cast. In April 2013, Shain Gandee was found unconscious behind the wheel of his truck. His car got stuck in a mud pit with the tailpipe submerged below the surface. The buildup of gas took Gandee’s life.
They were in the middle of shooting a second season, and MTV quickly pulled it to avoid further controversy. They were also under pressure from the Charleston, West Virginia mayor, Danny Jones. He urged MTV to cancel Buckwild because it only enhanced the negative stereotypes of West Virginia.
Rock of Love premiered on MTV in July 2007 as Bret Michaels tried to find true love. The premise seemed like any other dating show, but it quickly turned into one of the wildest shows on TV. Surprisingly, it lasted for three seasons until MTV took it off the air.
Many of the women who participated in the show only have negative memories. Aubrey Fisher from Season 2 said the participants were treated like inmates rather than reality show contestants. She claimed they weren’t allowed to use the bathroom and had hectic schedules.
At one time, Flavor Flav was the face of MTV. He had his own reality show called Flavor of Love, where he hoped to find the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, his tumultuous relationship with Tiffany “New York” Pollard left the other contestants fearing for their safety.
While Flavor Flav was once praised for his work in the entertainment industry, his reality show gave everyone the impression that he was exploiting typical stereotypes about women of color. The fighting, shouting, and hair-pulling painted them in a negative light, and fans were angry.
All the top celebrities of the late ‘90s and early 2000s wanted to land a spot on MTV’s TRL, as Mariah Carey shot to fame and earned herself a place on the show in July 2001. She has always been a diva and saw a golden opportunity to steal the spotlight.
When host Carson Daly was supposed to send the show to a commercial break, Carey rolled out an ice cream cart in an oversized shirt with the name of her single on it. She then proceeded to take off the shirt on live TV and revealed a tank top and tiny shorts. It was unexpected and bizarre.
Although Skins was a success in the UK, it never became as popular in the US. MTV wanted to recreate the show in America and invested in its most costly ad campaign. When it premiered, Skins had 3.26 million viewers. However, advertisers were not happy with the show.
The Parents Television Council labeled it “the most dangerous show for children we have ever seen.” GM, L’Oréal, Schick, and Taco Bell were some advertisers who walked away because of Skins’ depiction of drug use and sexual activity. MTV had no choice but to cancel it.
When Jersey Shore premiered in 2009, no one expected it to be such a hit. As we watched a group of strangers turn into a family while partying, working, and creating havoc at the Jersey shore, there was a lot of police involvement on and off-camera.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Deena Cortese, and Roni Ortiz-Magro were all arrested for disorderly conduct or assault on the show. Meanwhile, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and his brother Marc were arrested for tax evasion. Sorrentino served eight months in prison and was released in September 2019.
My Super Sweet Sixteen was a show that followed wealthy teens that planned the biggest parties of their lives. These spoiled teens walked all over their parents, and there was no shortage of drama, tears, and tantrums.
There are plenty of memorable moments, but Audrey Reyes’ meltdown in Season 5 made MTV history. Her tantrum about getting a new Lexus delivered on her birthday rather than at her party caused criticism because these teenagers acted ridiculously. Audrey eventually apologized after it aired.
Today, most of us know that reality TV isn’t always as it seems, but no one would ever think that things could be faked on a show like Cribs. It gave viewers a chance to see inside the homes of the rich and famous and how they spent their time away from the spotlight.
Sadly, we were all duped. Robbie Williams and JoJo are just two stars who have confessed to using homes they rented for the cameras. Ja Rule also rented a house for four days to film the show, then threw a massive party. The homeowner sued him because of all the damages.
Besides touring the homes, Cribs also had celebrities show off their car collections and the expensive things they “bought.” It turns out those cars and add-ons were also staged to make their lives look better. Robbie Williams used a team of hired butlers during his time in the rented house.
Rapper 50 Cent and Lil’ Bow Wow’s impressive collection of cars were all rented too. When these secrets were revealed, fans questioned if any of the stars’ homes belonged to them. The tagline should have been “Welcome to someone else’s crib that I’m borrowing for the show.”
In the late-90s, MTV gave comedian Tom Green a reality show. However, it quickly became too much when he would do things like drawing inappropriate images on his parents’ car. He also came out with “Lonely Swedish (Bum Bum Song),” which no one thought would be such a hit.
The song shot to number one on the charts, and the video made it to the top of TRL’s list. However, Carson Daly was out of town, so MTV pre-recorded segments of TRL. Instead of finding an alternative, MTV asked Green to retire his song so as not to disrupt the pre-recorded episode that didn’t include “Lonely Swedish.”
Janet Jackson’s nip-slip during the Super Bowl halftime show has gone down in history as one of the most iconic moments on TV. As she performed with Justin Timberlake, he grabbed the top of her outfit and revealed more than anyone imagined in front of millions of viewers.
There was nowhere for Jackson to hide. It ultimately hurt her career, but most people don’t know that MTV produced the show. The NFL quickly announced that MTV would never work with them again for another show. They needed to do serious damage control.
After the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl scandal, MTV immediately apologized, stating the moment was “unrehearsed, unplanned, and unintentional.” The network added that it was “inconsistent with the assurance we had about the content of the performance.” However, that wasn’t all they did.
MTV stopped airing adult-themed content during the day because it found that less than six popular music videos were appropriate for all viewers. They erred on the side of caution and banished hits like “Megalomaniac” by Incubus and “Toxic” by Britney Spears to late-night viewing.
When Jacka** premiered, it didn’t take long for people to realize that some people will push themselves and their friends to do some bizarre things. Johnny Knoxville and his friends would pull off stunts that most people would never attempt. However, some people thought they could recreate them at home.
That was the case for a 13-year-old boy from Connecticut. He tried to recreate the “human barbeque” stunt from the show and sadly received second and third-degree burns on his hands and legs. MTV responded by stating the program comes with a warning for a reason.
Although several people were unhappy that Jacka** was promoting dangerous stunts to young people, it was popular. Senator Joe Lieberman said, “it’s irresponsible for MTV to air scenes like this on a program clearly popular with young teens.” Parents also spoke out against the show.
The network had no choice but to respond. The show’s co-creator, Spike Jonze, told Maxim that MTV got scared and stopped promoting the show. Knoxville said MTV insisted on more health and safety measures. They didn’t want to water down the show, and it was axed after two years.
At the beginning of every Jacka** episode, there was a warning screen telling viewers not to perform these stunts, but that didn’t stop anyone. While people refused to listen to the warning, there weren’t only injuries because of the show, there were also deaths.
One 15-year-old lost his life when he was dragged under a car after attempting a stunt. A 30-year-old also passed away after trying to take a bullet while wearing a bulletproof vest, but his friend shot too high. People should take warning labels more seriously before trying dangerous things at home.
Like any other TV show, there was a limit to what the cast of Jacka** was allowed to do on the program. The group was always seeing who could take the stunts further, which made them try questionable things. MTV had to step in on a few occasions to stop them.
Some of the stunts had to be censored, while others were cut from the show entirely. Steve-O was usually the one pushing everyone to do crazier things. They might have been banned from MTV, but their antics made it to the big screen in the Jacka** movies.
Most people know that Steve-O was not a typical guy. He suffered from years of substance abuse and felt like his life was in shambles when the cameras weren’t rolling. He would often confide in Johnny Knoxville, but he never wanted to go to rehab. It was a bad look for MTV.
However, Knoxville took matters into his own hands and staged a somewhat forceful intervention. He told Steve-O that he would get beat up if he didn’t go to rehab. Luckily, this method worked, and he went to rehab. He has been clean ever since.
All the crazy stunts performed throughout the two years that Jacka** was on MTV might have earned them millions of fans, but it also took a toll on the stars’ health. Some of them have been left with life-long health conditions. Steve-O was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition because of the illegal substances he abused.
Knoxville admitted that his downstairs area is pretty mangled after hurting himself during MTV’s 24-hour Jacka** marathon. He had to be very careful for years to avoid scar tissue.
The Monkees were ahead of their time by having a reality show about life in a band, which ran throughout the ‘60s. In the ‘80s, they announced a 20th-anniversary tour, and it became massive when MTV got involved in helping boost the numbers.
The network started playing their song “Heart and Soul” around the clock until it was banned. MTV thought The Monkees would perform at the Super Bowl in 1987. Unfortunately, they had another commitment and didn’t show up. MTV was so offended that they banned the song.
Like Cribs, Pimp My Ride was another show that made everything seem better for the cameras. The show became famous because of the over-the-top additions they would add to different cars. However, they might have been lying to fans the whole time.
Justin Dearing was one of many people who said Pimp My Ride took things out of his car after they filmed the episode. The drive-in theater and pop-up drink machine were not safe for driving. Producer Larry Hochberg said things weren’t taken away but removed for safety or functional purposes.
We have to admit that it’s fair that Pimp My Ride removed add-ons that weren’t safe, but some things just didn’t function or weren’t thought through. Seth Martino, who had his ride “pimped,” said the LED lights they installed in his seats would get too hot, so he couldn’t drive with them.
Martino also said that the pistons for his gull-wing doors were removed because there wasn’t space for the backseat seatbelts. MTV reportedly had a tow truck on hand just in case wiring didn’t work or there were other issues with the vehicle. They should have called it “Wreck My Ride.”
MTV is much more than just music and reality shows; the network is also home to Video Music Awards. This awards ceremony has become a significant part of the music industry since it started. However, many people associate the MTV VMAs with some major drama.
When people think of the VMAs, Kanye West’s 2009 meltdown comes to mind. When Taylor Swift won the VMA for best female video, and Kanye jumped on stage, interrupted Swift, and said that Beyonce should have won the award. This started a feud that lasted a decade.
It’s surprising that MTV didn’t ban Kanye from the VMAs after he ruined Swift’s moment. However, year after year, he was nominated and even hosted the show. In 2016, Kanye was nominated for video of the year and best male video.
Sadly, he didn’t win either of the awards, and he wasn’t a graceful loser. Kanye later went on a 15-minute rant accusing MTV of rigging the VMAs. He also said Beyonce wouldn’t perform unless she won over Kanye and Drake. That is a much different energy than when he defended her.
Since its creation, MTV has created many stars and helped celebrities gain an even bigger following. That was the case for Tila Tequila because she was already a hit on MySpace before MTV approached her to star in a reality show called A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
The move paid off at first, but people started to associate Tila Tequila with MTV. This ended up backfiring on the network because she upset many people with her opinions, especially those related to World War II. She also posted a photo of her baby in a hijab.
Although the network tried to disassociate itself from Tila Tequila, the MTV star shared many conspiracy theories on the internet. While that might seem tame for her, she has never been one to hold back when it comes to sharing her thoughts.
Tila Tequila has talked about Paul Walker’s passing, claiming the actor didn’t die in an accident, and it was actually part of a ritual. She compared his death to that of Elisa Lam, who was found in a water tank on the top of the Cecil Hotel. Celebrity Big Brother decided to kick her off because of these statements.
It is hard to find a show more controversial than Dude, This Sucks, which turned out to just be a clever title. Two teens, Monique Garcia and Kelli Sloat, learned how the show got its name the hard way.
The girls were 13 at the time, and they were invited to stand near the stage during the show’s taping to watch two men called Shower Rangers. The men defecated right in front of the teens, and the girls later sued MTV. The network apologized and canceled the show.
While MTV has never had a problem taking risks, there have been instances where fans think the network crossed the line. On Teen Mom 2, MTV had one of its most shocking moments during the Season 4 finale. Evans and her then-boyfriend Kieffer Delp were addicted to drugs.
The episode showed scenes of them getting so high that they nodded off in the middle of a conversation. Fans were horrified that MTV would show a potentially dangerous situation and stood by filming it instead of getting them help.
MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2 became some of the network’s most successful shows. However, they received a lot of criticism because people felt like the series were glorifying and promoting teen pregnancy by rewarding girls for getting pregnant at a young age.
While the series prides itself on promoting sex education and how to avoid pregnancy, many critics don’t believe that. Surprisingly, studies have shown that the shows had a direct correlation to the decline of teen pregnancies since it premiered.
MTV has dealt with many things, but the most concerning is the untimely loss of many of its young stars. Some of the deaths had nothing to do with MTV, like Real World star Pedro Zamora succumbing to AIDS and Challenge star Diem Brown losing her battle to cancer.
However, MTV came under fire after the deaths of Ryan Dunn, Sam Sarpong, Joey Kovar, Ryan Knight, Shain Gandee, and Valerie Fairman. Many people have attributed their deaths to being catapulted into the spotlight from their ordinary lives.
The network has created some big stars, but not all of them couldn’t handle the fame. Some of them didn’t know how to move forward after MTV moved on from them. It was like they were left out to dry without any help from the network that made them stars.
After the deaths of many young MTV stars, people started to think that the network wasn’t providing the proper tools for how to handle and lose fame. Many of their biggest stars are young and don’t understand the pressure that comes with fame.
During The Challenge: Vendettas, contestant Kayleigh Morris quit the competition after several of the other female competitors threw all her belongings and mattress over the balcony. The girls heard a rumor that Morris had hooked up with Johnny Bananas, who was hooking up with their friend.
It seemed like something out of a high school movie because the women acted immaturely. After Morris decided to leave the competition, the other girls were given a stern lecture and faced no consequences. MTV made it seem like bullying was tolerated on their programs.
MTV had a club-like system for the DTF people who came into the shore house to avoid any major scandals besides the ones they already faced. Every person who wanted to come back to the house with one of the cast members was asked for an ID.
The Jersey Shore producers had the same scanner that clubs have to run people’s IDs. They wanted to make sure everyone was 21 or older because alcohol was involved. Also, if someone was too drunk, they were asked to leave the house.
When Jersey Shore premiered in 2009, many advertisers boycotted the show and pulled their ads from MTV, including Domino’s Pizza and Dell. The show received a lot of backlash from the Italian-American community because it created false stereotypes of “guidos.”
The producers didn’t understand why people were upset because the show was centered around Italian-American young adults from the East Coast. They thought it was something that the community could relate to because this was how they acted as teens. It succeeded without their approval, but the stereotypes continued.