All the Times the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards Got Political

Much like the first post-election New York Fashion Week, last night’s MTV Video Music Awards doubled as a platform for political commentary. We can’t say we didn’t see this coming. MTV’s newish president, Chris McCarthy, is (rightly) all about “amplifying [forward-thinking] young people’s voices.” Hence the instatement of gender neutral award categories and a Moon Person to replace the Moonman. (“Why should it be a man?” McCarthy told the New York Times. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”) After President Trump officially banned transgender people from joining the military on Friday, and in light of the recent racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, it was practically a given that McCarthy and his celebrity guests would use their global stage to react. See the forms their messages took, below.

MTV invited transgender members of the military to attend the event.

Sterling James Crutcher, Logan Ireland, Jennifer Peace, Akira Wyatt, Laila Ireland and Brynn Tannehil, all transgender, all former or current members of the military, walked the VMA red carpet alongside GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and August Getty, the designer behind Miley Cyrus’ dress for the night. The heroes posed with celebs like Jack Antonoff, Billy Eichner, Heidi Klum and Tyler Posey.

Heather Heyer’s mother announced the winners of the Best Fight Against the System award.

Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV, a descendent of Robert E. Lee, took the stage to announce Susan Bro and speak out against racism. (Lee called his ancestor’s Charlottesville statue a symbol of “white supremacy, racism, and hate.”) Bro, the mother of 32-year-old Heather Heyer (the woman tragically killed when a car drove into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12), named the winners of the Best Fight Against the System award. She also took the opportunity to announce the launch of the Heather Heyer foundation, a nonprofit that will provide to “individuals passionate about positive social change.” The goal is to “help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.” Watch her full speech above.

Katy Perry and Paris Jackson called out Donald Trump and white supremacists directly.

Paris Jackson, who presented the award for Best Pop Video, gave an impassioned speech calling upon Americans to “stand up all united as one…to show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country…we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination” — whilst mocking President Trump’s pronunciation of the word “huge.” Host Katy Perry, BFF to Hillary Clinton, also made her anti-Trump stance known. Encouraging fans to vote for their favorite new artist, Perry stated, “Listen, guys, this is one election where the popular vote actually matters…so vote online, but hurry up, before some random Russian pop star wins!”

Kendrick Lamar’s whole performance.

Kendrick Lamar, in addition to scoring six Moon People, won the stage. While Lamar performed a medley that included “DNA” and “Humble,” his backup dancers, dressed as ninjas, scaled a flaming fence. As Complex notes, Lamar often uses kung fu imagery in his performances — martial arts movies rose to prominence around the same time as hip hop (the 1970s); both gave young black men non-white heroes to look up to. (Although Lamar’s lyrics are political statements themselves.)

Logic spread suicide awareness.

The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, recently reported that it witnessed a “dramatic spike” in suicide hotline following Trump’s announcement of a transgender military ban. Logic performed his song 1-800-273-8255 (named for the U.S. suicide prevention hotline) surrounded by people who’d survived suicide attempts. When he finished, he gave the following speech: “I just want to take a moment right now and thank you for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about: mental health, anxiety, suicide, depression and so much more that I talk about on this album. From racism, discrimination, sexism, domestic violence, sexual assault, and so much more; I don’t give a damn if you are black, white, or any color in between. I don’t care if you’re Christian, you’re Muslim, you’re gay, you’re straight, I am here to fight for your equality. Because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally and that is why we must fight. We must fight for the equality of every man, woman, and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed, and sexual orientation.”

Pink gave a moving plea for tolerance.

Pink, champion of self-expression — she and her daughter walked the red carpet in matching suits — finished her extremely moving speech with a message of tolerance: “We don’t change — we take the gravel in the shell, and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.” We seriously recommend you watch the full version, above. (Sadly, in these times, being true to yourself often serves as a form of protest.)

[ via BBC ]