The MTV Video Music Awards -- to be broadcast live tonight from Los Angeles, presumably with the usual array of scantily clad celebrities, intentionally controversial moments and, oh yeah, awards for music videos -- has been an annual occasion for 27 years. As those years continue to slide by, taking us further from the network's target demographic, the antics at the VMAs seem to become increasingly tasteless. But is that actually true, or is this just what happens when we grow older and less charmed by the sight of celebrities gratuitously making out onstage to generate buzz?
After tracing the progression of puerile behavior in this list of 10 "controversial" events from VMAs past, let's see whether the standards really have lowered or if they actually sank to rock bottom in the '90s and stayed there.
1984: Madonna opens the first MTV Video Music Awards by writhing onstage in a lacy bridal gown as she moans out the lyrics to "Like a Virgin." This was deemed scandalous at the time. Now many of us routinely see this sort of behavior at wedding receptions.
1989: Andrew Dice Clay recites some of his signature adult nursery rhymes and a few other jokes without censoring his occasionally profane language. MTV bans him from the channel for life.
1992: Radio megastar Howard Stern descends from the rafters dressed as Fartman, the flatulent superhero who exposes his buttocks and forces Luke Perry to touch them. No ban is issued.
1993: Milton Berle gropes the breasts of RuPaul while presenting an award. Berle jokes about once dressing in drag, then RuPaul makes a crack about how the 85-year-old now wears diapers. None of it is funny.
1994: Michael Jackson lays a major, cringe-inducing kiss on wife Lisa-Marie Presley. They divorce two years later, but the footage of this moment lasts forever.
1999: Lil' Kim, rapper and pioneer of the intentional wardrobe malfunction, shows up in an ensemble that exposes most of one breast. While presenting an award with Kim, Diana Ross does what we'll call "pulling a Milton Berle."
2001: A scantily clad Britney Spears gyrates to "I'm a Slave 4 U" with a yellow python draped around her neck, angering PETA and unwittingly laying the foundation for a dance routine on "Glee" nine years later.
2003: Madonna places a steamy, pop diva torch-passing kiss on Spears and Christina Aguilera, making us all miss the subtle nuance of her performance from 1984.
2008: Host Russell Brand calls then-President George W. Bush a "retarded cowboy" and mocks the Jonas Brothers for pledging to remain abstinent. Not only is he not banned, he's also invited back to host again the following year.
2010: Lady Gaga shows up with her breasts covered ... in hunks of raw, red meat that's been made into a dress. PETA, once again, is not pleased.
Standards may not have lowered since the early VMA days, but once you let Fartman in the door, classiness has a tendency to sneak out the window.