While this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, which aired Monday, didn’t have an internet-breaking shocker like the Madonna/Britney kiss of 2003, Kanye/Taylor interruption of 2009 or Robin Thicke/Miley Cyrus twerk-off of 2013, it wasn’t without controversy. The night’s biggest highlight — the long-overdue presentation of a lifetime achievement honor to one of the greatest music video visionaries of all time, Missy Elliott — was unfortunately marred by what appeared to be the discreet, unannounced change of that award’s name.
In 1991, MTV rechristened the Video Vanguard Award the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.” But this year — presumably due to backlash stemming from the disturbing documentary Leaving Neverland, which alleges that Jackson sexually abused two young boys, James Safechuck and Wade Robson — the words “Michael Jackson” had seemingly been removed from the category without fanfare or explanation. (Representatives for MTV did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s inquiry as to whether the award’s title had been officially switched back; it had been previously reported that it would not be changed, a decision which drew protest from Robson.)
In fact, the only mention of Michael Jackson’s name during the telecast came from Elliott herself, when she said during her acceptance speech, “This Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award means so much to me.” It was unclear if the namecheck was just a force of habit, or if she was making a grand statement — but in her speech, Elliott did notably thank Michael’s sister, Janet, calling her a “great friend.”
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