In the cold, hard light of day, it seems that the ’NSync reunion wasn’t something Justin Timberlake decided to do because he really missed spending time with Chris Kirkpatrick, and more like something MTV, historically careful in its parceling out of Vanguard awards, insisted on. And Miley Cyrus debasing herself in some misguided attempt to be seen as an adult sexual being just made her seem younger. (There was a reason for all those Amber Alert jokes on Twitter.)
Even the worst VMAs (and this was a middling one) go by quickly. One misses things. We’ve compiled a list of random moments, equipment malfunctions, possibly sentient plushies, and audience reaction shots you might have missed. We could dedicate an entire post to Taylor Swift, who carried on her long, six-month tradition of mean-girling/dramatically supportive reaction gifs. Taylor knows the cameras are on her at all times. Taylor did not come to play.
— By now, you’ve probably seen the gif of Will Smith and family’s horrified reaction to Miley’s pantsless twerking during an audience cutaway. (Jaden looked particularly troubled. It’s tough to see him that way.) This appears to have actually been a reaction to Gaga’s performance.
— Even better is Swift’s reaction to Cyrus, a mixture of disdain and pity that comes from the knowledge that she is successful enough to never have to feign sexual congress with a large stuffed animal, or Robin Thicke.
— The largest plushie onstage during Miley Cyrus’s set — the really big, two-stories-tall one — had weird rotating lights where his eyes should have been, probably because he gouged out his actual eyes after rehearsal.
— Macklemore wore a fur stole made of Siberian mongoose.
— The members of ’NSync were supposed to exit the stage through trap doors, but one of the members’ (maybe Kirkpatrick’s?) doors appears to have malfunctioned. There’s a metaphor for post-boy-band life in there somewhere.
— Justin Timberlake’s joke about sharing his Vanguard award with his bandmates but keeping it at his house was unnecessary: Did anybody really think they would let Joey Fatone keep it?
— Eminem announced the release of a new album (it’s called “MMLP2,” and it drops Nov. 5) just as the VMAs started. It was meant to be the spotlight-stealing move of a legend. Then Miley Cyrus came on, and everybody forgot about it.
— One Direction got booed. A lot. Even more than the evening’s multiple pleas for tolerance. Brooklyn is a tough town.
— Lady Gaga gave 1D a backstage pep talk that mostly addressed how much the booing was upsetting her: “I want to leave right now,” Gaga said, according to the NY Daily News. “I don’t want to stay anymore because I don’t want to be in a room where people are booing. I just want to tell you that you deserve every bit of success that you have.” Being Lady Gaga’s friend must be exhausting.
— Katy Perry’s mid song jump-rope routine was probably harder than it looked. Perry’s entire performance was assured and impressive, but mostly unheralded. It would have made for a great opener.
— Selena Gomez accepts an award like she’s hanging up the phone with her grandparents. “I love you guys. Take care!” said Selena, chipper as a stewardess.
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PHOTOS: 2013 MTV Video Music Awards red carpet