So unless you’ve been in some kind of coma this week, you probably noticed on Monday that the internet turned into Victorian England overnight due to a young pop star’s eye-catching performance on an awards show. And all week, every keyboard gangster has been opining away about what exactly Miley Cyrus was doing at the MTV Video Awards and whether or not it will result in the moral and cultural downfall of our nation.
It’s taken me several days to soak in the many opinions written about Cyrus’ act (and no, I refuse to utilize the “t” word here; if you say it to me, I may or may not be able to resist smacking you. I don’t care if the Oxford English Dictionary DID make it an entry this week). The general opinion seems to be the same on the left, the right, from feminists and from the African American community: whatever Miley was up to, it was bad.
For me, this spectacle and ensuing brouhaha has brought up more questions than answers:
Why in America can we watch prime time shows featuring grisly murders and rapes, where people are mowed down by machine guns by the dozen and no censor is alerted, but we’re horrified by a bad bump and grind from a teenager in a pair of really ugly rubber granny panties?
Why doesn’t anyone point a finger at MTV, who rated their show as appropriate for 14 and up only? Surely they knew what Miley Cyrus was known for and had some idea of how she would be performing. Where’s the outrage for the suits that okayed the performance? On the other hand, I grew up watching Madonna feign masturbation in a wedding dress while writhing on an very similar MTV Video Awards stage. I survived Janet Jackson’s boob. Folks from the 1950’s were evidently not permanently scarred by “Elvis the Pelvis.”
Why do so many performers associate shock with value? Just because it’s shocking doesn’t make it good. TV and a lot of art are struggling with this distinction these days. And frankly, this behavior was not new, Miley, so it wasn’t even that shocking. Related:
Why aren’t we talking about how BAD Cyrus’ singing and dancing actually was, taste aside? She’s marginally talented. She was crass and decidedly unsexy, a fact only made more painfully apparent every time she flicked out that maniacal tongue. There was nothing seductive, sensual, or nuanced about her performance. It was poor quality pop.
Lady Gaga, someone else who prefers all eyes on her, was also mostly naked for the night of the awards. But despite it, she is clearly an performance artist, dedicated to creative expression as a lifestyle, not just for CD sales and notoriety. Whether or not she’s your cup of tea (and I’ll confess she is not mine), Gaga’s work hearkens back to Madonna, a trained dancer and student of high-quality theater, and has a more European art-film appeal. Cyrus is boring and predictable.
Is Cyrus racist to use black dancers as props? Is she racist to adopt certain aspects of another culture, unaware her white privilege keeps her from being stopped and frisked for adopting those aspects? Was this performance minstrely? Also related: white girls with grills? So. Much. No. Or is Miley simply a representation of America’s youngest generation whose cultures have so melded that it is, indeed, her culture after all?
Most importantly: what is a parent to do? My children are too young for MTV and did not get exposed. I have a six-year-old daughter, and I can tell you as a rabid feminist, the last thing I want her to make money doing is for grabbing at a man’s junk, whether that’s on a stripper pole in Mexia or on a international stage for Viacom cash.
With so few answers to all the above questions, this is the only one I’m pretty sure about: We talk to our children. We teach them about their bodies. We teach them the proper names, without giggles, of all their parts. We teach them which are private. We admit sex exists. We talk about it in an age appropriate fashion. We teach them that sex and lovemaking can be sacred or profane. We shield them from age-inappropriate material.
Build a relationship with your kid and he or she will crawl over hot coals to please you. You are their primary influence. Not their peers, despite how it appears. Not media, despite the prevalence of it. It’s you. Take a deep breath. It’ll be okay. Culture is changing, true. What was unseemly then is less so now. Am I comfortable with it? I can be, because culture has been and will continue to be ever changing.
So, I’m buckling in for it. I’m ready to talk fearlessly with my kids as they mature about what’s popular in society and how popular doesn’t necessarily mean right, nay, may in fact be cringe-worthy. To think for themselves and value their body as private, something not be shared cheaply. And also that change is not necessarily decline, even if it makes you as excruciatingly uncomfortable as Miley Cyrus romancing an over-sized teddy bear.