Well, I was real busy last night writing up some research I’ve been doing related to Vaudeville and entertainment in the early 20th Century, so I missed the premiere of Miley Cyrus’s blood-curdling, can’t-unsee-once-you’ve-seen-it, performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards. But I got to watch it today, and all I could do is quote Dorothy Parker: “oh, what fresh hell is this?”
Seriously, people! Did the geniuses who put this act together truly understand the cultural references they were dishing out, or was it just “hey! this’ll be cool! Miley’s breaking from her Dad! yeah, it’ll be all about sex and hanging out with black folks and people will think it gets her white trash Dad mad!”
If that was it, the answer is “Um, no.” Billy Ray Cyrus may be a washed up white trash troubadour, but he’s not about to get mad at anything his lil’ girl does, when he’s the one who got her into show biz in the first place. So this gives us the first offensive sociocultural paradigm: White Trash Dad pimps out barely legal Daughter.
Even to assume that much is to assume that the Cyrus family is somehow like us. That is a conceit of celebrity popularity that isn’t always true. We assume we know where Billy Ray came from, but his daughter doesn’t come from the same place. She comes from a privileged background. Does that make her a privileged white kid? Well, she’s a privileged show biz kid, which *could* be construed with privileged white, but that’s not really an accurate assumption these days. The two have diverged a bit since the 1930’s. And show biz isn’t all that segregated–certainly not as segregated as it was 50-plus years ago. What we can assume is that those white choppers of her cost a lot in dental work….
If this is her social-entertainment “Introduction” (if you could call it that. Brooke Shield’s character in “Pretty Baby” got a better Introduction) it’s in a number that looks like a very bad low burlesque bit from the early 20th century–before strippers. Kind of like this:
Maybe Miley’s handlers (and I’m sure she has them) did see this, or know of it, and that’s what they were aiming for: in the past it was a “Glorifying the American Girl” with butterflies and other white folks. Now it’s….well…stepping out of a teddy bear and twerkin’ with a bunch of black chicks.
As for the “love” interest–which I guess was supposed to be Robin Thicke in the suit Michael Keaton wore in Betelgeuse–he seemed really un-affected (or is that dis-affected?) She may have been “twerkin” (if that’s what that was supposed to be) in front of him, but he appeared to not want anything to do with any of it.
Speaking of that twerkin’ with black chicks: what the heck was that but some kind of creepy minstrel show. I’m serious! A little white chick, of show biz privilege, surrounds herself with a bunch of black people. And for what reason? “I’m rebellious! I’m going to be sexual and have sex and hang out with black people! What do you think of that, white trash Daddy!”
If that’s what it might have been about, I’m not buying it for a minute. I’m not buying either that she might be acknowledging the debit of white performers to black performers, or any of that other stuff that’s often discussed. Maybe I’m too cynical, and maybe I know too much about entertainment, but I’d bet this number wasn’t that kind of tongue in cheeky smart.
Then there’s that line about “we can love whomever we want.” Oh, is that a venture into Lady Gaga territory? Or just asserting her sexual reality–that she has SEX! OMG! Rebellious White Girl has SEX! Um, not buying that one either. Miley’s generation is one that probably has more sexual freedom than any generation in modern memory. Read some of the parent advice columns in magazines or metro area newspapers and you’ll read parents kvetching about their teens hanging out in each other’s bedrooms with the doors closed and parents not knowing what to do about it. Um, here’s a bit of advice: do what our parents did and knock on the door and open it and break up the party! Is it that difficult?? Give your kid something to rebel against fer crissakes! A 20 year old telling the world she’s having sex isn’t that big a deal any more. Really.
So, yeah, I’m not buying Miley’s rebellion any more than I’m buying her routine was perhaps a tribute to the unacknowledged legacy of black performers to rock and roll. I am buying that Miley dancing around with a bunch of black chicks is a really insulting minstrel show. She’s not Robin Thicke, she doesn’t have any R and B cred, and therefore can’t say a thing about blurring color lines either. So, that part of the show is definitely insulting and just more faux rebellion.
If having sex and hanging out with black people is rebellion–wow, then we really haven’t come that far as a society. But, honestly, I think we have. Again, if we haven’t, then we need help.
As for the rest of the program….geeze, I’m kinda tired of hearing about guys wanting chicks with big butts and chicks with big butts twerkin’ their butts all over the place. Oh, I’m not offended by the lyrics. As I said to some friends on Facebook, when I was younger I could make a grown man cry, and there’s something fun/funny about teasing a guy and hearing him say “I want to give it to you” and all that nasty stuff. Adults sometimes get “nasty.” But I don’t like watching women flappin’ their butts around no matter what color their skin, any more than I like watching girl strippers (guy strippers on the other hand…well, let’s not go ther.) It’s just and ugly, ugly move. It’s like when I see a guy walking down the street and his pants are down to the point of where his lil’ ole johnson’s gonna fall out any minute. I want to go up to him, pull his pants up and tell him to stop embarrassing his Mom. Or pulling them all the way down and laughing. I’m not sure which would be more embarrassing, but it would about the old crabby lady embarrassing the young punk she’s supposed to be afraid of. It would be about showing young male punks that their rebellion isn’t rebellion or frightening inasmuch as a bad fashion choice.
So, really, after seeing the whole thing, it was just really stupid. We probably didn’t expect her to show that chicken butt like that, but hey, we got it. We can’t unsee it now. And I’m sure a whole lot of us don’t like that she’s been a kid’s role model for years, and that kids sometimes don’t know a walking joke when they see it (or that privileged entertainers shouldn’t be role models.) I smell as much desperation in this performance as I did years ago with the whole Britney Spears-Madonna kiss thing.
In the end it was like eating one too many jalopeno poppers. It gave us a case of indigetstion, but, just let it pass, and everyone will be fine.