With apologies to Men Without Hats, this has been going through my head on endless repeat ever since watching Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMA’s:
You can twerk if you want to
You can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don’t twerk
And if they don’t twerk
No friends of mine...
So. The VMA’s. Miley. The resulting internet firestorm. Wow.
I don’t usually do the whole celebrity commentary thing on this blog, so pardon my foray into uncharted territory. I just feel the need to point out a few things to myself, in writing. Because ten seconds into Miley’s Gene-Simmons-meets-Madonna-meets-every-woman-in-a-Snoop-Dog-video performance, I was ready to climb aboard the slut-shaming bandwagon myself.
If I feel offended by something on TV, or upset, or irritated, or whatever, I usually stop watching it. I’m not sure why Miley’s performance had the magnetic pull of a car-crash, why I didn’t just grab the clicker and find something more conducive to a vegetative state. But no; I watched the whole twerk-tastic thing to its bizarre conclusion.
At first, I did the ol’ schadenfreude thing where you laugh and wince at the same time. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Oh, Miley. No.” Then the parental thoughts kicked in: Billy Ray must be stabbing his couch with a pitchfork right about now. Finally, around the time Miley started to go all foam-finger on Robin Thicke, I started channelling my Baba as the words “Tsk tsk” came out of my mouth and I felt the urge to fake-spit on the floor. That’s when I realized I was about to tumble down a very steep, very bumpy hill of self-righteousness.
I turned the TV off. Sat there for a minute. And reminded myself of the following:
Miley, despite her cloying childhood name, is a woman. She’s twenty. No wonder her current on stage persona bears no resemblance to the innocent looking Disney drone we’ve all gotten used to. Who wants to be Hannah Banana or whatever she was forever? The Party in the USA has become a Blurred Line and the kid has become a woman. Women get to choose how to act, dress, speak and dance. They get to be daring, sexy, audacious, confident. They get to take risks, make mistakes, have regrets. Or not. I was still thinking of Miley as Billy Ray’s little girl, the squeaky-clean kid with a big voice, and that’s unfair: she’s a woman and who am I to judge her for embracing her sexuality in a big, public way? She makes her choices and she gets to deal with the consequences, be they internet trolls or record sales.
Since when is anything on the VMA’s supposed to be instructive, inspirational or proper? It’s MTV, for pete’s sake! It’s entertainment! I don’t categorize Miley’s three minutes as the artistic work of a singer or a musician; to me, she’s an entertainer, and whether I like the grindy moves or not, she certainly kept a million viewers entertained.
3. Blurred Lines is not a Miley song. It’s Robin Thick’s song, and what Miley did on the VMA stage was downright PG compared to what goes on in Thick’s boobtastic video. I laughed out loud when I read another writer’s comment that Miley had “twerked Thick into submission,” because that’s exactly what she did: she gyrated on and poked at him until he looked more bewildered than studly. I’d say she gave ol’ Mr. “You wanna hug me?” an uncomfortable dose of his own raunchy medicine.
4. But what about the children? The impressionable youth will think twerking and sexually objectifying oneself is cool! Well, some of them already do, and nothing Miley does or doesn’t do is going to change that. YouTube is full of sex and butt-wiggles and boobs already; Miley’s just tapping in to what’s already considered cool, as any shrewd commercial entertainer does. If my daughter wants to watch the VMAs when she gets older, I’ll watch it with her. Initiate a conversation about it afterward, preferably in the car, where she’s trapped and can’t escape me. Instead of worrying that my daughter is going to emulate Miley as a role model, hopefully I’ll have introduced her to several women who have made a difference in my own life. I’ll read to her about other twenty-year-olds who have changed the world. And I’ll certainly be pointing out the difference between entertainers and heroes, between sex in its commercial incarnation and sex in real life, between how men and women are judged for doing essentially the same thing.
So let Miley twerk if she wants to. Or change the channel. Your choice.