I got to the point last week where if I read the name “Miley Cyrus” or “Robin Thicke” on the internet one more time, I was going to throw my laptop across the cafe. If one more person asked me what my opinion was on the VMAs, I was going to punch them in the mouth. But I figure I better pay homage since everyone is expecting me to…
I’m sure, fellow internet-goers, that you are familiar with the story. Miley Cyrus, clad in a flesh colored bikini thing and her tongue rolling about her open mouth like a piece of taffy, “twerked” her way across the stage at the VMAs while giant teddy bears danced behind her (which I personally just did not get) and she slapped the tush of someone dressed like an offensive black woman’s stereotype. Then Robin Thicke emerged to sing the new song “Blurred Lines” while Miley made lewd gestures with a foam finger, twerked some more and generally displayed a great deal of former-Disney princess flesh. Commence heads exploding everywhere.
Here is my takeaway from the whole thing:
1. The entire scenario, the song “Blurred Lines” and Miley’s provocative display, etc. was indeed a sadly perfect example of how sexist pop culture is.
2. What Miley Cyrus did onstage was indeed racist.
3. The entire thing is just not that newsworthy.
Let’s take this one point at a time:
1. The performance was sexist. Yes, I hear you. It was sexist on multiple points – Miley oversexualizing herself in order to create a stir and put on a good performance is just showing how women are cracking under the pressure of pop culture to be sex icons. She grabbed at her crotch a few times, shook her backside so much I was surprised it didn’t vibrate off. The biggie here, though , isn’t Miley necessarily – it was the song to which she was dancing, “Blurred Lines.”
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me
The song is literally talking about non-consensual sex with an intoxicated girl at a club. All the while, Miley is twerking and grinding her way across the stage, as if to pay homage to the kind of behavior the song is trying to illustrate.
2. The performance was racist. Miley fondling the caricature of the black woman with a large backside displays a great deal here – I actually really love this article that discusses the subject. Not only is she objectifying a female body while exploiting a racist black stereotype, she’s essentially regressing to the antiquated idea that black women specifically do not have agency over their own bodies. When black women were owned as slaves in the South, historically the idea was that these women “could not be raped” because black folks weren’t considered a complete human being. Miley, no matter how hard she tries to prove otherwise, is a white person, and manhandling a black figure like that is just the icing on the cake of her trifecta of racism. Miley has a history of cultural appropriation, and I suppose now it’s coming to a head.
3. The story is not that newsworthy. “What?”, you may ask. “But you just said-” Yeah, I know what I just said, and I stand by it. My only issue with everyone freaking out about the VMAs is this – why now? Why now is everyone freaking out?
Just take another glance that last Jezebel article. Miley has done this before. She has twerked like she invented it and used black folks as accessories to up her “street cred” or something, I don’t know, but she is not a first time offender. Also, cultural appropriation has been going on in the music industry since its incarnation and music is certainly no stranger to racism itself. Why now does everyone react?
The same can be said about the sexist implications of the performance. “Blurred Lines” is a song about something deplorable, but then again this is not the first time pop songs have condoned rape. And as for Miley’s lewd performance? Well, Madonna kissed Britney, and Janet Jackson’s boob popped out at the Superbowl – it’s pop music. We encourage women to over-sexualize themselves, it only stands to reason that Miley might do the same. I think this guy describes it the best.
Also, as much as I hate to say it, Miley Cyrus was a ticking time bomb. She is a pop singer, a child star, AND a former Disney star. Sadly, it was predetermined that she would start dressing like a hot mess and acting out. I can only think of a handful of child stars who didn’t go crazy (i.e. Mara Wilson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Hilary Duff…that’s all I got) and the rest that come to mind have all had their pictures splashed across the tabloids. Perhaps this is a boisterous way for Miley to claim her emerging sexuality.
Was it because we still remember her as Hannah Montana that everyone wigged? I don’t know. Am I excusing her and saying it was okay, that the song they performed was permissible and that none of these implications matter? No, of course not. What I’m saying is that either everyone needs to calm down or they need to start trying to make some real changes if they didn’t like what they saw. Oprah says that we teach people how to treat us – and I think we’ve gotten a massive dose of how we have taught Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke to treat audiences.
I mean, while everyone was yelling about Miley, worse things were happening. This what I wish everyone was mad about:
“Moira was like an elevator with open sides. She made us dizzy.”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale