Complaining about Miley Cyrus’ behaviour is akin to complaining about the earth continuing to move around the sun.
Is anyone surprised by this “behaviour?” This is no different than Christina Aguilera wearing panties with ass-less chaps, or Britney Spears making out with Madonna. It’s Led Zeppelin engaging in libidinous and unspeakable acts at the Chateau Marmont. It’s The Who destroying guitars and drum sets. It’s Elvis wriggling his hips way more than anyone had before.
Did Miley’s behaviour at the VMA’s really shock you? And be honest answering that question. Because if it did shock you then you’re either not paying attention, you’re making rationalizations, you’re delusional, or you’ve been hiding under a rock.
The slut shaming that accompanied Miley’s performance at the VMA’s was disgusting. She has the right to explore and display her sexuality as she sees fit, within the confines of the law. While I am not a fan of her musical endeavours, I have no interest in deriding her choice of wardrobe, phallic foam finger, or gyrations. Numerous scientific studies, proven time and again to be accurate, show us that sexual repression is rarely healthy for humans. If we want to live in a sexually permissive society, and I hope that we do, we can hardly blame Miley for her performance.
The only argument I’ve seen or heard that even comes close to heaping any relevant shame on Miley Cyrus is the idea that she is appropriating black culture. I don’t know how much this argument holds water, though. I have no idea what her intent was with her little dance number, her twerking, or her delving into ratchet culture. What is clear is that she has appropriated black culture. What’s unclear is whether or not this was malicious, or how it was planned. I don’t know who produced, choreographed, or planned her musical number with Robin Thicke. I have no idea how involved with the planning Miley Cyrus was, and, without knowing that, it’s hard to say just how much she is to be blamed for any cultural appropriation.
More importantly, I really, really don’t care. Complaining about Miley’s appropriation of black culture is like screaming at the driver of a brand new diesel train, because he’s hurting the environment. Can you not see the forest for the trees? The problems are much deeper than anything a 20-year-old pop star can possibly muster. Racism is so institutionalized, and so incredibly difficult a problem to solve, that screaming at Miley Cyrus is about as useful as complaining when a McDonald’s or Bass Pro Shop franchise only wants to hire white people. This problem is like the mythical Lernaean Hydra; many-headed, but stabbing away without precision is a waste of time. Until we, as a society, make a concerted effort to go after the beast’s one immortal head, racism will continue to terrorize us all.
And what’s worse, is that we have created this. We’ve made very few efforts to stop and think about what we truly want as a society. Collectively, in our rush to find the newest designer handbag, our efforts to put swag before intelligence, and our near complete inability to understand what a healthy role model is, this is what we have wrought. Individually we may not all be responsible for this, but, as a whole, there is no doubt that we are to be blamed.
When parents look toward popular culture, even the saccharin-based, vomit-inducing world of the Disney empire, to help their children find role models, what more can we expect? Like Britney and Christina before her, Miley Cyrus is just growing up. Even Annette Funicello received scorn for her role in the dreadful Beach Party movies of the 1960s.
No, Miley Cyrus isn’t Hannah Montana anymore. In fact, she never was. And here’s a big shocker (though it shouldn’t be): the Miley Cyrus you see on TV and everywhere else isn’t Miley Cyrus either. Her new persona isn’t a good role model, and neither was Hannah Montana. It was, is, and always will be, an illusion. And we’ll probably never know if the real Ms. Cyrus is a good role model, let alone whom she actually is.
And that’s the biggest problem with the star system. It gives us the false sense that we can understand and know Miley Cyrus, Alex Rodriguez, and Oprah. How many times have you heard someone say that they just “know” that they would be great friends with Beyonce? How many conversations have you overheard where the participants talk about dramatic encounters between famous people they could not possibly know?
Famous people can rarely be role models. And when they are, it’s probably just an on-screen persona, or carefully polished image that you laud with praise. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on true heroes, but how do we not know which astronauts, research scientists, and Nobel Prize winners are not actually awful humans?
Maybe parents need to find role models amongst the people in their communities and families whom they know they can trust. Even better, maybe parents themselves can become better people, so their children can look up to them, and not a movie star, athlete, or musician.
Or maybe we can teach our children to find strength and moral fortitude inside themselves. External resources change, and they come and go, but you will always have yourself. Be your own role model. Be your own hero. The next time you see someone who needs help, do what you can to help them. But do it without judgement, without pretence, and the world cannot help but be a better place.
Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance is but an infinitesimal part of the problem, a fraction of a fraction. And it’s a problem we created, either through direct action, or omission, to one degree or another.
We created this beast, and only we can slay it.