MTV (Photo credit: Gnal)
I’ll admit I haven’t watched the MTV Video Music Awards since I was in college. To be honest I have never understood why MTV still has the VMAs because they don’t show music videos anymore; instead we have hours of Jersey Shore reruns and different renditions of 16 and Pregnant. (Notice how music is not mentioned… people still miss TRL… come on MTV….). So since MTV is beholden to the bonds of tradition and probably its more than likely one of the best nights for them in the ratings, we are graced to have the VMAs.
Over the years the VMAs (much like the Grammys) has become a “who can act the craziest without losing street cred” award show. Performers will have weird outfits (looking at you Lady Gaga) or do special musical collaborations so they are the ones that people talk about the next day. Brittney Spears made her come back, *NSync reunited for a performance together and new dad Kanye West stole the spot light from Taylor Swift, all on the VMAs. So whether we like award shows or not, they have given us these cultural gems.
Well congrats Miley Cyrus (daughter of Country Star Billy Ray Cyrus) and Robin Thicke (son of Alan Thicke of the 1980s hit Growing Pains) you have won the prize– you are the most talked about act of the night. I can’t escape hearing about you and your weird act. One of the first things I heard on the radio driving to work this morning pertained to you, people in the office were talking about you, Facebook and Twitter were a glow with reaction of your “performance.”
If you were like me and missed the VMAs and more specifically their performance, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version so you don’t have sit through the 6:30 musical mash up (or if you are brave you can watch it here). Miley sings a song and sticks her tongue out a lot; Robin Thicke comes out to sing with Miley. Miley makes a bunch of proactive moves, gestures and gyrations- many of which are with a foam finger. And scene.
Were we only surprised by this type of behavior because it is coming from good hearted, clean cut “Hanna Montana?” Sure Lady Gaga wore a thong and a sea shell bra and others have danced in the same manner and even worn the same style of outfits, but we have grown a custom (for good or for ill) to it.
However, the fact remains we really shouldn’t be shocked by this.
I know this flies in the face of almost everything you more than likely have read on this topic, but hear me out. I am not saying that what Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke did was proper, correct or appropriate; but what do we expect when our society tells us that sexuality or overt sexualization is the way to get noticed and to be popular? Was Miley just falling in line with societal norms? The world bombards us with thousands of images each day and many of them are of perfection and sexuality. And let’s not take Thicke off the hook here either; while he might not have been dancing in the same erratic manner as Cyrus, his latest music video has him singing with many different topless women.
Same problem, different mode of propagating it.
One thing we have to learn from all of this is that Miley Cyrus is not Hanna Montana anymore; she is an entertainer who likes attention and makes money doing it. This, however, does not negate the fact that millions of girls look up to her for her music, her personality and style. I can understand the notion that she wants to be seen as an adult and she wants to break away from her clean cut, Disney Channel image, but there has to be a better way. Miley might be trying to ‘express herself as an artist’ and ‘find her place in this world’ but what message are you sending to those fans? Is this the way that females are supposed to get the attention of males? Is this the way you get noticed? Will boys only like you if you stick your tongue out an exorbitant amount of time and wear a vinyl bikini and parade around with a foam finger? Where’s the empowerment message there Miley? Where’s the individuality that you profess? Is this Miley being Miley or is this Miley fitting into what is cool and flashy? Was it just for the sake of the viewers and for “your fans” that compelled you do show the world that side of you?
In one short act, Thicke and Cyrus made their performance less about the music and all about them, thus continuing the cycle of sexualization as a standard of normality in our society.
A colleague in ministry, Rev. David Hansen, tweeted:
(FYI… ichthyologist is a fancy word for a marine biologist more specifically fishes)
I agree with Rev. David and in a perfect world that would be the case; however whether we like it or not we live in a world where musicians, celebrities, actors and the like are who influence our young people.
So we have some more work to do …
Maybe our disgust will propel others to see that our society is shaping our understanding of sexuality.
Will this change that we are all looking for happen over night? More than likely not… actually we will have probably forgotten about twerk-gate 2013 sometime next week when something more ridiculous is thrusted into the mainstream. We probably wont remember it again until the 2014 VMAs when MTV shows the clip 756 times leading up to the big night.
Until then, we have some more work to do…