What's Cyrus Really Selling in VMA Performance?
I'm not very cool. A week after the event, I just now watched Miley Cyrus' performance at the Video Music Awards. I'm not proud but I YouTubed it. I had to know what all the fuss was about. I have to say, I really could have done without that. It was vulgar, ridiculous and utterly senseless.
Am I getting old? Maybe I am. I remember my grandmother saying she wouldn't pay a penny to see the New Kids on the Block, my teenage heartthrobs. I thought she was insane. I look back now and think maybe she was pretty smart after all. I waited in line for hours before dawn to get nosebleed tickets to see those guys sing "Hangin' Tough" live. So I'm not saying my standards are all that high.
To each his own, especially when it comes to entertainment. But I'm not quite sure what happened when Cyrus came out on stage. Dancers dressed as stuffed animals, Cyrus rubbing her face in one's, well, bum, then spanking it. Then there was the incessant grabbing her crotch, twerking against Robin Thicke (who might want to rethink his artistic direction before he wakes up one morning and sees Snoop Dogg in the mirror) and rubbing a foam finger against herself while grimacing and sticking out her tongue. Despite my hatred of internet slang, the only response I can come up with is WTF!?
She said she wanted to make history. I get it. She researched past VMA performances that made a splash - Madonna rolling around stage in a wedding dress, Madonna kissing Britney Spears - and she wanted to get her name added to the list. Artists break boundaries to make a statement. But I don't think this was an artistic statement so much as an attempt to be as sexually provocative as possible - for those who find crotch grabbing sexy - to get attention.
Now, artists also break boundaries for publicity, let's be honest. Cyrus isn't the first and she won't be the last, so it's unfair to only pick on her. I recently saw a similar "performance" by Lil Wayne and Nikki Minaj, aired in prime time. Minaj gave him a lap dance that was pretty much all thrust, very little dance. Pretty soon, these awards shows are going to have to move to HBO.
What do you think about the Cyrus VMA performance?
"I don't pay attention to the negative because I've seen this play out so many times … Madonna's done it. Britney's done it. Every VMA performance, that's what you're looking for; you're wanting to make history." - Miley Cyrus
Sex sells. It used to be that the illusion of sex - a glimpse of skin here, a tantalizing dance move there - sold. Now, we've apparently become numb to subtleties - why else are performers resorting to half-naked grinding and simulating masturbation onstage? And what about these things, exactly, is sexy? Watching Cyrus, I didn't see a young woman expressing or even exploiting her sexuality. I saw some kind of savage anger, a bitter f-you to the world, playing out. It wasn't about sex so much as about sex and violence, anger, connected somehow. And that's not cool. Be angry, but can you leave your private parts out of it?
I'm not offended so much as I'm disturbed. There's enough lies and propaganda out there about sex as it is. (Ever wonder why teenage characters on popular TV shows never get STDs even though they have a new partner every week?) Let's not add some sort of notion that sex and anger and hatred somehow go hand in hand. I know Cyrus doesn't want to be a role model, and she surely doesn't want to be a Disney princess, but it would be nice if more young women in the spotlight could model respect for their bodies and themselves. I'm not suggesting she don a dress down to her ankles and stick to side stepping onstage or anything. It's just an unfortunate reality that kids absorb the messages they see in the media, whether in movies, music or commercials, and they'll act on them even if they don't fully understand them.
Despite my grumblings about the sex/anger connection, I have to say my biggest complaint is simply that this performance by Cyrus was absolute trash. Not as in vulgar because it was sexually explicit. Trash as in, she sounded like crap, she danced like crap, there was no artistic merit to any of it. I know, I know, artistic merit is subjective. But come on. Anybody can do what she did. It doesn't take skill or talent.
Cyrus figured out what she needed to do to stand out from the other performers, and she did it. And it worked. Maybe that's the problem; a society that rewards people with fame and fortune for simply taking off their clothes and behaving like wild animals. That's really not fair to wild animals, who in fact possess a great deal of order and good sense, but I couldn't think of any other comparison. Have we really devolved to this point? Are we really so bored with legitimate art that we need our base instincts pandered to in such a depraved way?
Cyrus is the scapegoat here. Look around. This kind of pandering is everywhere. In movies. In reality TV, where a man makes out with one girl the night before he asks another to marry him. In commercials advertising products that unclog sinks, for crying out loud. Sex sells. But is it becoming the only thing that sells? And if so, why?
By the way, the kind of sex that sells is a fantasy. They can't market the real stuff, because it's too complicated and there are consequences and all that gets icky, so it's got to be well-lit and glittery and consequence-free and quadruple orgasmic on a bed of roses. Either that or just really gross, apparently. Sorry, Cyrus, I don't know what else to call your brand of sexuality.
If this is a new age of sexual freedom, maybe we'd better not be so quick to embrace it. Freedom means having control and viewing things as they are, not living without self-restraint in some kind of fantasy land. And if those living with self-restraint in the real world need a little fantasy land time, fine. But can I make one request? Artists of the world, unite. Be sexy. Just don't spank a dancer dressed as a freaking stuffed animal while attempting to sell it. You'll look like you're trying too hard. And you'll be worse than a pandering publicity wh..., ahem, seeker. You'll just be lame.
© 2013 Crystal Tatum