Please don’t hate me for being the fifteen-millionth person in two days to blog about the Miley Cyrus spectacle. I wasn’t gonna do it, I really wasn’t, but then when it seemed the only reasonable alternative to poking myself in the eye after seeing so many ridiculous articles and comments, I knew I had to. Blogging is cathartic, you know.
I will tell you ahead of time that I have never watched any sort of VMA show. I was never an MTV junkie, not even as a kid or a teenager, and at age 32 I am even more out of touch with this particular manifestation of pop culture. I really could not tell you anything that Beyoncé or Kanye or Miley sing, I don’t own an ipod (!), and the most recent CD I bought was George Strait’s 50 Number One Hits or something like that. For real. And this delightful little personal anecdote is intended to serve as a disclaimer of sorts: I am generally unaware and all kinds of unimpressed with celebrity culture in general.
But all of a sudden I’m all in the know about Ms. Cyrus’ wild performance the other night, and all because of the Facebook-ian hand-wringing that has dominated my feed ever since Sunday evening. And this is the cause of my wanting to find the nearest big stick and jam it into my ocular cavity because oh my goodness, there is a lot of what are the youth going to think because Miley! is a role model!!!!
And then there was the article I read where someone was all MTV what were you thinking allowing that performance when so many young people were watching?
Miley Cyrus is not a suitable role model. Miley Cyrus was never a suitable role model. Just because someone is famous and wealthy does not make them a role model. And MTV is in the business of featuring sexualized lyrics, scantily clad women, and other assorted things appealing to the baseness of humanity, which is precisely why it is so popular with teenagers. So just why exactly are we pretending that Miley’s bizarre performance (African American women dressed as teddy bears? really?) is such a huge departure?
Here’s the thing. There is a big lie circulating in society and the big lie is this: to be liberated as a woman you must shed any and all notions of propriety and chastity. You must be free to wear little-to-no clothing, hook up with whoever you want, and applaud others for doing the same. Virtue is out, and vice is in. And yet for some reason, when a woman goes too far or is not the right kind of woman, the establishment quickly distances themselves to protect and justify their own behavior in this regard.
Remember this year’s Super Bowl halftime show? Lovers of All Things Beyoncé were gushing about how not only wonderful her performance was, but also about how she really “owned her sexuality”. The leather, the angry-face-making, and the overt sexual dance moves were perfectly acceptable and on national TV no less because don’t you know, it’s Beyoncé!
Yet the same folks praising Mrs. Jay Z’s dominatrix-style show (in spite of the fact that, incidentally, she also once started out as a teen and served as a young role model just like Miley) are now declaring how horrible the VMA thing was, and how MTV should be ashamed, and how Miley has thrown her young fans to the wolves. No one is saying that Miley “owned her sexuality.” No one is rejoicing over another young woman being liberated from the shackles of convention and oppressed womanhood, even though Miley has certainly forged her own path here.
And the reason why is pretty simple. Miley Cyrus’ pitiful display was very obviously a representation of womanhood distorted. It was raw, it was real, it was not airbrushed or artistic. It was base and it was undeniably All About Sex. Nobody could possibly deny that fact (except for maybe her mother who looked quite pleased by the performance, for some reason that I will never understand.) And that’s not so great for the General Cause of the Exploitation of Women, because that cause relies upon layer after layer of deception and justification. Beyoncé is beautiful, look at that toned body, look at how she controls the men who watch her, etc. etc. See in order for all of that to work and for a society to buy into it, it has to be appealing and it has to keep people from thinking about what it really is, which is obscene sexual behavior set to music.
Miley dared to perform a low-budget porn show in public, and all the fans and promoters and benefactors of the high-budget counterpart are angry.
What they enjoy and perform and like to watch is totally legit, but this other stuff? SO not okay.
And here’s the thing, people. Are you ready for this? There’s no real difference. It’s all a perversion of female sexuality. It’s all just one big example of selling one’s dignity for the almighty dollar and maybe a little bit of fame.
So now back to Facebook. And the youth of our culture. And this whole “role model” nonsense. I’m going to say something that you might not like, but here it is anyway: someone is not automatically a role model because they are famous, and young women should not be looking to actresses, singers, or the rich and famous as role models, period. They should be in relationship with people who care about them and who represent some sort of virtuous presence in their lives. My own kids are surrounded by adults who are a positive influence and who do good things–firefighters, medical providers, musicians, teachers, consecrated brothers and sisters, our priest, mothers, fathers, grandparents–and I don’t take that for granted. The young people in our culture will not ultimately be corrupted because they saw Hannah Montana twerking on MTV, but they will be corrupted by lack of positive influence and conscience formation that begins at home–which might be the reason they’re checking out Miley Cyrus in the first place. Miley is a product of our wayward culture, not the cause. And if you’re sticking your kids in front of MTV for life inspiration and instruction on how to be a model citizen, well, I think that is far more cause for concern than whatever latest publicity stunt MTV is broadcasting to the masses.
Okay. Thank you for letting me get that off of my chest. I think it’s time to take a deep breath and listen to some George Strait.