Full disclosure: I didn't watch the VMA Awards. I was busy baking vegan brownies and listening to Leonard Cohen that night. Not because I'm impervious to pop culture silliness (because I'm really not), but I simply wasn't in the mood for over-the-top, over-hyped award shows that evening.
I live on Twitter and Facebook, so I immediately heard about it, of course. I heard about it that night, the next morning, and well into the following evening. For a world so often accused of having a short attention span, we sure know how to dwell on the inconsequential and unimportant.
For more than 30 hours straight it was Miley this and Miley that... And while viewers and every pundit were analyzing her performance based on what it is that they personally saw in it, Miley and her record company were twerking all the way to the bank. They don't call it show business for nothing, folks.
Because I'm a voracious consumer of pop culture I, of course, saw the video. And then I read pretty much everything that has been written on her performance. So much ink was spilled talking about this (OK, dated expression...), so much hand wringing and pearl clutching took place, you'd think Miley had pulled out an AK-47 during her performance and taken out Robin Thicke -- silly Beetlejuice-striped suit and all.
But, alas, the performance I witnessed was nothing that violent or morally abhorrent...
All I saw was a performer, who, despite still being associated with Disney's sqeaky clean Hannah Montana, is now of age, grinding and sort-of-singing her way to 306,000 tweet mentions per minute.
Was it cheesy? As cheesy as the slice of pizza I had for lunch today! Was it of questionable taste and artistic value? One could argue that. Was what she was wearing silly and clearly aimed at shocking and all but ensuring that church groups in the deep South would be praying for the devil to release her from his influence come Sunday morning? You know it! Did watching her grind up against Robin Thicke make you cringe a little? That was the whole point, silly!
Truth be told, there was nothing even remotely sexy or tantalizing about her performance. Sexy is never about trying too hard, wanting it too much, screaming from every fibre of your being "Look at me! Look at me!" This was nothing more than the slightly-awkward, paint-by-numbers acting out of a young woman who's still testing out her sexuality, trying to tantalize with a body that she's barely come to know yet. Ever seen a baby giraffe wobble around, trying to find its legs? Despite the bravado, the attitude, the crass, in-your-face performance, that was Miley. I wanted to put a blanket over her shoulders, tell her to put that tongue away, and send her to the gym to hit the squat room. One shouldn't twerk if they've got nothing to twerk, yo! Didn't your beautiful black dancers teach you anything?
All jokes aside, here's what -- once again -- became painfully obvious to me.
The double standards persist.
I can't even begin to count the number of times I read "slut" and "whore" pass by on my Twitter feed. I don't even use the word "whore" to describe someone who has sex for money, so why would I use it to describe someone who simply performs on a stage for it?
Describe her performance any which way you like, and dislike it if you must, but using crass and demeaning words to describe her personally as a human being is nothing more than sexist, slut shaming, and totally undeserved.
Also, interesting that while it takes two to tango, only Miley got trashed for that performance, while Thicke (and his rapey song) got to dance off into the sunset, as the media pondered if his wife was jealous and angry at the fact that he got "assaulted" by Miley on stage. Seriously? Thicke's now the victim?
One can have an intelligent debate on whether Miley is playing into the usual media stereotypes of female objectification and over-sexualization (or is simply using them for her own financial benefit), but there's hardly a need for name calling.
Also, the accusations of racism and insensitivity to the black community that have been brought against her... I have a bit of a problem with this one. While I'm not unaware of white privilege and the fact that white performers routinely appropriate black culture to peddle their own product, I find the accusations too easy and simply far-fetched.
White artists as far back as Elvis have always been accused of borrowing heavily from black culture to make their music edgier. I don't necessarily consider that racism. I consider that being influenced by a force cooler than you are. Here's a little white girl who is desperate to make her image (and music) edgier, so she (and her image consultants) do the easiest thing that springs to mind; they appropriate what has edge.
Accusing someone of borrowing from the "ghetto" (as some critics have stated) without understanding or experiencing the "ghetto" lifestyle is disingenuous at best. Go tell that to Eminem and his fans who were last seen walking around suburban malls wearing their pants down their ass, pretending to be drug dealers as they swagger by to order a Venti from Starbucks.
Tell that to Drake who sings about going from the Bottom to the Top. Dude, you were Jimmy on Degrassi! I know where you came from and while Toronto may be questionable to many Montrealers, it's certainly not the bottom.
There are hundreds of performers out there pretending to be tougher than they are, hoping to benefit from the instant street cred that an edgier look and feel affords. Is it a tad forced and hypocritical? Sure. Is it manufactured edge? As manufactured and fake as the grills on Miley's teeth in her We Can't Stop video. Is it racism? I honestly don't believe so.
Finally... the media's non-stop obsession with this non-story. The Onion hit the nail on the head with their satirical piece on click baiting. It's really what it's all about, and there's nothing more to it.
Just like human beings have a propensity for sugar and fat, so they do for media fluff, scandals and sensationalistic headlines. Sex sells. Controversy and sex sells even more. Throw a picture of Miley in her nude underwear grinding up against Thicke, along with a short story on what transpired, and you've got news for days.
Because it never ends there.
After the story, you get the outcry. Then you get a semi-nuanced reaction. And then you get a reaction to the reaction; a meta-analysis that goes on and on. I'm here discussing this, aren't I?
Media buzz words flying at you from every angle. Most headlines usually have a question mark in there for good measure; pretending to offer you thoughtful analysis.
"Has Miley Taken it Too Far?", "Will Miley's Career Be Over?", "Are Viewer's Reactions to the Miley Performance a Sign of Sexism?", "The VMAs were Racist and so was Miley's Performance", "Who Gives a Shit About Miley?", "Critics Slam Miley's Racist Performance" And the list of articles goes on and on...
While people are being gassed to death in Syria, we're sitting here discussing Miley. While U.S. Press Secretary Jay Carney was giving a press conference this morning, engaging in the time-honoured tradition of spin doctoring, addressing the media without actually telling us anything at all, Twitter was informing us that parents' groups were upset at Miley. Seriously? Is Miley your baby sitter? Is a 20-year-old woman personally responsible for raising your children and instilling morals in them? Didn't that automatically become your job when you brought them into this world?
Miley can be accused of many things (poor taste and the almost pathological need to shock being some of them, but hey... I would have liked to have seen most of you when you were 20), but she is not your punching bag where you get to express your latent sexism, your double standards, your misguided accusations of racism, and your hunt for people to blame for your own children's questionable morality.
Buddhists state that "You see as you are" and never does that become clearer than when one witnesses people's multiple and far-reaching reactions to one singular event.
While we're all so busy scoffing at her and acting simultaneously as judges, juries, and executioners, Miley's giant foam finger is pointing straight back at us.