Miley Cyrus And MTV Make A Late-Summer Bummer
Let’s begin with the basics: “Performance” is too generous a word. It suggests some kind of artistic endeavor or creative merit or entertainment value, however minimal. Unless one supports the idea that art knows no bounds, or that anything goes where artistic expression is concerned, it’s pretty difficult to see any of the above in Cyrus’ manic on-stage antics. She sounded terrible and moved like a malfunctioning wind-up toy. All I saw was a young woman who ought to know better embarrassing herself in front of millions of people without revealing any discernible talent.
Those of us who aren’t familiar with the range of Cyrus’ vocal talent, or with her ability to dance, could only stare in uncomfortable wonderment as she pranced around in a nude-colored bikini amid colorful teddy bears, doing her best Jabba the Hutt imitation with her tongue, gyrating against a stripe-suited Robin Thicke and pretending to fondle herself (and Mr. Thicke) with a large foam finger while shaking her buttocks as though her very career depended on it. I imagine that parents with impressionable young children who continue to idolize Cyrus because of her popular role on the Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana,” which ran from 2006 to 2011, were more horrified than stupefied. What could they say to their kids – especially their daughters -- who would surely see Cyrus’ lewd moves online or on any of the many infotainment television series that couldn’t get enough of her, if only because she was the most excessive thing to come along during these dog days of summer?
Make no mistake: Cyrus is still a role model for little girls, having worked tirelessly for many years to build, enjoy and profit from that distinction. So one would assume that if she truly felt compelled to radically remake her image and scream to the world that she is a big girl now, she might have considered a more tasteful and thoughtful way of doing so. With the right song and the right sophisticated look, she could have made an instant transition from teen star to young adult entertainer. In other words, she could have accomplished something.
Shockingly, on the “Today” show earlier this week, host Matt Lauer and guest Star Jones both gave Cyrus credit for accomplishing what she set out to do. Smarter and more compassionate minds prevailed when two other “Today” guests, Mika Brzezinski and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, gave voice to their disgust as women and as mothers.
Another very sad part of this depressing little end-of-summer story is that the adults in charge at MTV aired omething in terrible taste that doesn’t do anyone any good, especially the network’s young viewers. This year as in years past (when other performers did all they could to shock the MTV audience) everyone involved knew exactly what he or she was doing. Over the years I have supported most of the outrageous behavior at the MTV Awards because I have understood the intent behind it, or I have been entertained by what I saw, or both. And as outrageous as Madonna, Howard Stern, Prince, Britney Spears and others have been in years gone by, I have never thought that anyone was being exploited or self-destructing as I watched. But something about Cyrus just felt wrong.
The whole mess calls to mind the legendary Janet Jackson nipple exposure at the 2004 Super Bowl. Granted, the nipple slip was an accident, but it never should have happened, in that the MTV-produced half-time show was decidedly inappropriate for the mammoth family audience that watched the big game every year. Jackson was singing with Justin Timberlake, who pretended to rough her up and sang about stripping off her clothes before song’s end, inadvertently tearing away part of Jackson’s exposed bra and allowing a peek-a-boo moment that tipped broadcast television on its side. Most of the ire and condemnation that followed was unfairly directed at Jackson, but as I noted at the time, Timberlake was as much to blame. He later apologized on live television (at the Grammy Awards, also telecast on CBS). Years later, people still associate Jackson with that unfortunate moment -- which, like the Cyrus spectacle, simply never should have occurred.
And by the way, why isn’t Cyrus’ partner in all this, sudden superstar Robin Thicke, taking more heat? He has the song of the summer with “Blurred Lines,” the unrated video which is decidedly not suitable for Cyrus’ still-young fan base. Why did he agree to be connected to her in this manner at a time when he is enjoying greater success than ever before? He simply should have performed his song solo, or with Pharrell and T.I. and dirty dancers all around -- or, in an ironic twist, with demure dancers playing against expectations and keeping the naughtiness in check. It could have been the performance of the summer -- for all the right reasons.