Above, a mother/teen daughter interaction that I hope won’t be happening in any American households as a result of Miley Cyrus’ performance Sunday night on MTV’s Video Music Awards.
With her beyond-the-pale (and -pole) performance, 20-year-old Cyrus staged the twerk heard ‘round the world.
This is the last tweak on the twerk, I promise. But I wanted to figure out what the collective freak-out was about.
Because indeed, watching in real time, and seeing Cyrus work the runway -- and her genital area -- with the giant foam finger, and then having her kneel down, nearly naked, and back into that 36-year-old Robin Thicke guy, resplendent in his power pimp-striped suit and sunglasses, made my stomach sink in a way I have never experienced before.
I just wasn’t prepared: I had girded my loins for Gaga, but from the moment Gaga’s face appeared, floating from behind that white cardboard sperm head /Flying Nun combo, she became the Salvador Dali of our times, steeped in actual visual ideas. Go ahead and sit in the clam shells: your egg and meat suit have earned you kudos.
Whereas Cyrus emerged from the inside of a Sequoia-sized, robotic Teddy Bear wearing hair horns on her head and a furry gray leotard with little round ears on her breasts and the face of a demon Hello Kitty lower on the chest. Madly overworking her tongue to from an apostrophe outside her mouth, she mimed the same sort of deranged face she wore on her costume. As she sang “We Can’t Stop,” she never stopped popping and pelvic thrusting, using the microphone between her legs and acting like some oversexed woodland creature/human anime blend.
As with her music video, she had all kinds of backup, some in bizarre plush teddy bear suits, others wearing giant bear backpacks. She also hired the World's Tallest Burlesque Dancer, Amazon Ashley, who stands at 6'7''. I mention Ms. Ashley because the former Hannah Montana practically buried her head in Ashley’s very oversized ass, and gave it a few slaps.
Then, melding her song, with its controversial mention of “Molly” (Ecstasy) that was bleeped out, into Thicke’s controversial summer single, “Blurred Lines,” Cyrus ran around like a faun in demon hooves, servicing Thicke -- and, at one point, working her mouth around the foam pointer.
What’s her problem? Number one: It seems that former Disney kids develop a chip on their shoulders about the squeaky-clean studio rules that brought them young stardom. To rebel, and show they’re all grown up, they think they have to offer up some really freaky sex bonafides. From sweet, dreamy Hannah, Cyrus went to Herpes, Fully Loaded.
Christina Aguilera and Britney did something similar. Only Justin Timberlake seems to have figured out how to become a modern-day Frank Sinatra type.
Number two: This year, MTV celebrates its 30th anniversary.The first VMAs, in 1984, were graced by Madonna’s (now rather-tame seeming) performance of “Like a Virgin.” The “boy toy” (as her belt put it) didn’t strip down to her giant lace bra, stockings, and garter belt until at least three minutes into the performance, and then she had only 12 or so seconds to drag herself across the floor and end up limp.
And that’s the crux of the issue: outdoing Madonna, and then Britney with her stupid snake, and then Madonna trying to impregnate Cristina and Britney with her leering kisses.
There does seem to be a lot of hypocrisy surrounding the hysteria by other celeb mom figures: Brooke Shields, who played Cyrus’ mom on “Hannah Montana,” shrieked in mock horror, and questioned who was making her decisions. This from a woman who played a 12-year-old prostitute and, when she was 16, said “nothing” came between her and her Calvins.
Obviously, parents have felt sick and threatened by new music since before Ed Sullivan refused to show Elvis’ pelvis on his Sunday night family show. The same thing happened with the Beatles, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones.
A legitimate critique of Cyrus, however, is coming from women of color, who hate that this rich white girl, worried that she’s losing out in the pop world, decided to appropriate working-class black “ratchet” culture. That’s where the tongue and the twerking and the slapping of back-up booty dancers come from.
Certainly, she has repurposed the famous foam fan finger as an accessory for porn. Maybe it’s a really high-toned joke, referring to the mythic VMA gift bag giveaways. Nah. She did put polish on the fingernail -- that was a nice touch.
In the end, Cyrus’ VMA act was desperate and upsetting, but also as shrewd a business move as she could make. It’s up there with Madonna kissing Britney -- to be expected, since apparently she and Britney share a manager.
Up against all those other big-time acts -- and even Kanye got lost in the noise! -- no one would've noticed her little song, had she not repulsed everyone with her dark servicing of the stage demons. Now it's all anyone can talk about, till the next star ramps up a shocker.
We’ve got to learn to put our own tongues back in our mouths, and tell our young girls that the days of appropriating pole culture are over, even if Miley is still smiling.