Twitter was abuzz last night with news that Miley Cyrus made the MTV Video Music Awards less than “family friendly.” (I, of course, was watching Dexter.) Apparently, she danced with gigantic teddy bears in a sexual way, in a bizarre homage to some sort of fetish. Fox News described it well:
She immediately kicked things up well beyond provocative, however, as she appeared on stage with a multitude of dancing teddy bears in a bodysuit adorned with a cartoon character. She twerked, changed into a nude bikini, ran a fan’s foam finger along her privates as Robin Thicke appeared on stage to perform “Blurred Lines,” then gave the singer a lap dance.
When I watched the video of her performance, however, I didn’t feel outrage or any sort of indignation — even though I used to be a big Miley fan.
In fact, during her more innocent days, I stood in line with my kids to see if we could get a part as extras in “The Hannah Montana Movie,” which was being filmed in my hometown of Columbia, Tennessee.
“We’re auditioning to be in the Hannah Montana movie,” my kids would tell everyone.
“For what role?” they’d ask.
“Part of the crowd!” they’d respond enthusiastically.
We made the cut and were extras in a scene at a carnival, which meant we spent a long hot day as part of the audience. We were bused to a farm, where we pretended to be at a carnival. The rides were fake, but the bugs crawling everywhere were all too real. The crowd grew less enthused as the water ran low and the ninety-degree southern day wore on and on.
She sang in thirty-second increments, and we were instructed to applaud — over and over and over. Living in rural Tennessee means that you don’t get the chance to see a movie being made — much less be in one as “part of the crowd.” Though I was glad we went, the movie marked the beginning of the end for Miley Cyrus, virtuous child star.
You probably know the rest of the story better than I do because the details of her particular fall from grace are murky to me now. I remember the bong video, the slam on the show that made her famous, her father’s heartbreak. That’s when I tuned out, until Twitter made me aware of her crotch grabbing, teddy-bear themed romp. In fact, the best photo that circulated after the performance was one of a shocked and disgusted Will Smith and his family, who were all present at the awards.
When I watched the clip of her performance with my husband, a big Hunger Games fan, he said “It’s like we’re watching the Capitol, but we live in District Twelve.” So, what is the proper reaction to this sort of display?
While some express outrage and others express disgust, I believe the most effective response is a gigantic yawn. There’s nothing original, clever, or entertaining about her slide away from virtue. In fact, she’s so ridiculous that one’s immediate reaction is, “Someone’s got to finally say, ‘The emperor has no clothes!’” Except, of course, Miley is fully aware that she has no clothes.
Plus, she’s hardly an emperor. The little power she has over the minds and hearts of her adoring public is slipping away, so she’s forced to do more and more outrageous things to stay in the news. I’ve used her example to talk to the kids about the effects of fame, but that’s about it. There are no more life lessons to pull from watching Miley delve deeper into depravity.
In other words, it’s sad but boring. In pop culture, there are no boundaries left to transgress, no consciences left to be shocked. Hollywood brings us these spectacles — manipulating the desperate-for-fame hearts of fading starlets — in the hope that someone, somewhere will be outraged enough to kick-start her career.
But we’ve seen this movie before, and though Twitter exploded with Miley mentions, the only thing that would shock me about Miley’s performance is if it helped her career. After all, while she may make us a little bit sad, sympathy and pity rarely drive music sales.
As a Tennessean — who even lives in the same county as the pop star — I just decided that it was best for us to no longer be a “part of her crowd.”
Nancy A. French is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @NancyAFrench
- Miley unsexed (rare.us)