OK– so we’ve all heard about Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance a few more times than we might have cared for. The aftermath has been one of those periodic phenomenons in which the caring and more thoughtful percentage of the population point angry-wagging fingers at the despicable pop music machine for consuming little girls and spitting them back out as seductive sirens. It’s no new thing for sex to sell. It goes by unnoticed day-in day-out. It’s only when we’re faced with someone too embarrassingly left-footed to smoothly pull off dry-humping the air on stage that it becomes a problem. So I really think it’s time we got over Miley Cyrus and had a look at the bigger picture.
Now I know what you’re thinking- “You’re a moron! Negative press about the performance is the best way of informing our impressionable youth that Miley’s behaviour is not acceptable”. And yes, this criticism is ostensibly valid. Vulgarities of social norms are easier to combat when they are exposed through individual circumstance, stirring tangible debate and ultimately (with any luck) striking public awareness of how we must change the grotesque world that lies around us. I will also admit to my hypocrisy here and say that as soon as the video went viral, I was one in the many millions keen to drop the Miley topic into small-talk, to watch it on YouTube with my friends and laugh at what can only be described as a young woman so desperate for fame and money that she willingly decided to behave like a perverted man’s porn-star for the best of ten minutes; tongue-lolling and ass-bouncing as she was surrounded by teddy bears in weird testament to a cuddly, child-star-status which she now so desperately wishes to discard.
When you tweet, post Facebook statuses and write blog posts about performances such as Cyrus’, you somehow feel as though you’re changing the world. That by calling one woman, such as this, the basest form of a fame-seeker, you are shaming them to the point that the world will be set to right and it won’t happen again. Frankly my dear, this is all a delusion. As I myself glutted in the process of laughing at Cyrus’ VMA performance, somewhere in my mind niggled the horrible truth that the more the public hated her, the more famous she became and the more famous she was, the more money would trickle its way from music industry dons down into her little leather panties. In our disdain, we became cogs in the Miley-master-plan. As each individual tweeted in disgust, the faster she trended. On the fifty year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Dream Speech, social media stats deemed her more important than a man whose words altered global perceptions. And what did she have to do for it? Take off half her clothes and sing about snorting “line(s) in the bathroom”.
Sometime back in June, the exact same thing happened with an annoyingly savvy producer-cum-artist Robin Thicke. The video for his debut track “Blurred Lines” included a string of models strutting around in lingerie, infantilised by the men around them who brushed their hair in sugar-daddy fashion and acknowledged them with the worth of each individual bedpost notch; mere good-looking scratches in a presumable succession of hundred-fold claw marks. As we all know, feminists kicked off and soon pretty much everyone with the smallest piece of sense realised it was pretty awful display. And yet 6 million people across the UK and USA alone still paid for the record, rendering “Blurred Lines” the second highest selling record of the year.
The worst part is that these 6 million people didn’t think “Yeah, the video’s pretty bad, but I really like the song!”. The fact of the matter is that the record did not sell in spite of the video’s shocking display of misogyny, in part it sold because of it. When a minority of mindful women and men express disgust, the majority will deem them boring puritans, hell-bent on restricting human freedom. And do you know what you do in the face of an aggressive form of puritanism which you believe, if unquenched, will deprive you of your right to be truly human? You ‘rebel’, turn Robin Thicke’s track up louder, snatch back your sexual rights and proudly sing: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”.
In much the same way that Miley is currently the media’s much-desired ‘whore of the month’, Thicke was then deemed ‘creep of the century’. Yet tellingly, neither of them seemed to bat an eyelid at their negative reception. In interview subsequent to the stir, Cyrus claimed she ‘couldn’t have been happier with the performance’ and Thicke more poignantly that his video merely does “what great art does. It’s supposed to stir conversation”.
Now this leads precisely to my point: both of them couldn’t give less of a toss about being dubbed the public’s ‘whore’ and ‘creep’ respectively because, on some level, that is what they both wanted. As Thicke said, they wanted to ‘stir conversation’, they wanted to shock, they wanted everyone to be talking about them and neither of them gave a rat’s ass about the degradation through which this could be achieved. For me, the most offensive quality about the pair of them is that they are masters of their respective destinies; they both know what they want and precisely how to get it.
In a capitalist sense, they’re pretty clever. They know how to work the system. It’s on this point that I began to wonder why we choose to spill out so much of our attention onto these individuals rather than the institution itself which allows us to gratify them as gods. Do you think the VMA producers asked Cyrus and Thicke to perform because they really like their new songs and respect their vocal talent? I don’t for a second. They asked them because all press is good press in the world of mass media and commercial music. The more hate, the more hype. The more shocking your video, the more hit-hungry music channels you’re going to have hugging your feet.
Cyrus and Thicke are a breed of music artist that we will see reborn time and time again. It is on this note that I hope the world can shut up about them as individuals and focus more on the flawed, commercial music industry. Clowns do not exist without a circus to indulge their parade.