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Twerk it if you got it: It’s Miley Cyrus Day at the Sentinel, y’all

August 27, 2013

On Sunday evening, a young pop star who used to be a younger TV star stripped down to her flesh-toned underwear and shook her Hank Hill derriere at the MTV Video Music Awards, scandalizing a nation. Shrieks of “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” reverberated throughout the land, as our moral betters clutched their pearls and made haste for their fainting couches. They called her a “whore” and a “slut,” because young women are supposed to be chaste for their future husbands, and should not act upon their sexual impulses, especially in public, for such things are unpleasing to the Lord.

Concerned Women of America CEO Penny Young Nance called it an “absolutely classless and self-degrading” performance that tells young girls they are “nothing more than walking private parts.” (She laid the ultimate blame on women’s lib, of course.) Brooke Shields, who played Miley’s mom on her television show, called her desperate. (Yes, that Brooke Shields.)

Having had 24 hours to fully digest this latest round of basic-cable impropriety, Orlando Sentinel’s website this morning features no fewer than three commentaries on the subject of Miley Cyrus’ twerking, which is two more than I counted on the forthcoming bombing of Syria.

Beth Kassab begins by imagining a conversation with a 12-year-old daughter who happened to catch Miley’s act. It goes something like this:

M: … Miley doesn’t look cute. Miley looks desperate for attention.

D: But she sure can twerk.

M: You don’t know who Janet Jackson is, but you know what twerking is? I feel so sorry for all the moms and dads who now feel robbed of the innocent tradition of buying their kids foam fingers at sports stadiums.

D: Geez, mom, it’s just an act.

M: True. It is just an act. But I don’t like the message some young girls like you might take from it.

D: Like sticking out your tongue is a legitimate dance move?

M: There is that. But I was thinking about how you shouldn’t feel like you have to take off your clothes or make your whole identity about your body to be noticed. You are about so much more than that.

Hal Boedeker, who watches TV for a living, concludes that “ultimately, she also got what she wanted.” Pop stars, you see, are in the business of selling records to teenagers, and there’s no such thing as too scandalous for this demographic. Boedeker cited a conversation a morning TV show had with a “publicity expert”—which is a job, apparently—who confirmed that “she got exactly what she wanted. This wasn’t a slip. This was a moment that was well rehearsed, well planned.”

Rounding it out is this piece from Alexandria Le Tellier, who writes for the LA Times, the Sentinel’s sister paper. She didn’t find the performance disturbing at all, because “provocative dance is part of today’s youth culture”—and besides, this is MTV, so what did you expect? Change the channel if you find it offensive.

So to sum, we take one “girls are better than that,” add to it a “she just wanted the attention she’s getting,” and finish it off with a “just change the channel.” To the Sentinel’s credit, there’s no slut-shaming or anti-feminism diatribes (at least not yet), no caterwauling about the decline of youth morality or the hypersexualization of teenagers today (which is, by the way, mostly a myth).

I don’t know—or care to know—enough about Miley Cyrus to psychoanalyze her or offer an opinion as to her promiscuity or “desperation,” or how outside the bounds of normalcy it is. And the Disney-starlett-cum-sex-object thing is by now a cottage industry. But here’s the worst thing about Miley Cyrus: She’s just awful, even by the standards of contemporary pop music.

Her song is currently No. 4 on the iTunes charts. That’s what I find offensive.

UPDATE: Sentinel story No. 4 has just gone live—“Miley Cyrus MTV VMAs ‘Twerk’ Called ‘Raunchy,’ ‘Extreme’”—in which “digital storyteller” Jon Busdeker interviews Rollins students on Park Avenue.

Earlier today, I showed a clip of Cyrus’ performance to a few people walking along Park Avenue in Winter Park. A student from Rollins College called the clip ‘raunchy’ and ‘extreme’. Another said Cyrus was “trying too hard.”

I don’t know where Cyrus’ performance ranks in terms of most shocking. Go to just about any dance club on a weekend night and see how other 20-year-olds dance, and you may not think Cyrus did such a crazy thing.

Also, to give this some perspective, it could be worse: Cyrus could be burning down historic churches like black metal bands did in Norway in the 1990s.

It boils down to this: Cyrus is an adult, and if she feels she needs to gyrate on TV while singing her hit song, then so be it. No one is forced to watch the MTV Video Music Awards. Just change the channel, or better yet, open a book.

For anyone who feels let down by Cyrus, don’t be.  Cyrus’ job as a celebrity is to generate buzz. She’s succeeded because we’re all talking about her.

The real joke is on those who have made her into a role model. Cyrus sings; she doesn’t save lives. If Cyrus is your idol, try looking up to a teacher, a firefighter, a nurse, a doctor or any one of the thousands of men and women in the armed services.

They’re the real heroes.

That’s some brave commentary there, Jon.

Oh, and here’s story no. 5, a tisk-tisking from Moms at Work blogger Lisa Cianci.

Oh, Miley.

I watched and cringed — along with many others, if my Twitter and Facebook feeds are any indication — as Miley Cyrus writhed and stripped and defiled an oversized foam finger on the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night.

I fully acknowledge that I’m not exactly her target demographic, although I do have some of her music on my iTunes, including the song she did last night. And I’ve been slammed in the past when I’ve taken issue with Miley. I believe one of my critics indicated that I’m a bitter, old shrew who is jealous of the young, beautiful Miley.

But really? I’m just a parent whose instinct was to shout at her to put her tongue back in her mouth and put some clothes on.

Five stories. Meanwhile, if you scan the homepage long enough, you might find that one teensy-weensy headline about that war we’re about to jump into in the Middle East. Journalism!


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