I am writing a blog about Miley Cyrus.
Oh, dear Lord. I am writing a blog about Miley Cyrus.
Normally, I wouldn't give in to the fanatical hypocrisy of our media age, and the kind of shocking stunts pulled by celebs who just haven't gotten enough attention lately, or who have been coached by silent agents that This is their chance to hit every headline out there - a lifeline to Eternal Fame and Fortune as it were. In this case at the VMAs, Miley was likely prompted to shed her Hanna Montana image once and for all by doing something very "adult."
And she did. And the world recoiled in horror at the lascivious gyrations of a one time children's star rubbing herself against a foam finger, and shaking her backside at anyone who would look.
The mass media exploded. Papers and weeklies leapt to the story. The blogosphere nearly blew up.
I've read some reasonable thoughts on these blogs lately - like This One which points out that the shocked moms who no longer want their 11-year olds following MC must have missed the recent lyrics to her songs long before the grinding. You know, those "appropriate" lyrics you want to teach your middle schooler like "red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere...someone might get some tonight... standing in line for the bathroom/trying to get a line in the bathroom."* Yeah, I'd say MC's career has broken far, far away from the "wholesome" Disney crowd long ago.
But there are mixed reactions out there, such as: Miley is a screwed-up fame whore, not much different from a porn star, cheap, lewd, raunchy... Some offer words like sad, desperate, and a waste of talent. But whether folks are decrying her actions from moral outrage or weeping over some imagined lost innocence, it seems like almost nobody is mentioning the elephant in the room. And his name is Robin Thicke.
This summer RT's song "Blurred Lines" shot up the charts with an unprecedented bang. The video for this song gained added intrigue the second it was banned from many video channels (only to reappear again quickly.) It's a fairly low-budget video as far as it has relatively few hand-held props on a white background. Completely naked and nearly naked airbrushed beauties strut and dance and simper in the field of white while he sings. For our hypocritical American sensibilities - the ones that tout Puritanical offenses against the female form while spending billions of dollars on an ever increasing porn industry- the video is the ultimate in cultural fare.
There have been several parodies of Blurred Lines already, but I don't know. Fair warning for the sensitive: I will be quoting some of the phrases below... I have yet to hear a really good critique of the way in which women have been reduced to merely animals. The lyrics include such poetic tidbits as "you're an animal baby/let me liberate you," "you're the hottest bit$# in this place" and of course the promises of liberation include a lot of things about "pimpin'", "smack(ing) that a$$" and "tearing that a$$ in two"... etc. It's a song that titillates by juxtaposing a "good girl" with her inner animal urges. One that cannot seem to allow a woman to have reason or self-mastery, or for that matter the independence to make choices without a man to somehow give her the permission to let herself be "liberated." It's a song America has embraced as fun and peppy and interesting. It may well be the best theme song for the culture of rape with which we are faced today. To that end, the title speaks for itself.
And so at the VMA awards, a fully clothed Robin Thicke stood on stage and his groin just magically fell into the exact plane where Miley was grinding, and he just happened to be tramping up and down the stage with her, singing his own raunchy lyrics and letting the half-clothed young woman take on all the fallout. Well, I call shenanigans.
This is what it is coming down to. Rarely, very rarely, our western sensibilites are shocked, or threatened or some celebrity steps just past that line we have figuratively drawn and for a moment, or a day, or a week, We Are Horrified.
But do we ever stop and ask why?
Our guts are there! Our guts are saying - this isn't decent, because these people - this man and this woman are USING one another in public, no less, to get our attention - to make money- and then we think: this woman should act better, know better, not create scandal. Ah, yes, it's the apple again. It was HER fault. She made me eat it. As human beings, it seems all too often that, in the wrong as she may be, woman takes the harder fall... which is why it seems that for hundreds (thousands?) of years, women have gotten the blame for the Fall even though Adam abandoned his post, failed to protect his beloved, and ate the damn thing right next to her.
We have come so far away from knowing who we are, and how that ought to affect our attitude towards life in the world. As men and women we are meant to be a gift to one another, to be created differently to help the other understand his or her self better. In the when-it-rains-sunshine-becomes-wonderous, when-it's-dry-rain-is-a-blessing kind of way. And more than that: as gifts created FOR one another, we ought to be for one another. It is out of love that I can tell some guy I know that his pontificating makes him seem like a fool. It is out of love that some guy can tell me that my pettiness is inappropriate, etc. But more than that - when our ethos is one of love, we want the best for one another. I can attentively listen to a colleague's presentation even though no one wanted to hear my paper, and be genuinely happy for her for "her" sake. I can send a congratulations card to a friend who's having a baby, or a wedding, or a promotion... because it's not about me!
If our number one song on the summer charts is sung by a man and dehumanizes women, then it is absolutely no shock at all that our award ceremony would include him singing that song and a woman acting in a raunchy manner. BUT if Robin and Miley - and let's face it- dozens of Hollywood execs and producers - acted out of love for the human person - well, Miley might not have supported Robin in reducing sex to an animal urge, and Robin might not have allowed Miley to make a spectacle of herself (or, frankly, of him). We need to be asking the question: Is this what it means to be human, and oughtn't it to mean more?!
For after all, we are created FOR one another. As my friend Jen reminded me "Christ "assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man." And "he assigns also the dignity of every man to every woman" (TOB 100:6*). That task is truly freeing, to know who I am, to be secure in that knowledge, to help others know too, their dignity and identity. If, our anthropology reveals that we are created to be in community, to want the best not just for myself but for the other, that we are made as women and men in the image of the One Who is Love, then I have a responsibility, don't I, to help ensure the dignity of the other and not tear it down to satisfy my own twisted cravings. If we don't look out for one another, if we don't understand that our strengths and weaknesses are often different so as to help us be strong for one another, then we cease to be a gift to another and end up enslaved in one selfish, undignified, dehumanizing mess.
And I end up writing a blog about Miley Cyrus.
*TOB is the Theology of the Body, a series of speeches given by Bl. Pope John Paul II as part of his Wednesday audiences from 1978-1984. If you want to know more, you can go HERE