I didn’t know what I would blog about this week until—thank god—Miley Cyrus became the first person ever to do something lascivious on TV.
What she did was prance around the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in what looked like 1950s underwear, sticking out her tongue and screwing up her face like Calvin of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip pretending to be a zombie and then shaking her booty while pretending to let singer Robin Thicke screw her from behind.
Condemnation has rained down on the former Disney Channel star ever since. She has been characterized as a bimbo and a slut and a publicity hound. But she surely can’t be a bimbo. Bimbos are stupid, and thinking up the kind of publicity that bumps your music download sales by 20 percent is the kind of stupid I wish I was. Not that anyone would want to see me wearing 1950s women’s underwear and dry humping a pop star.
As far as “slut” goes, didn’t anyone notice that the humping was fake? It seems to me that a lady would have to get a lot more up close and personal with a lot more than zero people to qualify as a “slut.”
Besides, are we really still using the word “slut” as an insult? In 2013, when Amy Shumer can base an entire TV series on the idea that she, shall we say, gets around? “You might want to wear a condom,” she purports to have told a man who was about to go where every man had gone before, “I’ve had a busy week.”
The idea that a young woman might be sexually aware shouldn’t get anyone’s panties in a bunch any more. The Kinsey Report let that cat out of the bag sixty years ago.
A lot of the outrage over Miley’s gyrations seems to stem from the fact that, unlike Elvis Presley, Miley fake-humped a person instead of a guitar. One friend of mine, a woman, said, “She didn’t just bend over and jiggle her butt, she bent over while Robin Thicke thrust behind her. I did consider how different or the same this might be to the ways Elvis and others have been viewed, but I think there are some things that should stay in the bedroom.”
Which makes me wonder: Why does everyone call it “Miley’s classless, icky, slutty, disgusting, putrid, vile, vomit-inducing, Armageddon-causing act”? Shouldn’t it be “Miley and Robin’s classless, icky, slutty, disgusting, putrid, vile, vomit-inducing, Armageddon-causing act”?
Another friend, a man, suggested the real problem was that Miley thrust a “we’re number one” finger between her legs to simulate a penis. Wow, using a penis-shaped object as a proxy for a penis, that’s something I haven’t seen anyone do 10,000 times since I was in sixth grade. In fact, Whitesnake’s lead singer, David Coverdale, had exactly one move on stage: Straddling the mike stand and stroking it. As one might, you know, a penis. That was in the 1980s.
Could the big deal with Miley be sexism? In my time I’ve witnessed Wendy O. Williams, Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga take the same crap as Miley for being too sexy or too sexually provocative. But Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jim Morrison, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Ozzie Osbourne, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, The Tubes, George Michael, 2 Live Crew, GWAR, Marilyn Manson and Skipknot have been blasted for failing to color inside the lines, too.
Then again, why should the Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” fall entirely on Janet Jackson’s…shoulders? Does anyone remember that Mr. “Dick in a Box,” Justin Timberlake, was on stage with her? And that the cause of the “malfunction” was his literally ripping the cup off her bustier? In real life, that would be sexual assault—and yet, I’ve never heard anyone say they were offended by that. Only by Jackson’s right breast getting 9/16 of a second of its allotted fifteen minutes of fame.
Fer shur these things are never as clear-cut as we’d like them to be. Another friend suggested that the reaction to Miley wasn’t based on sexism, but on contemporary media consumers’ inability to recognize irony and social commentary. “It did seem like an awful lot of pearl-clutching for the VMAs,” he said. “Manufactured outrage is what the VMAs do. The tongue thing made me think that maybe she was performing parody. Didn’t make sense otherwise.”
Here’s what I’d say to Miley if I ever had the chance—which I won’t, so if you see her, let her know: “You’re too smart to be a bimbo. I have no idea what your sex life is like, but even if you’re prolific, I’m not calling anyone a slut. You may, on the other hand, be a publicity hound; if you are, good work. You’re more famous than ever.
“Oh, and thanks for the blog material.”