I’m usually so wrapped up in my own solipsistic existence that I loathe to spend much — if any — time on the perennial parade of narcissism found in the various vacuous award shows that seem to populate our culture like a seeping skin infection.
Consequently, I am often late to the ball when it comes to certain pop culture “moments” that arise from the aforementioned. More often than not, that’s a good thing.
Last Sunday evening I was lounging around at my house, absent-mindedly skimming through my Twitter feed with a flick of thumb when I noticed repeated posts referencing Miley Cyrus and the MTV Video Music Awards.
Admittedly, my first reaction was one of surprise. Not at what was being said, but at learning that MTV still held a music video award ceremony. While I am decades past their target demographic, I didn’t realize they still showed music videos. All I ever see on there are various teenage melodramas and lowbrow guilty pleasures like “Jackass.”
On one hand, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I pictured what went into this sort of performance. I imagine a group of media professionals sitting around a conference table planning this out.
“Okay Bob, we’re gonna have former Disney child star Miley Cyrus in a flesh-colored bikini, rubbing her crotch with a giant foam finger, spanking a giant burlesque queen, before bending over in front of married 36-year-old pop singer Robin Thicke. Oh, and she should wag her tongue the entire time.”
Wow, a real high-water mark of creative expression in our culture. Our ancestors would be so proud. But, I suppose, what would we expect from the progeny of Mr. Achy-Breaky Heart?
It’s not even scandalous, just artless and tacky. Much of pop music seems to be operating under the absurd notion that shock, as a rule, confers artistic integrity or value. Such “avant-garde” gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture establishment to rebel against.
On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today.
It doesn’t entice or offend me in the slightest, it seems so desperate and empty. It makes me feel embarrassed for them and sad for the whole charade.
Now, I don’t mean to go off on young Ms. Cyrus. After all, she’s just a dupe in a scheme much larger than I think she can understand. I doubt she’s any more aware of how she’s being used than Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or any of the other strumpets that’ve come along since the “heady” days of Madonna.
I also tend to give most “twentysomethings” a pass on being thoughtless in public. After all, being in ones 20s and acting foolish typically go hand-in-hand. Many 20-year-olds that I’ve met model much in the way of discernment or responsible behavior. They tend to contribute almost nil to productive society and are seldom to be trusted.
What’s more, I chuckled when a few of the sharper young commentators pointed out the hypocrisy in many young women lambasting Cyrus for only doing onstage “what all of y’all were doing last night at the club.”
But there’s nothing altogether shocking about this sort of thing and, to me, that is the real scandal.
We are reaping the whirlwind we’ve sown and our culture is on a step-by-step progression that is not only still moving in the same direction, but is moving faster and faster as time passes.