The Trouble with Miley Cyrus

{edited to add another point}

Well the MTV Music Awards happened again, and sure enough a show designed to generate publicity has done so. This time it seems like every single person in America is talking about Miley Cyrus’ performance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across this meme on the news and on Facebook, and almost always its the same thing; Miley has tarnished her image. Miley was gross or disgusting. Miley is a slut.

This post is to accurately describe the problem with Miley Cyrus, and how to fix it.

If you had a problem with Miley Cyrus’ performance on MTV, here’s what you need to do. Get up from your computer, go to your nearest bathroom, stand in front of a mirror, and look at yourself. Behold, this is Miley Cyrus’ problem. Not her. You!

“But wait,” you say. Didn’t you see her dance? Don’t you now how inappropriate this is? On national TV?

Yes I saw the dance. No it was not inappropriate (at least in that context), and yes it was on TV. I know you think I’m crazy right now, so let me make this clear for you, hopefully in a language you will understand.

1) It’s a fucking Free Country. This is American, God Damn It. We stand for freedom. No one died. No crime was committed. Even if you think her act was vulgar and tasteless (both of which may well be true) she still has the freedom to do it. So fucking get over yourself.

And along those lines, no one put a gun to your head and made you watch her performance. So please don’t cry about something you volunteered to experience.

2) Standing in front of a camera and doing stupid shit is how Miley makes money. Seriously. She’s an actor. What do you think actors do? They do stupid shit to make money. So why was this “stupid” different from any of the other stupid things she’s done? It isn’t and it wasn’t.

3) But she tarnished her image. Oh boo-hoo. I can’t believe I have to says this because its so fucking obvious, but here goes: This is a girl who made her fame by playing a character who lied all the time about her “real” life. Think about it. You think young Miley Cyrus was all sweetness and light? Really? Cause she she made her fame playing a person who lied. Constantly. About her real life. How do you know it was an act? What do you really know about her? I can tell you, damn near nothing. I can promise you there is almost nothing about this girl that didn’t come from a press release or a court, and of the two I’d say the court is only slightly more reliable.

Whatever you may think about Miley I can guarantee you that you have no idea, none, if she was ever a moral person. The Miley Cyrus that makes the press is just as much an act as any other character she has portrayed. Perhaps even more so. If you think actors who portray nice people are themselves nice, then you must believe that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) has special powers called the Force that he used to stir his coffee and shit, and Harrison Ford knows how to fly a spaceship. You don’t? Yeah, I don’t either. But I still think Carrie Fisher was a real princess.

And on that note… how long did you think she was going to carry on the goody-two-shoes act? Really? Did you think she was going to be playing the same sweet innocent girl at 60? She’s obviously ready to move on, has been for a while. Isn’t it time you moved on with her?

4) It was art. I know some of you may not know this, but art is designed to rock the boat, to poke holes in our collective culture, bringing light to the dark underbelly of our collective crap. And judging by the response to her performance Miley did an excellent job of rocking the boat. But what’s important here is not if it was art, it was, but what you should do about it.

What do you do with art you don’t like? Now that’s a good question. After all not everyone is going to like every piece of art. Some of it is bound to be too profane, too vulgar, or simply too boring. The obvious response would be to hate it, or despise it. both of which really do not work. Hating something that is designed to make you angry at it only means you’re following its script. That would be stupid. Instead, the way you treat art you don’t like is to ignore it. There’s nothing worse you can do to a piece of art designed to “shock” than to ignore it.

5) It was an act. I know this is going to surprise some of you, but Miley Cyrus gets paid to do shit like this. Its her job. and you know what, she is fucking good at her job, at least judging by her income. Damn, I wish I had half of her lifetime earnings, and she’s not even 21 yet.

Moreover, this was an act put together by a huge group of people. Costumers, hair dressers, professional choreographers, directors, producers, etc, etc. And yes, even the lowly publicists where involved. Did you know Miley Cyrus has a paid publicist to go over everything she does to control her image? Shocking, eh? Still think she was wrong?

Also, they practiced this show. Rehearsed it over and over. There was very little of Miley being “free and open” on that stage. She was doing what she was directed to do. You know, like an actor.

Mind you, even though Miley is paid to dance around on stage like a stripper, she may not do everything she is paid to do very well. She might be an especially bad dancer, say, or perhaps not always sing on key. So what? Neither one of these things are important to her performance, and slight imperfections are common on performance shows like this. Moreover, none of her fans really care. OMG! Its Miley! She’s pretty! Usually that is enough.

Which brings us to my last point….

6) She gets paid to be famous. There’s this word in the English language: Notorious. Miley Cyrus is notorious. This word notorious used to have a negative connotation to it. It carried a feeling of scandal, of dark smoky bars, and deeds better left unsaid. But guess what, that shit doesn’t apply to Miley Cyrus. Wanna know why? Well the long answer has to do with the loss of our shame-based culture, but the short answer is fame. Fame works. Fame causes people to notice, and fame has absolutely no moral component. Whether the person did something morally benevolent, or heinous, fame doesn’t care. It only cares if you notice. If you say anything.

Wanna know what this means? Every time you post something on Facebook about how terrible Miley Cyrus is, you increase her fame. Every time you talk about Miley to your family or you co-workers, you increase her fame. And when you increase Miley Cyrus’s fame, you increase her net worth, you increase her standing in pop culture, you make more money for her. So yeah, your every complaint equals pennies in her bank account.

So please, complain all you want about what a tramp she is, because I’m pretty sure she’s sitting at home, looking over the internet, and smiling. Maybe she’s rubbing her hands and cackling gleefully. I don’t know.

Which is why I say the problem with Miley, isn’t with Miley. Its with you. If you don’t like her behavior, then for God’s sake be smart enough not to pay her. Otherwise you come close to looking like a fool, and that girl whom you think a stupid slut has just put one over on your tired self-rightous ass.

Me, I think Miley is adult enough to make her own decisions (and pay the consequences), is a young woman (which means she’s going to make some mistakes about her sexuality), and is a fucking genius when it comes to manipulating the media.  My hope is that the rest of us catch up to her.

Dead Crow/Fight Club

Passed a dead crow today on the way into work. It was just a lump in the road, a dark lump, brownish grey with a splattering of darker feathers on top. The bottom of a crow’s feathers are not very black, more of a dark gray. It was sitting in the road at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, a little lump in the road about the size of a salad plate right at the intersection of the two crosswalks. The man in a suit who had been talking to the bus driver the whole way down Fairfax, stepped on the crow in his fancy leather shoes before I could warn him. I don’t think he even noticed.

I was reading Fight Club on the way into work today, and it shows.

On Raising Wolves

When I meet people I often tell them I was raised by wolves. I do this as a way to excuse my sometimes pointed comments. This sentence is delivered like a joke, and often get a laugh. Usually the laugh is followed by a look of recognition, as the other meaning starts to sink in. I was raised by wolves.

I was thinking of this as I was listening to my son play with a friend this morning. The friend stayed the night, which was a first for our son. Teri and I were both a bit nervous, needlessly so as it turned out. His friend is easy to deal with, good at grasping his own needs (for a 12 year-old), and gracious with adults. The friend is also smart and verbally gifted, like out boy. Listening to them play, really more like riffing on each other, is an interesting peek into that strange time of growth called pre-adolescense.

As I listen to them casually trade verbal barbs so pointed and sharp that they would considered terribly rude if spoken among strangers, I am reminded of tiger cubs playing. Each swat and bite a cute and playful treat, yet at the same time this  behavior will eventually lead into something terrible. Fully grown tigers bite and swat with lethal force. Once they hit a certain age, there is absolutely nothing cute or charming in them.

The same can be said, of course, for wolves and their cubs.

Teri and I, because we are adults and mindful of the pain our words can inflict, are forever warning Trevor. “Find a nicer tone, son.” “These are your friends, be nicer to them.” or “Do you think you could have said that is a nicer way?” We say these things because we know from painful experience how amazing sharp and deadly harsh words from an adult can be. But Trevor is not an adult. He lives in a different world.

In middle school tough words are an art form, and being quick with a quip is a valuable skill. This is his world. There is where he lives. Boys and girls at this age are verbally vicious, yet at the same time their words are usually completely ineffective. Stand on a corner as middle school kids get out of school and you’ll hear insult after insult, sometimes repetitively, sometimes with whole groups of kids ganging up on one another. But the funny thing is all these harsh words seem to have little effect. Kids will gleefully insult each other, and then turn around and talk about their favorite video game, exactly as if nothing untoward was said. Its as if middle school kids survive by having a thicker skin than adults. Or perhaps, like the bites of young tiger cubs, the verbal skills which as an adult will prove to be lethal, are  playful and largely ineffective because they are still so young.

And that is what he is. So young, yet at times so adult. One day his words are going to carry far more weight. Like that tiger cub’s bite, they will mysteriously transform from playful to lethal. I don’t envy him this transition. It was not a easy path for me, nor was it for Teri. But its also a part of growing up.

I wonder if tiger cubs have a similar experience, if they wake up one day and say to themselves, “Holy shit. I just bit a hole in my sister’s face! How’d that happen?”

I know Trevor will eventually have this experience. I can only hope that when he does his behavior will be easier to monitor because he’s learned at an earlier age to be more compassionate for his friends, and more mindful of his words. Then again, if he doesn’t, he can always retort, “I’m sorry, I was raised by wolves.”

The irony is, from his lips it will be just as true.