Of Miley Cyrus, Twerking and the Crisis in Syria

In which the Elegant Bastard suggests to Miley Cyrus that it really is time that she and her crotch had a very long talk about their respective careers.

This past weekend, I met Miley Cyrus for the first time. The occasion could not really be called a success. She had promised to entertain me and instead spent most of her time twitching and jerking and insisting that I share her obsession with her crotch.   The fact that I spent most of the encounter thinking about the violence in Syria is an indication of just how bad Cyrus was.

As the “West” prepares to do undeniably nasty things to Assad’s regime, people might be wondering, “Why watch the Video Music Awards on MTV at all?” The answer goes beyond, “Because I can.” and has absolutely nothing in common with ancient Romans queuing up at the arena to watch the Christians lose to the Lions  while their society crumbled around them. I just happen to believe that there’s a time for concerts just as there is a time for concerns, a time – we are promised – for every purpose under heaven.  At the moment I tuned in, I was filled up to the brim with tragic words and images concerning the brutality being practiced by all sides in that sad little part of the world. But I am human. I am multi-faceted and adept at multi-tasking. I set aside – please note: I did not run away from – my sad thoughts and prepared to let the music play.

I like music in almost any of its incarnations. As long as the performance engages my mind completely, I am its believer. I do not want to be diverted; I want to own and be owned. Novels do that to me too, and poems, and interesting essays on mathematics, and wildly wonderful paintings, and deep conversations with the guy living on the street corner, and dark chocolate dipped in orange infused olive oil – (and you, Dear Reader) – and yes, the sad and chaotic truth of the bigger world presented to me on the evening news. That is what I want all the things in my life to do  – not overwhelm me and push me into the role of passive slack-jawed observer but absorb me in to a tiny creative whispering conspiracy. That is the potential promise of all relationships. It is simply most obvious in the case of the performing arts. Cyrus broke that promise and left me with only Syria.

This was not because she attempted what some would call controversy.  I have encountered controversial performances before and still emerged whole at the end. I can even claim to have enjoyed the mind-building pain of the meeting.  Rihanna’s performance of “Love the Way You Lie” at the 2010 Grammys[i] was both controversial and not all that well done. Her music and lyrics, however, captured me as she and Eminem explored the almost destructive power of an erotic attachment that goes far deeper than just the body’s momentary need. The way she strides towards her violently confused lover, content to risk self-immolation in the fires of his “lost mind” made me think back to my own dangerous liaisons. The ambiguous “Lie” of the title kept me wondering whether she needed just the contact of another body lying beside her or the comfort of a well-told lie about love. Eminem grabbed his crotch a few times (when doesn’t he?) but the whole set was not about the crotch in and of itself. They kept the promise Cyrus did not. For the minutes the two of them performed, I left behind the horror being experienced by the miners trapped underground in Chile.

Adam Lambert kept it too when he rolled out his song “For Your Entertainment”[ii] at The American Music Awards in November 2009. It was in this performance that he (enthusiastically!) kissed a male musician while suggestively clad dancers writhed and leapt around the stage in a choreography suggesting BDSM sexual practices.[iii] The “gay kiss” unleashed a controversy that nearly destroyed his career. It was only his extraordinary voice and the fact that so many were intrigued by the lyrics as well as the music and the dancing that saved him.  And why would we not respond. His character makes it clear that he is there to serve us. The dark and normally secret fantasies being played out in front of us are our own. He, too, made suggestive crotch grabs; he, too, was more than his crotch.  It was a raucous and creative moment and it rescued me from my obsession with the massacre at Fort Hood.

Lady Gaga brilliantly kept the faith with her presentation of “Born This Way,” at the 2011 Grammy Awards.  [iv] The song had become an unofficial anthem for many young people in the LGBT community. The minimalist costuming, the opening metaphor of the egg, the startling choreography and the moment when the star turns from the her piano and flings a defiant “I was born to survive” cry at the audience – which responds enthusiastically! – left viewers no room to wonder about the insanity of Libya. She was more than suggestive. She was honestly sexual. And she transcended her crotch. That last moment – Gaga and her dancers dressed in flesh coloured scanty garb while standing, arms raised – achieves a dignity that helps hammer home her message.

I think that, like most, I do not try to run from or ignore our world of pain. It is one of the places I live and I must try to understand it. I have a duty to know. I have promised to know. Thus, when I read or watch the news from Syria, I should not also think of shoes on sale.  Similarly, if I turn to comfort a child, I should not wonder if my bus is coming. Raspberries I buy as fodder to chew on while I organize a to-do list are simply little nobbly things that taste red and demand nothing of me. But if I have trekked across the city for those special raspberries that will crown an evening’s  experience for myself and friends, then to speak of the weather while eating them is a broken promise. It is at the very least raspberry betrayal.  

Miley Cyrus deserves no special raspberries. She betrayed us. Instead of a moment of art and engagement, we got, “I have a crotch”. Well, darlin’ so do we all and proving so to millions at one go doesn’t make yours any more a crotch or even a special crotch. It’s just there.  “See my vagina” is not a theme, a message or a symbol. It’s a symptom. Your voice was weak, the lyrics vapid and the Beetlejuice clone seemed – appropriately enough – something transported from an afterlife somewhere. What you did with your tongue would move anteaters to envy. You were nothing more than that and your crotch. If anything, your crotch transcended you – sad, really, since it can’t do interviews.

And while you were working at twerking, I was drifting back to Syrian suffering, a place I had not been prepared to go at that moment. I could not even manage to return to your antics with practiced outrage because unlike some, I do not think that watching five minutes of your silly pseudo-sex is going to poison any twelve year old mind that wasn’t already more than half way there. You broke the promise, Miley.

The title of your song is “We can’t stop!” Really, Miley? You know, I think you and others like you probably can, and if it motivates you at all, most of us would really like it if you tried. Think about it. Take a little time. Then sit down, talk to your crotch and let us know what it says.

 As always, your comments, tweets, shares, likes and suggestions as to where to find good raspberries are always welcome.

And anyone wishing to continue studying the topic of celebrities who go one twerk over the line might enjoy this special Bieber moment: http://wp.me/p3cq8l-3l


2 thoughts on “Of Miley Cyrus, Twerking and the Crisis in Syria

  1. I can’t help but to wonder sometime that our entire pop music industry is forged around Voltaire’s “anything too stupid to be said is sung.”

    However, if I were to reflect on it, there’s no shortage of stupid things sung throughout our musical history. Even from Mozart and Wagner had their fair share of sexual affixations which don’t map well to social norms, although Mozart could be partially excused as the blame can be shifted towards his librettist.

    My introductions to pop songs have usually been audio only. From a purely aural perspective, I would say that 90% of all pop songs are equally banal and Voltaresque. Once in a while, when I attend the wrong party, I would be forced to perceive the corresponding music videos which contains the crotch grabbing and other antics which the Elegant Bastard so elegantly pointed out. This often angers me because it is a waste of my time and senses. Who really wants to take in all that teenage angst? To make things worse, these repulsive images and negative sentiments keep coming back to me in grocery stores, dental offices and other public spaces where the hit tunes are played back ad nauseum.

    Dear Elegant Bastard, please take my suggestion. Next time, just listen to the music. Don’t bother watching whats going on. You will hate it less. You will be better off doing other things, such as thinking about the cysis in Syria or picking up groceries. You have better things to do than watching Miley Cyrus grabbing her crotch.

  2. It has been a while since this was written, but what you have written made me a little angry.

    First of all, Miley Cyrus did not “owe” you anything to soothe whatever terrible trauma you were inflicted with. I could be wrong, but you presumably watched the VMA 2013 on television or the Internet. You did not pay to watch the performance. You did not have to sit through her performance at all. The moment that you saw something that you did not like, you could have simply switched to a different channel and watched something that could have “engaged” you more. Furthermore, while you did not clarify exactly what sort of “meaning” you were looking to extract from her performance, her job was to sing, dance, and perform. She was not there to remind you of your “own dangerous liaisons” or to provide “a theme, a message or a symbol.” Music – and art in general – is not dirty laundry. It does not need to be scrubbed, rinsed, and dried for it to be useful. It was enough that she sang a song that me and many other had enjoyed listening to (and yes, some of us really do want “to take in all that teenage angst”)

    This brings me to my second point. I am confused as to why you singled her out in particular – I would like to think that the rest of the performances at the VMA 2013 were no more esoteric or thought-provoking than Cyrus’. Of course, that is all a matter of personal taste – but more importantly, Cyrus had shared the stage with Robin Thicke during her performance. Why was he somehow exempt from your criticism? Surely he was also responsible for driving you to think about Syria? Surely him letting a girl that is sixteen younger than him twerking him in the crotch also “deserves no special raspberries”?

    Finally, you brought out the tragedies. This is what – if I may speak inelegantly – really pissed me off. There is something repugnant about elegantly arranging these horrifying events in pretty parallelisms and incorporating them into your Buzzfeed-like listicle. Quite frankly, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to judge the merit of a performance on how much they allow you to set aside the oh-so-sad feelings that are filling you to the brim. If you are going to write about these events, please give them the respect that they deserve. And then there was this gem – “I was drifting back to Syrian suffering, a place I had not been prepared to go at that moment.” Really? The Syrian suffering is somehow a bad vacation that you should have just not went on? Woe is you, living in one of the safest places in the world, having to endure just thinking about the events that had occurred.

    The poster above me “would say that 90% of all pop songs are equally banal and Voltaresque” – this also applies to writing. I am extremely disappointed in this piece.

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