Miley Cyrus and The Culture of Nothing.
I made the mistake of looking up the Miley Cyrus MVA performance that aired last night on MTV. My family has no cable television and and I have no desire to watch a channel that celebrates a culture eating itself, but I have been known to enjoy a good scandal now and then. So when the buzzwords began erupting from my computer screen this morning, I decided to see what the fuss was all about. And here is what I discovered:
It was all a bunch of Nothing.
It wasn’t disturbing. It wasn’t powerful, It wasn’t glamorous and it wasn’t even any fun to watch. At all. The entire performance was, in fact, completely devoid of anything at all. It was a great, big, glittery explosion of nothing. It was bursting at the seams with a total, soul-deadening emptiness.
I urge you to watch the performance from beginning to end, and to tell me what you saw. What I saw was a predictable, boring-as-hell, corporate McPopified crap show that managed to only make Miley look like an unfortunate culture puppet and a very sad person. There was nothing “shocking” about the performance, which says way too much about the embarrassing state of the current American zeitgest. In order for the performance to be classified as “shocking” or “disturbing” the actual performer should, at they very least, look like she was enjoying herself, even a just a little bit.
Instead, what I saw was a lost child doing what she was told or, maybe even worse, doing what she thought was expected of her. What I saw was a child pushing choreographed shock-buttons and engaging in poser sexuality with a trio of douchebag alpha males who seemed like they only bothered to show up to collect paychecks and increase their own falsified narratives and bullshit notorieties. It was all clearly theatre, and bad theatre at that. Very bad theatre that was designed and marketed by corporate cultural herd-feeders for mass consumption and maximum profit.
And guess what? It worked. Millions of people flocked like zombie sheep to woot and fistpump as this embarrassing little lost soul mechanically gyrated and stuck out her tongue on cue and seemed to mean absolutely none of it.
It’s the emptiness, the hollowness that bothers me the most. The sexuality is too fabricated and simply too stupid to be distressing. Sure, I am a father who would be troubled to learn that his four year old daughter or 8 year old boy saw this on TV (thankfully we live in a cable-free household), but not simply because of the sexuality. I can talk bodies and sexuality with my kids. That’s my job. The human body is fascinating and sexuality is transfixing and mysterious and very, very powerful, and it’s a parents job to give their kids context and guidance through these mysteries as they arise. Rather, it’s the absolute dead nothing that lurks at the center of Miley’s underage twerk that troubles me the most. More troubling than her teeny undies and ridiculous sexual posturing is that it all signifies nothing at all. Children quietly look for meaning in everything they see. Broad sexuality given without context and without meaning or consequence is bound to lead to profound sexual misunderstanding and interpersonal hardship, and as a parent, that’s the dog I have in this fight.
Miley’s VMA 2013 performance may be the moment when the Culture of Nothing finally defined itself. Generations are often defined by their extravagances. Miley and her generation are being duped into believing that what they are doing has some kind of edgy substance. But it doesn’t. Miley made a fool of herself last night and managed to say nothing about anything in the process and came out a star because of it. Her notoriety will be short lived, for sure. But that is a risk you take when you make a flimsy case for fame in a Culture of Nothing.
This generation deserves so much more than this crap.