I’m very glad my daughter is past the Disney stage of her fandom. In fact, I don’t know if she’s really a fan of anybody these days. She reads a lot. I suppose she does watch tv here and there. Not the VMA show and its spectacle.
I hadn’t planned on blogging about it. I’m not really a commentator on pop culture. But I liked Omid Safi’s take on his RNS blog. I think his analysis here is spot-on:
(W)e live and participate in a patently patriarchal society. Even if she “owns” her sexuality, by appearing essentially in her underwear and twerking, she is essentially perpetuating that patriarchal system that collapses the worth and value of a woman to her commodification as a sexual merchandise. Other than appearing to be semi-nude, what else can a woman do to receive such great attention on social media? And that, that, is a pathetic comment on the range of possibilities open to all of us, women and men.
Getting attention: this is what it’s all about. Attention as in a carnival barker who promotes the flashy, the spectacular, the lurid. Given a choice between what is healthy and nutritious and what is empty and addictive, we’re going to choose the former much of the time. Unless the crowd creates a current, irresistible and aggressive.
So-called social media sure seems like part of that current.
Professor Safi is pretty much correct on Ms Cyrus selling herself as a sexual commodity. She, but also her handlers, are taking that to the bank.
The mere fact that she as one artist (if we wish to call her that) is laughing all the way to the bank does not negate the patriarchy system. This is not women’s liberation or emancipation. This is one woman riding a patriarchal system all the way to the bank, the same way she rode the foam finger. And that was indeed Ms. Cyrus’ response today on her Facebook page, noting how high her album was ranking after the debacle last night.
There’s more to this than just personal enrichment and grating laughter of a lost young woman. You can bet that Ms Cyrus is not taking the greater share of the “take” to her bank account. My guess is that her pimps at MTV and her media company are very pleased with her album pre-release sales. They’ve been at the top of the food chain since before Hannah sang her first song. And they’re going to be there at the end of the ride, still riding.
You can also bet that some other person will be found to be prostituted next year by a patriarchal corporate culture, and if Ms Cyrus can’t develop the artistic or the shock chops, she will disappear from social and other media as fast as her father did after his achy, break-y heart.
Professor Safi’s last word:
It says something about the absurdity of the world we have created that instead of participating in the struggle of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, of thousands of innocent lives lost to gun, of half of all Americans living at or below the poverty line, of a fifth of the world’s population living on a dollar a day, of the imminent destruction of our shared planet’s environment, of over 100,000 lives lost in Syria, we are pulled along a sex-crazed, crass song and dance.
Syria and the March’s anniversary have been buried. Coincidence? I think not. After 9/11, even the presidency was eager to see us back in the marketplace, throwing good money after bad. Syria is sad news all over–that’s not going to sell product. The March–that’s something that Americans can celebrate. But maybe not the aristocracy so much.
Ms Cyrus made her first impression on us as a character who basically lived a lie. She wanted to keep her alter-ego separate from a normal life as a teenager. She found herself in all sorts of contorted situations because of the lie. But Disney scripters were able to package it all in happy-ending style week after week.
In her movie, she self-reveals at a concert, singing a personal and moving song. But she still can’t break free of the lie. She has several thousand co-conspirators. But we can all smile and pretend it’s just harmless fun. The joke is on the rest of us, and the kids rebel against the silly parents who are just interested in the truth of the matter. Heart-strings pulled, happy ending triumphs.
The VMA spectacle is just an “adult” version of the adolescent lie. We can laugh, be shocked, or congratulate Ms Cyrus on being “liberated.” And she is being paid more than just about every college student I know in my town. But she’s not raking it in like her handlers. And when her cog doesn’t fit the machine, she will be discarded like trash. The next person will step up to the mic, and another generation of co-conspirators will be ushered in on the flood.
My main regret is that I’ve probably given this more attention than it deserved. I could’ve blogged on Syria or Dr King instead.