Judging by her bizarre performance recently on the MTV Awards, Miley Cyrus wants to become the next Lady Gaga–and she pulled out all the stops, including her tongue, to prove it.
If you don’t know what twerking is by now, then count yourself among the lucky ones. On stage, a grossly sexualized Miley, with metro punked-out blonde hair, twerked in her nighties alongside a giant Teddy Bear and raunchily clad dancers as she sang “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke, to a mostly puzzled and uncomfortable audience. Even the hard-core Miley enthusiasts must have shaken their heads wondering what was up. Had she finally snapped, like a bald headed Britney Spears or an psychotically affected Amanda Bynes?
After watching that display, I can’t help but think that Angora is absent one on the attendance sheet. After the show, did Gene Simmons call her and ask for his tongue back? Naturally we enjoy watching celebrities implode–after all, they make oodles of money for, in most cases, displaying little actual talent. They get to live lavishly, are comped wherever they go, have millions of adoring fans, while the average Sally and Joe live out lives of quiet, anonymous desperation. So when a Miley Cyrus or an Amanda Bynes goes off the deep end while riding a banana boat, it’s a guilty pleasure, yes. But this was like passing by a car accident that had taken the life of a puppy. As savvy, jaded viewers, most of us looked at the carefully calculated stunt that was orchestrated for maximum publicity as exactly that–a stunt. Yet wasn’t it also something quite off-tune and disturbing?
It used to be that this level of bizarreness was the sole proprietorship of circus side shows. Inside a dark and ominous tent, for ten cents you entered at your own peril. Now the side show is the main show, and the bearded lady isn’t edgy enough. Someone has convinced this mishandled girl that Lady Gaga-like ugliness, episodic raunchiness and grossness, in place of class and quality, is the direction her career should go. The last vestiges of Hannah Montana’s innocence and adorableness have floated out to sea in a Viking funeral, and the new train wreck is the old train wreck–meat suits, shaved heads, and grande mal twerkings. How do we convey to impressionable young people, who still weep and scream wildly enraptured at her concerts, that Miley Cyrus, like Lady Gaga, is more a walking advertisement for Zoloft and parental advocacy, than anything resembling a role model to emulate?
So what’s up with that tongue? And why is someone who still looks like an adolescent allowed to dance half naked on a stage for millions of viewers to gawk at? Like most people her age, Miley isn’t all there. Her brain is still picking up the shattered pieces of a life that grew up in Hollywood, where the world really has gone mad, where money displaces parenthood, and there are no really real rules for child stars. Even outside Hollywood, life for a young person is no cake walk these days. Every turn has its hazards of amorality that lead to compromised actions which get mistakenly uploaded to You Tube. By default, young people do really dumb and weird and irrational and embarrassing things when unchaperoned and faced with their freedom in a universe of possibilities. But who are Miley’s handlers, and why would they or MTV, even in a moment of the worst judgement ever, think that half naked displays of sexualized adolescence would be the way to go when it comes to the promotion of music?
Is Lady Gaga now the exemplar? Is grossness, lunacy and exploitation the new refinement?