It has been almost two weeks since Miley Cyrus “twerked” her way to infamy at the MTV Video Music Awards. And yet (to borrow a phrase from Miley herself), it seems that “We Can’t Stop” talking about the pop diva’s wildly inappropriate performance of Robin Thicke’s smash hit “Blurred Lines.”
Even the most permissive parents and media critics agree: Miley crossed the line.
But, where exactly is that line? Unclear.
Because for decades we have quite literally “blurred the line” between acceptable and unacceptable social conduct.
For years, we have gawked at various celebrities and wannabes (Britney, Lindsay, and Snooki — to name just a few) who have purposefully allowed themselves to be photographed exiting cars, panty-less with legs wide open. And we have sung along as rapper Flo-rida asks girls to “blow his whistle,” Rhianna extols the pleasures of S&M, and Avril Lavigne encourages kids to “put up a middle finger to the sky.”
And the song to which Miley twerked? Well, the third verse contains these lyrics:
Let me be the one you back that ass to
Go, from Malibu, to Paris, boo
Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.
Even the “clean” version boasts a misogynistic gem, in which Thicke “compliments” a woman by crooning: “you the hottest ’ho in this place.”
So what exactly did we expect Miley and Thicke to do? Square dance?
Yes, Miley’s antics were unseemly and offensive. But she wasn’t exactly painting on a clean cultural canvas.
Those who expected more from a young woman raised in a culture of impropriety and steeped in money and fame from an early age should realize that Miley’s performance was no outlier. It was the inevitable consequence of decades of societal permissiveness and the over-indulgence of a generation of children.
Indeed, Miley is just one of a generation of narcissists. Showered from birth with praise and adulation, they have been emotionally coddled and raised to believe that self-expression and self-fulfillment are the noblest social goods.
She is part of a generation of attention-seekers who believe that to be relevant one must be irreverent, but who do not know the difference between irreverence and immodesty.
A generation that is morally rudderless, baptized in political correctness and taught that objective notions of right and wrong are useless and old fashioned, at best.
A generation that confuses disapproval of their choices with discrimination and intolerance. A generation that thinks nothing of stretching out their ears, tattooing their faces, dressing like gangsters, or acting like strippers and then lashing out at those who disapprove — and even those who simply do not care for this “style.”
Indeed, in “We Can’t Stop” Miley calls on us to “forget the haters” — you know, those awful people who disapprove of “shakin’ it like we at a strip club.”
And therein lies the problem. The Miley generation regards “judgmentalism” as the gravest of sins. Yet, ironically, they are the very first to condemn as “haters” those who dare to express unfashionable opinions.
Put it all together — the money, fame, narcissism, and the cult of non-judgmentalism — and the result is bound to be unbridled, vulgar exhibitionism like that on display at the VMAs.
None of this to say that Miley lacks responsibility for her bad behavior. She deserves every bit of criticism and condemnation that comes her way.
But in a society that has long been “slouching towards Gomorrah,” shouldn’t we first ask ourselves whether we’re not simply getting the cultural icons we deserve?