What do you make of the Miley Cyrus VMA act?
My answer to that question initially this week had to be a “not much.” Truthfully, we did not watch it in my house. My wife and I are some of those old enough to remember when the VMAs used to be an award show for music videos, but then again, we are of an age to remember when MTV and VH1 played music videos on their channels. We both remember shocking acts by Madonna, Cher, and probably a couple others we have forgotten over the years. When our kids or their classmates ask us about the newest antics of Lady Gaga or some other entertainer, we usually /eyeroll and tell them that “so and so” did it first or did it better. So, when the first questions came, I simply responded “not much. I did not watch it.” Of course, one would have to have been living on Pluto not to have realized just how shocking the performance must have been. Anyone who saw the pictures of the crowd on all the different news feed teasers, as did I, had to wonder. So I admit, I clicked on one of the articles and pushed the play button. I do regret that, as it simply encourages websites to continue to highlight such “controversial” acts for increased traffic, but a good pastor is supposed to have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
If you have not heard or seen the routine, Miley Cyrus faux-masturbated on television and twerked Robin Thicke as he performed a bit from blurred lines. I had never heard the word “twerk” until Monday, but I soon learned that it meant “grinding ones hips and butt in a sexual manner.” Essentially, Miley was grinding the much older Thicke in a bent over pose. For generations at church who witnessed, or just heard about, the hip gyrations of Elvis, who watched Madonna, Ozzie Osborn, KISS, Samantha Fox, Tone Loc, Lady Gaga and however many other entertainers try and shock us with their antics and lyrics, I was tempted not to comment. Those of us who are parents should have know to expect wild, headline grabbing behavior on the show; and so we should have kept our younger kids from watching the show.
Miley’s behavior, though, crosses into the same attitudes which allows slavers to prey upon the young girls we encounter in the sex trade, in particular. Miley made a small fortune and developed a following thanks to Disney marketing. It is a shame, given her wealth, fame, and talent (I assume she has some, but I could not name a song), that she has chosen this route to gain attention. She is twenty. I get it. She wants to prove to the world she can do what she wants when she wants to. She no longer has to be the nice girl, the Disney princess. I would say it is safe most will no longer think of her in that role. The problem is that her behavior reinforces the notion that girls are to be valued only for the pleasure they can offer men around them. Want to attract the attention of a guy? You better be twerking him so he knows you have a freaky side! Want to keep the attention of your favorite guy? You better be dressing like Madonna or Britney or now Miley, if you don’t want his eyes to wonder! And this message is being reinforced in those who followed Hannah Montana, if their parents are not parenting. Perhaps, we as a society ought to take a step back and consider some of the messages we reinforce. One should easily see that a young girl can begin to form a self image which makes her more vulnerable to the wiles of slavers. Add the normal teenage angst of “not fitting in” and the promise of “easy money,” and we have the potential for many horrible outcomes.
What can be done? I mentioned earlier that parents must parent. If we allow our children to watch such behavior, we are endorsing it. If we do not comment on the behavior, we are endorsing it. So many parents try so hard to be “cool” or to be their kids’ “friend” that they forget their primary responsibility is to be a parent. Those of us with girls need to remind girls that they were created in their Father’s image. Our daughters are more than scantily clad eye candy and twerking teases in their Father’s eyes. They are beloved of their Father, a true princess and queen, and they need always to be reminded of that truth. Better still, they need to be reminded that they deserve better men, men who will treat them as more than eye candy and more than objects of their pleasure. They deserve boys and men who will treat them as others who were created in His image and deserving of the respect and honor such truth demands.
Those of us with boys need to remind our boys that the girls at which they are gawking were made for more than their pleasure. Whether the girl in question is an entertainer like Miley Cyrus, a random girl on some internet porn site, of a particular body type or socio-economic class does not matter. Like them, the girls they oogle or disparage were created in their Father’s image and must needs be treated well.
In all this mess, Mr. Thicke has gotten a free pass, as men and boys and buyers often do--Big Shock. We may give Miley a pass because she is only twenty, but Mr. Thicke, as a 36-year-old man, knew much better. He has made his claim to fame channeling the Simply Irresistible girls this summer. What if he would have simply stepped back from her twerking or even quit singing, what message would have been sent? I am betting Will Smith and his family might have been shocked and pleased in that photo. It is that same attitude I encounter in colleges when young ladies confess that their boyfriends spend hours watching porn or begging for sexting. They are boys, Father. That’s how they are supposed to behave. If I don’t condone it, they’ll find someone else. Can you imagine? Girls are at a point where they universally shrug their shoulders at the fact that their boyfriends, perhaps their future husbands, are watching porn, heading to strip clubs, or engaging in behavior that objectifies other women? I doubt any woman who burned a bra in the 70’s or otherwise blazed a trail in male-dominated careers ever thought they were fighting for this kind of acceptable attitude when they waged the sexual revolution.
The subversion of human dignity has been a long process, and Miley Cyrus’ act is just the most recent incarnation of that subversion. It was a battle long being lost. It will be a battle long faced. But armed with our Lord’s word and informed by His Spirit, we have no reason to despair. In the end, He wins, as do all who choose Him and to walk His path. What do I think of Miley Cyrus’ act? Pity and frustration. I pity her for whatever need or lack she feels that causes her to engage in such dehumanizing, attention-getting behavior. Like me, she was wonderfully made and more gloriously redeemed, if she would simply take His outstretched hand of grace. But I am frustrated because this young girl may never have to face the consequences of the attitude which she engenders in girls and boys who follow her. The growth of the sex trade and the existence of the “rape culture” that is allowed to continue on college campuses is not the fault of young Miley; she is just its new herald. But, like many who have come before her, she is sheltered and protected for the consequences of the attitude which she espouses. We, the parents, better be paying attention and be engaged. We have lots of work to do and to undo.