I’m sure I don’t even need to explain what I’m about to comment on, such is the furore flying round this week: on Sunday night at the MTV VMAs, Miley Cyrus “twerked” and all-round danced inappropriately with a foam finger, giant teddy bears and Robin Thicke, all with her tongue weirdly hanging out.
Obviously, this was pretty shocking for those Americans happily enjoying a relaxed evening in watching TV, especially since MTV had given it a 14+ rating (which many parents are now angry about) but it was probably even weirder for those in close proximity to the stage at the event. Miley is still 20, after all, which made it feel even more wrong than when Madonna and Britney Spears shocked audiences at the same awards show.
On the other hand, her age means that it’s a relatively normal thing to be doing. Relative, obviously, to level of fame. If you compare her stage to the normal girl’s nightclub then it’s comparable; hers just comes with a lot more eyes looking back at her. We have to remember that she’s been in the public eye since she was 12, and I don’t need to tell you what happens to a lot of child stars; all in all, she’s actually doing pretty well for herself. If this is her crazy moment, it’s not that unusual: she’s doing something that has become normalised to her, especially when others like Rhianna practically build shows around these kinds of moves.
The thing that makes it worse for me is the fact that she’s grinding very, very inappropriately on Robin Thicke, who is a married 36 year-old with a young son; he didn’t exactly look totally comfortable during their performance, and he doesn’t participate much at all – just sings – but he could hardly run away from Miley. That’s pretty awkward. Also the places she put the foam finger (on both herself and him) don’t really help her case.
However, I was about to put a negative case forward for the nude-coloured PVC bikini, but then I remembered that that’s not even her fault: she’s playing along with Blurred Lines (whether it’s meant to be ironic or not, as Thicke insists), and so is parodying the submissive women who wear these clothes in the controversial video. Sure, perhaps it was unwise to get herself caught up in that controversy, but it made the joining of the songs into more of a performance piece and could even have represented the submissive women in the video being released and given their own voice. Until Miley and Robin explain their exact motivations we can only speculate, but why not consider these interesting possibilities?
To conclude, I don’t want to condone Miley’s behaviour, but there are definitely worse things going on in the world right now for people to be shocked about. It’s hardly the first time a young woman has danced provocatively on TV, and although it may be the worst recent example of doing so, the sheer amount of negative coverage she’s received is just insane.
Let’s leave Miley alone to get on with figuring herself out in a weird child star sort of way: we just need MTV to give a better warning about content next time.