This morning if you’re like a lot of people in the world who begin their day checking in on various social media sites, then you woke up with an onslaught of GIFs, stills, and reaction pictures from and to Miley Cyrus’s 2013 MTV VMA performance. Of course, Buzzfeed went in with the GIFs, and there’s this hilarious picture going around of Will Smith and his family reacting to the whole… situation. Last night little Miley hit the stage solo (and was later joined by Robin Thicke, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar), and since the moment she started a’ twerkin it has been the single-most talked-about performance of the night. If you missed it, peep the video above. And if you’ve been wanting someone to offer two possible [somewhat feminist-informed] explanations of what exactly the eff happened last night, then I’m here for you. And yes, this moment actually calls for a meeting of PITNB’s pop culture theory club. So click inside for more, so we can theoretically put the “culture” back in “pop culture,” one post at a time…
1. This Is Her Party And She Can Do What She Wants
Okay, so one of my first reactions to Miley’s performance was OMG, she looks like she’s having a blast! And I thought that was awesome. She’s young, wild, and free and she’s been successful enough in life to get to the point where she can lit’rally hop on a stage and do whatever she wants. She dances/twerks like no one’s looking, and there’s something really cool about that.
Much of the backlash over last night’s performance has stemmed from the fact that Miley seemingly took her twerkto a whole ‘nother level when Robin Thicke became the recipient of said twerking. I mean, even I took to Facebook about it, LOL:
Miley needs to turn down. LMAO. #TeamPaula #VMAs
Blogger Necole Bitchie originally posted this on Instagram with a caption that said something to the effect of ‘Miley Cyrus sure is comfortable backing it up on a married man.’ It looks like she’s since removed that caption, but the pic says it all:
On the one hand, I def felt some kinda way watching Miley booty-pop on Mr. Paula Patton. I mean, Paula just comes off as that ridiculously beautiful, totally supportive wife and it’s hard not to be on her team. I think there’s this collective urge to “defend” her. But we’ve all seen a helluva lot of women grinding up on Robin in his recent videos for Blurred Lines and Give It 2 U, so why not Miley? Because she’s, like, a ‘real’ person and not some model chick? Because it was live? All that somehow makes him suddenly a ‘married man’ instead of a celebrity/entertainer?
I dunno. I feel the need to play devil’s advocate a little bit on this one and defend Miley. She’s legitimately young and I’m sure she meant no disrespect. There’s also this conflicting argument about Miley as either a sexual being or a little girl trying too hard and looking hella weird in the process. Like, do we really think that her performance was sexy and that she was trying to be all up on Robin’s Thickeness (sorry, I had to)?
Because this is how she looked… from the back. LMAOOoooo. Oh man. Trent, why would you text this to me at 12:30 am?! I cannot:
Seriously now. Is anybody turned on right now?! Anybody?! No, didn’t think so. And I’m not even fully convinced that Miley is trying to turn anyone on. I mean, do you really stick out your tongue that much in life if your goal is to be sexy? It all just seems so ridiculous (like, c’mon– the foam hand she’s using on herself), it has to be innocent.
Let me tell you about one of my favorite parts of the performance. When Miley first starts twerkin’ it out to We Cant’ Stop, and she’s surrounded by her dancers (it starts around the 0:59 mark), she’s literally laughing and talking to them like they’re at a damn slumber party and not in the midst of a live performance on the MTV Video Music Awards. This moment supports my theory that we are simply witnessing Miley at her own little party, and she’s doing whatever she wants. It doesn’t matter if you find it sexy or sexual or obscene or wack or disrespectful or even boring. It’s not for you. It’s not for your gaze or enjoyment.
2. This Is Not Her Party And She’s Not Actually Doing What She Wants, She’s Doing What A Patriarchal Society Has Told Her To Do If She Wants To Look Like One Of Those Cool Bad Girls Who Doesn’t Give An Eff But Whose Whole Image Is Defined By Or Related To Entertaining The Heterosexual Male
Okay, counter-argument. Here’s the thing about people who say they’re doing what they want, they don’t give an eff, they rebel against society, blah blah blah. It’s mostly bullshizz. We are all products of our environment, and also products of a very particular (read: patriarchal) social structure. Even when we try to rebel against those things we still often end up just becoming reflections of those things in one way or another. This isn’t always a bad thing, just a real thing.
So Miley’s not doing what she wants. She’s sewn together this kind of bizarre patchwork quilt of all the different things that are considered to be sexy or hot from various American cultural movements, and she wears it like it’s her own… and it doesn’t always pan out for her. She’s a little bit country, little bit punky, little bit hip-hop, little bit pop, but there’s something off-putting about this collection. For one, it feels inauthentic. As many, many people have pointed out, it often feels like she’s trying too hard. She’s trying to embrace all of these different things and we can feel her trying and it feels awkward as hell. And then there’s also this suspicion that she doesn’t really know what she’s embracing. For example, she seems to be “embracing” hip-hop but really… how? By twerking? Because that’s hip-hop? Granted, the association makes sense (see the Back That Azz Up video for evidence… I may or may not be taking a break from this post to watch it right now).
But if Miley was a hip-hop fan and wanted to incorporate that into her music/image/movement there are, like, 100 other things she could have perfected, other than her twerk. So the fact that she’s choosing what really is one of the more base forms of the movement– this tiny sliver that one could argue is almost entirely about the heterosexual male gaze– makes it problematic. And it makes it hard to believe that teddy bear twerking with Robin Thicke is really, truly what she wants to do in life, and it has nothing to do with what she’s been taught is sexy or cool.
So those are my somewhat conflicting arguments about Miley’s performance. I cannot wait to hear what you guys thought of it all! Hated it? Loved? Looking for that teddy bear onesie she was rocking, so you can gift it to my baby?! LMAO… wait. What?
Okay, PITNBr Iris. You sent me this and I gotta post: