There's something about Miley Cyrus's cringe inducing performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last weekend that seems different from every other cringe inducing performance the VMA's have delivered to us over the years. I think one part of it is the imagery: the furry stuffed bears with the deliberate stoned features playfully cavoting around a hyper-sexualized Cyrus. A combination that adds up to a disturbing juxtaposition of the childlike and the "adult." The imagery itself is simply a carry over from Miley's video for "We Can't Stop," a video my 23-year-old daughter told me to watch several months ago as "one of the most disturbing things you'll ever see." Viewing this video before the VMAs may have served to cushion the blow for me somewhat, because I certainly had an idea of what was coming. For the uninitiated, the video is here:
Now what Miley did Sunday night is certainly no more shocking than anything Madonna, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga or Britney Spears have done at awards shows past. You can make the argument that Miley's performance was lacking in "art" or talent, or that she's just trying to grab attention in a way that has come to be expected from shows like the VMAs. Or you can look at a girl who was a Disney Teen Princess about a year ago who has radically changed her look, her image, her personna, who sings to celebrate partying and drug use and has cut off all ties with her father. Something is defintitely wrong here. I'm not a psychaiatrist, so I'm not going to offer any diagnosis on Miley Cyrus's psychological issues.
What I am going to say is that Sunday night feels like a bridge too far. It feels like the collective jaded pop-culture consuming public finally said "Enough!" There is something inherently wrong with our pop culture when part of our entertainment is witnessing the psychological and/or physical deterioration of a celebrity.
The earliest case of this I can remember was Michael Jackson who went from super talented kid to King of Pop to freak over the course of his 40 year career. But there have been many others: Lindsay Lohan. Charlie Sheen. Amanda Bynes. Most reality TV is another extension of kind of schaedenfreud where we dislike the people who get paid to entertain us so much that we actually delight in witnessing their destruction. It is a trend that has been chugging along for quite some time.
I hope with Sunday's VMA performance that the pop culture consuming public is finally saying, "enough."