This post is somewhat about Miley and the Video Music Awards… It’s not a letter “to” her. I wouldn’t presume to think that she would care what 99.99% of us could possibly say and certainly not someone like me.
Miley wasn’t dancing or denigrating herself for people my age. She was doing it for people her age. They will remember her performance, whether good or bad. Condemning her for what she did will not earn your respect from the younger generation – it will only alienate them from any attempt you might make to get through to them. Your chance to reach those kids will be diminished. Those kids don’t notice the content of your words so much as the direction of your wagging finger. In this case, your wagging finger is pointing toward someone entertaining and different, even if we label her as ‘vulgar.’ I guess I’m trying to say that you should teach by being positive about your goals, morals and lifestory, not by being preachy about Miley or even Elvis gyrating around on television. You cannot compete, much less win, a battle against the world’s craziness.
I mention Elvis because Miley isn’t the first and not even the worst in a long line of shock artists.
In our new, fast-paced connected world, none us has much opportunity to filter the world. It comes, unbidden, whether we are prepared or interested in it at all. Our personal opinions and even our greater surrounding societal opinions don’t slow the incoming stimulation. It is 24/7, intense, and takes no prisoners in regards to anyone’s particular personal tastes. It’s a fool’s errand to attempt to blackout much of the illicit or undesirable music, television or behavior in the world.
(I would be much more concerned as a parent about the constant warfare that our county and its allies find justifiable than I would about celebrities acting out for fame and money. My next concern would be explaining to my kids why so many homeless people live in the streets or why so many go to be hungry – in this county of waste and excess. Or why insurance isn’t available to every living person. Or why any adult citizen can’t attend a public university at no cost other than through taxation. We are certainly not living the example we claim we are following. I think my kids would see the hypocrisy more clearly than they would hear my words. My focus would be on the kids I could help shape – not on quixotic efforts to convince anyone in Miley’s shoes to behave differently.)
Shock value has always been an effective method to gather attention. Whether you think this is a good thing or not doesn’t affect the efficiency of being outrageous. Whether Elvis gyrates his hips or Miley grinds her gears for the world, it is ultimately Miley’s decision as an adult to do it. Let’s trust that she has someone in her life who will love her and help guide or even rescue her later if her life spirals out of control. Don’t worry about her legacy. That is hers to shape, independent of whether you or I like any aspect of it. Whether you think it is a good thing or not for Elvis or Miley, the reality is that, in part, you might be trying to impose your standards on other people. It is up to you to figure out a way to be a better and more desirable center of attention than people like Miley.
(Quiet dignity almost always loses out to outlandish excitement as far as the younger crowd is concerned.)
As for the Video Music Awards, how in the world could you expect to watch it and not be shocked? It’s MTV. Appearing at the VMAs has always been an opportunity to dial up the shock value and garner attention. It would never occur to me to let children watch it if I were concerned about their exposure to alleged illicit behavior. I don’t understand how anyone exposed to the entertainment industry could expect anything other than something similar to what Miley did. Just who are these crazy parents who would be so oblivious as to allow it to be watched by their so-called “young children?” Any adult claiming that their young kids shouldn’t watch it should be using their control technology on their cable boxes to block the channels entirely. Isn’t that reasonable? Having MTV available on your televisions at home would be the greater sin, not that the content is undesirable for your kids. As the adult with the issue about exposing your kids to it, it is your job to assume that the world is simply stuffed with things you don’t like – and act accordingly.
(And please note, too, that in order to have watched the performance, you would have to be relatively more wealthy than most of the world to have had access to electricity, cable, extra-tier channels, and so on. In a world where many of these things aren’t even available to many, having raised eyebrows over a young woman showing her body on television is almost a hypocritical perversion itself.)
Although it won’t happen this way, Miley has so much attention on her right now that she could almost preach any truth she wants to – and get serious attention from the very people who many think were being subjected to smut by watching Miley’s VMA performance. For those who had nothing but negative criticism for her performance, I would argue that your entire collective life’s words, written or oral, cannot begin to approach the level of POTENTIAL reach that Miley now has. I know we would all like to think that our efforts will bear better fruits – but it isn’t true. Because she received so much attention (however you characterize it), Miley could come out tomorrow and passionately get attention for any idea or cause that she values. Yes, it’s true that her popularity will undoubtedly fade. But if she is smart, she can now ride a wave of fame and money to any destination she chooses. It’s also true that her destination will probably not be one most people would find meaningful – but it might. She might finish her entertainment career with enough money and clout to eradicate homophobia, or to convince the world to stop fighting so many stupid wars. Or, she might convince them to listen to music and tap their toes a little more often.
Between concerning myself with someone like Miley dancing half-naked onstage or thinking about the consequences of explaining justifiable war to the next generation, I would focus on fixing the need for war and greater societal problems. As with warfare, there will always be the “next shock” to come along and take the shock value to even crazier heights.
Miley makes a point. She’s well aware that what she’s doing is controversial and many people hate it. In the scheme of things, though, which of the issues I’ve mentioned rates more attention? But which will you be talking about around the water cooler or in church?