The Obvious Evil of Miley Cyrus and the Not-So-Obvious Evil of Taylor Swift
Let me start by saying that I genuinely don’t give a crap how Miley Cyrus dances, whom she dances with, how far she sticks her tongue out how many times, or how well or not well she “twerks.” I don’t give a crap whose face she shoves her 20-year-old white girl ass against or how foolish or even hot she might look doing it. I don’t care about her embarrassing appropriation of thug-life culture nor do I wonder why she couldn’t have just gotten herself a nice heroin habit if she’d wanted to rebel that badly against Disney, Jesus, and her idiot father. I don’t care because, really, why should I? Sure, I wrote a lengthy screed against Cyrus years ago, but what I was really lamenting was the myriad ways in which the wants and needs of America’s tweens had come to dominate pop culture, with adults ceding their tastes to their children and all of us suffering accordingly. Even at the time, I understood that we were really going to be fucked when the entitled brats whose social media hive mind had done so much damage to music, movies, and books, grew up a few years and started to truly understand the power they could wield. Put that kind of thing in the hands of those who’ve hit their insurrectionist years and you’ve got a recipe for brain drain.
With that in mind, I kind of have to figure out a way to write a few words about Miley Cyrus without actually making myself look like an ass for claiming to not really care about what was apparently a culturally seismic performance from her at Sunday night’s VMAs. Only you can judge whether or not I’m successful. Look, here’s the thing: Cyrus’s furry-and-foam-finger masturbation dance wasn’t some desperate cry for help and it shouldn’t have been a collective pearl-clutching moment for our nation’s skittish adults. Yes, you could probably get away with penning a lengthy analysis of how far the constantly aging-out MTV generation now has to go to shock anyone, but really that’s about it. Actually being shocked by Cyrus’s performance — as in genuinely letting it send you into a hyper-serious indignant tizzy, à la Mika Brzezinski yesterday on Morning Joe, a show which consistently does more to harm America than Miley Cyrus could in her wettest fever dream — is just ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because that’s what Miley Cyrus is. That’s what her performance at the VMAs was: ridiculous. Dumb as hell. And that’s about it.
A skinny little girl playing grown-up wild child sex kitten, and failing miserably, grinding against pop culture’s reigning misogynist douchebag king, who’s dressed like it’s formal day at Foot Locker, all for a bunch of kids who DVR Snooki & Jwoww. You’ll forgive me for not thinking this marks the end of Western Civilization.
The only worthwhile argument I can think of against Miley Cyrus’s silly shtick is that it might leave parents stuck having to explain what the hell happened to Hannah Montana. (Was she in some kind of industrial accident, like the Joker?) But given that most children who worshipped last-gen Disney Youth are now in their late teens themselves, they probably no longer require much hand-holding. If anything, they’re responsible for continuing to keep Cyrus in the public eye. I don’t have to tell my five-year-old daughter that idolizing Miley Cyrus is a terrible idea because she doesn’t idolize Miley Cyrus. Also, the very image of Miley Cyrus acting like a frenzied, naked clown is generally all I have to point to to let my kid know that she should at no point be emulated. (Although I may have to make it clear that P!nk, who my child rightly loves, is a different person altogether and wasn’t, in fact, hit by a truck, causing catastrophic brain damage.) Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple with Taylor Swift — which is why I truly hate Taylor Swift.
Certainly no pop star owes the children who worship him or her anything. I’ve always believed this. While it’s true that a fair amount of deference should be paid to those who make you rich and powerful, the growth of a young artist shouldn’t be hamstrung by the feeling that this growth — figurative and literal — will crush the tightly held fantasies of little kids. But my daughter really does love Taylor Swift, and it’s incredibly difficult explaining to her why she shouldn’t; why Swift is a petty, vindictive lunatic who should under no circumstances be a role model to any young woman; how she’s every overly sincere needy girl you knew in high school who wrote shitty poetry each time she got dumped after a mere week, only elevated to superstardom with a worldwide forum for airing her embarrassing heartbreak and childish hostility; she’s Lili Taylor’s character in Say Anything if she’d been famous, had dated more people than just Joe, and if she sucked. And my daughter thinks she’s the greatest thing ever.
Now, I know, my kid’s likely going to grow out of this little fascination by the time she’s old enough to really know what boys are and that they can actually be both wonderful people and utter shitheads on occasion. But it’s still unfortunate that there are a lot of little girls out there who are older than her and who think of Swift’s vengefulness-disguised-as-empowerment routine as something to find inspiration in. Yesterday, I called Taylor Swift a particularly nasty little word in a quickie post here at The Daily Banter and, as expected, quickly heard quite a bit about it. Sorry, but I stand by it. In fact, I feel like there’s nothing really to stand by. It’s not a big deal at all to me because, well, it’s just a word, but I’m willing to elaborate on why I have the kind of loathe for Swift that would lead me to not exactly hold back when it comes to expressing my disgust: It’s the sheer insidious nature of her popularity with girls and young women. Again, I can point to Miley Cyrus’s minstrel stupidity and say, “Don’t do that” (or Robin Thicke’s sexist stupidity and say, “Don’t date that”); it’s much harder to explain to a kid bounding around the room to We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together why the song, while admittedly catchy, is pure fucking evil and the person singing it is crazy. Cyrus’s gruesomeness is right out there, literally, for all the world to see; Swift’s requires a venn diagram and a stack of Us magazines.
The best I can hope for is that she really is done with Taylor Swift in a couple of years. Maybe faster if I succeed in getting her to fully understand the mantra I repeat to her at regular intervals: “Dave Grohl is God.” She always says it back to me with a smile. But does she truly know it?