Archived Story

Miley Cyrus didn’t look mature at VMAs

Published 8:30am Monday, September 9, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

Friends, I broke down today and watched the Miley Cyrus performance from this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, the one night each year MTV pretends it’s still a music channel. I’d read and heard so much about it I figured it had to be something quite extraordinary, one of those must-see moments that makes or breaks you in a Trivial Pursuit pop culture game.

So I spent six minutes watching Miss Cyrus cavort with giant nightmarish teddy bears and twerk with Robin Thicke, doing a mediocre George Michael impersonation. Don’t know what twerking is? It’s what those bears on the Charmin toilet paper commercials do, minus all their refinement and nuance.

Shocking? Not really. Fascinating? Only if you’re a social anthropologist studying it 300 years from now.

There was nothing distinctive about the performance. The innuendo was typically obvious and the eroticism predictably unmysterious. It had all been done before.

Madonna, ever her own muse, made blushing brides blush even more when she rolled around in a wedding dress at the VMAs in 1984. That same year Cyndi Lauper debuted with an album titled, “She’s So Unusual” because, guess what? She was so unusual.

By the time Britney Spears shared the stage with a python in 2001, the whole “Girls just want to have fun” movement had gone from liberating to creepy. Now, 12 years later, it looks sad.

I understand a young woman wanting to be taken seriously and treated as an adult. I imagine Cyrus thinks she is shedding her kiddie star persona and showing us who she really is. Unfortunately all she did was take her Disney Hannah Montana character and turn her into Lolita, the exploited child who plays at being a seductress in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name.

Girls who say they want to be free turn around and shackle themselves by submitting to, and even celebrating, objectification, sexual rage and the glorification of the wanton woman-child. Like Miley Cyrus, they act as if overt sexuality equals maturity, but it doesn’t — quite the opposite really. Maturity and sexuality do go hand in hand, but they aren’t about throwing ourselves around in a maniacal craving to be adored. Rather they develop slowly as we age and build respect for ourselves and for others. The problem is we are seeing way too much of the former and scarcely any of the latter.

Imagine if Miley Cyrus had taken the stage in full possession of her self worth and appreciation of her own talent, charm and privilege. Imagine if she had chosen humility over humiliation. She could have said no to the sleaze and still been playful, sexy and even edgy. Not only would that have been interesting, it would have been impressive.

Why didn’t she? Is it because sex sells? I don’t think it does. It might make people gawk and laugh and leer, but I don’t believe it sends them to iTunes to download albums.

Suggestion sells. It’s the hint, the wink, the peek that makes us want more, and how can we want more when all we get is more?

That old saying has devolved into, sex buys. Young women believe sex buys them attention, adulation, even love, so they put it all out there. They get a fleeting sense of power, and then they die a little inside. We need to disabuse them of the idea that their bodies are the only currency they possess.

We can start by fighting fame with fame.

Let’s show our girls the clip of Audrey Hepburn winning the Oscar for “Roman Holiday” when she was not much older than Miley Cyrus. Watch her walk to the stage with her head high and her shoulders back. She is proud and humble, intelligent, well-spoken and elegant. She was one of the most famous celebrities in the world. People loved her, men and women both, and they still love her 20 years after her death. They love her for her spirit, her style and her grace.

Earlier this week, in an interview with MTV News, Cyrus claimed that she made history in her performance with Thicke. No, Miley, you didn’t. You made headlines. Headlines that I fear other young women may be doomed to repeat.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.