“Following the broadcast, which again enjoyed huge ratings, Elvis was burned in effigy by angry crowds in Nashville and St. Louis. The popular press was also critical of his style and movements. Rock and roll was increasingly attacked and there was growing opposition to its supposedly negative influence on America’s youth. The more the establishment pushed back, the more Elvis’s support grew from millions of teenagers.” –EdSullivan.com
Now if the blog title doesn’t say all you need to know, I’ll put it plain: I’m not a Miley Cyrus “fan.”
Actually, I’ve just become more of an obsessed groupie.
What else would you call a dad who suddenly saw from the other side of the screen what parents have always seen and feared?
Up until a couple of days ago, we were the family who dissed Hannah Montana. She was right up there with WalMart, McDonald’s and minivans. Anything flaunting such shameless corporate branding had to be evil, right? I’m pretty embarrassed about this image-consciousness, this deep fear of being judged as “low class.” But woop, there it is.
Cynical cool hipster parents were we, or at least what we wanted to be, so it isn’t without a bit more shame-face that I have to admit to being really personally offended by Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs.
Who even knew the VMAs still existed?
The stills from the performance are enough to make any parent crazy. Where’s one of those MIB memory erasers when you need one?
But maybe you recall an artist who calls himself Eminem.
And when someone did this.
Then there was that other thing that happened and this and that and oh yeah, this.
I just read that “it is when we deny our bodies and refuse to embrace our flesh that we become broken.” How poignant and true for us here.
And maybe offended isn’t the word, really. It’s more like aggrieved. Grieved, honestly, that’s how I felt. And as I watched it on the replay at whichever news outlet was running the clip on constant loop for our naval-gazing society to tsk at, I just kept thinking She’s right. Doggone it, she’s seen through us and she’s 100% right.
It’s not a new statement she’s making. Our confused moral standards are continually being pointed out and challenged. George Michael made a statement about his supposed “offenses” and defending his “freedom” with his album titled “Listen without Prejudice” back in 1990.
If we took the time to listen, could we hear what Miley’s saying? Maybe we are afraid. Whether she’s right about us being jealous hypocrites or not, we do get pretty uptight and afraid.
I think she’ll be fine. Enough people have found a way through the public eye. But I still want to hear her and face what she brings up:
It’s what I’ve dedicated my life to. It’s why I’ve always been a misfit in the Christian culture, the one that requires certain things to ensure it’s safe before considering whether its biblical. It’s why I’ve been branded a misfit. I don’t gain acceptance or approval in the safe crowd, the one not talking about drugs, and sex, and the fact that abuse and rape are scandals the church covers up, and everyone knows some folks who prefer to stop their ears and sing, “be careful little ears what you hear.”
So be it. I’m gratefully disillusioned.
And now as a dad, I’m not giving up on Miley. I can’t. A kid her age is just being who she’s been made into and if she’s going to finally learn to sing like herself, she needs advocates, not stone-throwers. She’s not being this way just to be offensive. She’s not being selfish to get a rise. Though it may certainly look like a nice side benefit and no one on “team Cyrus” is sad about the album sales spike this will cause.
But look how offended people can get! It can be really funny.
The trouble lies in the one taking offense. I love the word “umbrage” because it conjures exactly that big, throat-clearing chin-wagging scowl we’re all doing. We have got to fight past moral outrage if we want to save our kids. But the problem is, when we’re offended, we’re blind to it.
I wasn’t going to talk about Miley Cyrus because, come on, if we’re scandalized, get the kids off the Internets already. I knew my opinion (we all know what opinions are like) would offend, dismay, concern, and basically freak out many people who want such things back in the box. But Miley’s not going back in the Disney box, folks. And from that angle, her VMA performance was refreshing. If there was any doubt about what she was doing up there, let the “poor, misguided” thing speak for herself.
But oh, the humanity!
What did we think the song “We Won’t Stop” is about?
“It’s my mouth, I can say what I want.”
“It’s my body, I can do what I want.”
Let’s maybe consider why’s she even saying this. Pause and think about it. Is she saying it to God? Who’s she saying it to?
Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn someone to hell.
Do I wish she had a better way of expressing that? Of course. Do I feel it’s my duty to tell her? Of course not. What is my duty here?
The video has 160 million views in just over 2 months and it’s garnered the most even split between thumbs up and thumbs down you’re likely to ever see. So I’m going to be willfully me on this one and say what everyone’s thinking: boy, it’d be nice if everyone could be that free in their own private space. But the truth is, we know better. We’re older now and while we know Holden Caufield eventually grows up and realizes it isn’t just his body and his mouth but his wife’s and his kids’ and his boss’s and his mortgage’s, whoever thinks pop music should celebrate any of that is smoking Molly. (I don’t actually know what that means.)
Go ahead and shoot the messenger, but I’m both the strong-willed rebel and the shy piano player, and I have to deal with both so I hope you can too.
America, come on. You’ve seen this kind of thing for so long! Have you forgotten how much of a thrill they get shocking you? You put people in boxes and then whine when they lash out. You cover your mouths while being secretly jealous, angered that someone still knows what it’s like to feel so uninhibited and alive. The devil’s rock n’ roll doesn’t fry kids’ brains, it fries parents’ brains.
What do we think Reality TV is about? They’re showing us we’re all hypocrites and we like it. Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Avril Lavigne, Lady Gaga have all tried to get you to face this. And as a PK, I’ve got to apologize for my position on this because when I felt judged, I didn’t need someone to point out my sins, I needed someone who understood the anxiety and anger of being judged. Arguably, many rock stars have imploded under the pressure, including the King of Pop. Some have killed themselves. Others have become sad imitations of their once relevantly-polarizing acts. We all know it’s the lack of a dad, a lack of love, a lack of seeking how God sees us, and yet what do we throw at them? Disapproval, dismay, outrage, pity, and all sorts of unhelpful words that only increase their awareness of the impenetrable cage around them.
And we wonder why it keeps happening?
So don’t take offense. Let’s leave that pointless offer on the table. And instead of picketing or boycotting, can we grow up and realize that our reactions create the behavior we don’t like and that our attitudes reveal what’s in our hearts? Someone’s got to be the adult, the bigger person, the more loving one, and I think that begins by being big enough to look on this creation and this world as it is with compassion, in all its beauty and horrors, its stink and sacredness, its filth and its fullness, its decay and majesty and for once and for all say,
I LOVE YOU. I see you. I embrace you.
Can we? Oh, let’s stop talking about it and do it! Let’s stop trying to be okay with this and do what we know was done for us.
I believe the fate of our own souls lies in the balance.