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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Exactly half a century ago on Wednesday, Martin Luther King described his dream,

a dream in which

"one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls

will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers".

So it seems deliciously apt in terms of reflecting how race relations have progressed in the US since Dr King's era that, just a whisker short of the anniversary of his speech,

the world bore witness to one of the more intriguing examples of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation, just so we're clear, refers to picking and choosing elements of one culture by a member of another culture.

It is specifically not okay, when the person picking and choosing is rich and white.

And minstrelsy, the word used by Jody Rosen, evokes the black face minstrel shows of the Mark Twain era.

In the modern sense, it refers to adorning oneself with elements of black culture, in an attempt to achieve a particular image.

Sadly, King omitted to say whether he also dreamed of "little white girls from Tennessee mimicking anilingus on little black girls wearing giant animals on their backs",

so it's impossible to know how he would have reacted to
Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMAs on Sunday.

Siv says the above link is down -- if you haven't been punished with the exhibition, there is a YouTube Vid below should you care to see.

To sum it up quickly, last Sunday, at the MTV Video Music Awards,

Miley Cyrus simulated masturbation with a giant foam finger, grabbed her crotch, rubbed herself against a man old enough to be her father,

pretended the man was performing anal sex on her, and walked around in a nude latex bikini.

Her mother loved it. So did her manager. Millions of young girls and guys loved it as well,

Now, I have seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans repeatedly with black and white revelers having a wild time.

The carnival is one of the closest adherents to King's dream that I have encountered in my four decades living in four different cities,

with its happy celebration of African-Caribbean traditions, which most of the white attendees excitedly cheer along.

The song Cyrus sang, We Can't Stop, was written by Timothy and Theron Thomas

and given to Cyrus when she told them, presumably without a wince:
"I want something that feels black."

Instead of giving her something by, I don't know, John Coltrane,

the Thomas brothers gave her a song originally written for Rihanna which, to be fair, was almost certainly the image of blackness Cyrus had in mind as I don't think Coltrane did much twerking.

Plenty of male singers grab their crotches while performing, but it seems to be only female singers these days who feel the need to strip down to their underwear and simulate sex acts on stage.

As nice as it would be to imagine a world in which young women weren't taught to equate hypersexuality with maturity and independence, that remains as unrealised a dream as much of King's speech.

The real scandal was how atrocious Cyrus’ performance was in artistic terms.
She was clumsy, flat-footed and cringingly unsexy, an effect heightened by her manic grin.

She is a little girl desperate to show the world her scrawny, almost boyish body is a woman's. Sadly, she is a little girl emotionally without any real idea of how a real woman projects her sexuality.

The Cyrus fiasco, however, is symptomatic of the still heavy influence of

who sprang to world fame in the 1980s with sophisticated videos that were suffused with a daring European art-film eroticism and that were arguably among the best artworks of the decade.
Madonna’s provocations were smolderingly sexy because she had a good Catholic girl’s keen sense of transgression. Subversion requires limits to violate.

Madonna, a trained modern dancer, was originally inspired by work of tremendous quality —

above all, Marlene Dietrich’s glamorous movie roles as a bisexual blond dominatrix

and Bob Fosse’s stunningly forceful strip-club choreography for the 1972 film Cabaret,

set in decadent Weimar-era Berlin.

Today’s aspiring singers, teethed on frenetically edited small-screen videos, rarely have direct contact with those superb precursors and are simply aping feeble imitations of Madonna at 10th remove.






  1. Cyrus and Bieber are acting obnoxious in juvenile attempts to break from their younger clean images, instead of pushing boundaries artistically. Your example of Madonna was perfect...and Lady Gaga is moving in that direction (though her MTV performance was rather stiff and uninspired). Miley's performance was terrible and sad.

  2. Not fond of M. Cyrus or Madonna.
    They both seem to be lacking something, perhaps it's class.

  3. Oh, I just think we are, as a culture in real, [insert swear word] trouble.

    And, I don't have an answer.

    Perhaps, these *are* the end days...

  4. Gosh I feel so old! LOL! I've never heard of twerking or Miley Cyrus but I do because such things keep popping up (even at the BBC for crying out loud) and so I know of such things. And when I do I think - oh silly silly young people! LOL! I have to say I was slightly irked when our Madge appropriated vogue-ing from the largely black gay community from whence such moves sprang from!

    Take care

  5. There is trouble, period. There is no right way to fix this kind of stuff, she got the attention.

  6. Yeah, I'm with Mark.
    It was pathetic, but she is young and stupid. And obviously without a strong guiding force in her life. At least, not a positive one.

  7. Michael:
    You actually have to be an artist to push the boundaries artistically. Justin and Miley are two sad examples of two immature individuals gone tragically wrong.

    Madonna's name now seems familiar. But when she chose it, the name was jarring to hear attached to a sex-drenched singer. To be shockingly obscene is the trait of an emotional two year old unable to draw attention to itself with actual substance. Sad really.

    The young of each age rail at the "establishment" but so many formerly questionable things are accepted that our descent into mass madness seems worse somehow.

    We must become the change we wish to see, to influence by example. Each of us can become a "Scrubbing Bubble" of sanity in an insane world. :-)

    I shake my head along with you. It seems as if Madge and others cannot be "cool" on their own without copying from a culture not their own. How uncool is that? :-)

    Worse -- she got the money: her album and single are selling much more after her performance. Elegant, evocative performances used to be part of our entertainment. No more. Sigh.

    Indeed. Apparently, her mother was filming Miley from beyond the stage, egging her daughter on. It makes my teeth throb. :-)

  8. I waited three days to watch Miley's performance. I'll add here, I'm more disappointed in my Robin Thicke, whom I've adored for quite a while. Although he didn't respond much to her flailing around like a dying fish, he was there. Behind her. Look at the picture you provided above. Sigh. I hate he participated in such a pathetic cry for attention.

    As for Miley Cyrus, there are so many words to describe my thoughts and opinions on her performance. If she was looking to get a reaction out of people, she got it. I'm sickened by the entire performance.

    I recall going to a Madonna concert when I was 15(1985) with my 3 siblings and my mother. Even though she executed a entertaining performance, half the time we were covering the eyes of our 9 year old baby sister. The bed scene in Like a Virgin being the worst. Even though she knew how to dance and perform, it was still inappropriate.

    As a mother of girls who grew up watching Hannah Montana, this is where I have a real problem. The character, whom my girls grew to love, might as well of reached out of the TV screen and slapped them both in the face on Monday night.

  9. I've always thought that Miley felt she had something to prove after stepping away from the Disney era. Unfortunately, she has no clue what sex appeal is and hasn't bothered to look back at those icons who knew how to do it. Her performance was trashy disgusting and if her intent was to drop jaws - then I guess she achieved that. I've seen women exude more sex appeal with a single look fully clothed.

    I hope she learns her lesson from all the controversy, but I have my doubts. We may just be in for more outrageous behaviour to top the last. At the very least, I hope she watches the video playback and has even a tiny OMG moment.

  10. Miley may be famous, but she's also a teenager, and that means she has the ability to be crazy way beyond what normal teenagers are.

  11. I found it disturbing and entirely devoid of class - something which clearly cannot be bought.

    She was about as sexy as a wide-mouth toad in a pair of skintight pantaloons. I shudder at the thought ...

  12. She needs to take a LON?G look at another Disney teen Star ... Selena Gomez... This young woman is a lady... sexy and beautiful!!!! She exudes sensuality without even trying....

  13. Candilynn:
    If I remember correctly, Miley's father, Billy Ray, once wore a striped outfit like that -- which would make the whole performance even more creepy.

    The sales of Miley's single and album have gone through the roof -- so expect more of the sad same. Sigh.

    As you said about your daughters and other Hannah Montanna fans -- Miley callously slapped them in the face so eager to shed her Disney image that she showed she did not care about her original fans which gave her the window of opportunity to become an adult star.

    I think Miley is pretty immature and pretty apt to stay that way -- and that is the only thing pretty about her.

    I get the feeling she has issues of insecurity about her sexuality, and it shows from her extreme behavior which smacks of desperation and excess.

    J E:
    Miley, like Elvis before her, is on the road to self-destruction in an emotional way as Lindsay Lohan is with drugs. Child stars have a habit of self-combusting sadly.

    Wendy Quillfeather:
    You're right: there was nothing sexy or attractive about her. I have gone out with women whose elegant sultry presence seemed to suck the very oxygen out of the room. But you have to like yourself and others to acquire that kind of presence.

    Selena Gomez proves that a contemporary Disney star can make the transition from child star to attractive, appealing WOMAN. I worry about her and Justin though. It seems good girls are attracted to bad, immature boys. Sigh. Great reply. :-)

  14. I have not seen Miley's performance and the link you provided to the utube video lead to a video that was taken down. I was watching SO you think you can dance the other day and a comment was made by one of the judges about Miley Cyrus...NOW I understand what he was talking about. It is upsetting to think about the lengths some people will go to get attention. Most likely she was getting back at her dad for something.

  15. The exuberance of youth? Young folks today! So, you're saying Cyrus would not be welcome at Meilori's? I beg to differ.

    I'd give anything to trade places and have that much energy. Artists can't let other dictate what they do.

  16. Walter:
    Samuel has ecletic taste in music but he has one rule: no demeaning women even by the woman herself. I respect your opinion. But to me, to call Miley an artist is like calling a woodpecker a carpenter. :-) But difference in opinions is what makes horse races, right?