I was not watching MTV’s Video Music Awards show last Sunday night. I mean, seriously, why would I be? First of all, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Atlanta Braves, and the Cardinals’ televised games are a viewing priority in our house. Secondly, I was not aware that the VMAs were even on–and if I had been aware (and if the Cardinals hadn’t been playing), I would have chosen a quiet night of reading over watching an awards show recognizing musicians whose songs I’ve never heard. That’s not to say there weren’t some very talented, well deserving performers being honored for their work–I’m sure there were–but give me the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Nina Simone and Johnny Cash, or give me a good book.
With that being said, I might as well have been watching the VMAs last Sunday night because for several days afterward every “news” program deemed it necessary to show me over and over (and over) again clips of the on-stage antics of a young Miley Cyrus and a not-so-young Robin Thicke (please, let’s not forget his part). Outrageous! Shocking! Disturbing!
Yes. The old fogey in me agrees with every one of those assessments, but the soft-hearted mama in me also can’t help feeling a little sorry for Miley (I don’t have the same sympathy for Mr. Thicke). Such a beautiful face, such a beautiful voice–why would she feel the need to demean herself in such a manner? Doesn’t she have anyone she trusts who could have counseled her against such a display? Is she on her way to becoming yet another celebrity train wreck? I’m guessing, though, that Miley doesn’t care for my pity or anyone else’s, and I’m guessing that she and Mr. Thicke accomplished exactly what they set out to accomplish–they got the world’s attention. In the week since the VMAs, download sales of her single “We Can’t Stop” have sky-rocketed, and pre-orders on an upcoming album have done the same.
I’m also guessing that whatever shock and disgust I may have felt when viewing those brief clips on the news wasn’t all that different from the shock and disgust my parents experienced when my generation bumped hips to “Shake Your Groove Thing” by Peaches and Herb. And was that really so different from the shock and disgust my grandparents felt when my parents’ generation gyrated and thrust their pelvises to Elvis’s “Hound Dog”?
Why should I care what Miley does (or Lindsey or Kim or Snooki)? And the fact is that I don’t care nearly as much as all the “news” programs want to make me believe I do. Maybe I would care more if I had young daughters or if my sons were still young and impressionable, but honestly I’m more concerned about the mothers who were quoted as saying that they had to remove their small children from the room during Miley’s performance. Seriously? I was a pretty liberal mama who did very little censoring when my children were younger, but even I would have had more sense than to plop my children in front of the television during an MTV awards show. Maybe they couldn’t have predicted just how outrageous her performance would be, but c’mon–it’s MTV, not the Disney Channel.
I do, however, care that the U.S. still has troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea. I do care that children are dying in Syria because of chemical attacks from their own government and that the U.S. is considering how to respond to those attacks. I do care that every night thousands of children die in their tortured sleep because of inadequate health care and that millions more go to bed crying in hunger and pain and fear. I do care that every day adults are unemployed or under-employed and are unable to properly care for their families. I do care that gas prices and the cost of living continue to climb and that school funding continues to decline. I do care that every day an awful lot of good people lose their battles with cancer and heart disease and diabetes and chronic lung diseases. And I do care that mental health issues don’t get the attention or funding they desperately need and that somewhere–right now–someone is already plotting the next big killing spree, perhaps in that little school just down the block from where you are or on the college campus where my son is.
So, please, dear news media, fill my “news” programs with those stories. And if you want to end each segment with a human interest story to increase your ratings, that’s fine–but make that story about the little boy selling lemonade to raise money for wounded veterans or about the homeless girl who beat unfathomable odds to earn a scholarship to Harvard. Leave coverage of grossly overpaid and under-clothed celebrities and their shenanigans to the gossip magazines, social media outlets and other more appropriate venues.
And for all those parents who are concerned that, because of Miley’s performance, their own teens will now be “twerking,” too, this old fogey knows how to prevent that. After a 30-year career working with teenagers, I can tell you that the fastest way to kill any teen fad and to make it totally uncool is for all the old folks to adopt it. So, here’s the plan: We’ll all meet down by Auntie Anne’s Pretzels on the mall’s Food Court on Friday night (a geriatric flash mob–what fun!), and when Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” starts blasting over the loudspeaker, we’ll bump and grind, thrust and gyrate, shake and strut and TWERK around the tables and all the way down to Aeropostale. Yeah, that’ll show ’em! Not only will we be providing a valuable service to society by proving to those teenagers just how disgusting twerking looks, but we’ll also be stimulating the economy–we may not sell any albums for Mr. Thicke, but sales of Advil, Icy Hot and heating pads will immediately skyrocket.
And just so you know, when I say “we,” I really mean you–I’ll be the one videoing the event and posting it to YouTube (just as soon as I can find a teenager to show me how).
Interesting footnote: Urban Dictionary made “twerking” its “word of the day” for August 30, 2013. Urban Dictionary’s definition: “Also known as dirty dancing. When a woman slams her bottom on a man’s pelvic area while dancing. The man can also lunge his pelvic area forward for a harder bang. This is usually performed in a dance club along with upbeat music.” On this same day, Dictionary.com made “gynarchy” its “word of the day,” which is defined as “government by women.” Can you guess which word I like better?
“Day after day I’m more confused . . .
“When I look for the light in the pouring rain . . .
“Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away . . .”
from the song, “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray