I held out as long as I could. Truly, I did. I was all set to let the story slide into obscurity. To not feed the purpose-built publicity stunt ever more bloody attention.
But then then I kept thinking about those dancing teddy bears.
The two dominant responses to the Miley Cyrus/VMA story encapsulate my reluctance to write anything about it.
One one hand is the good-girl-gone-bad angle. The sky-is-falling sexualisation of our young’ns. The someone-please-think-of-the-children crap and the unrelentingly whingey parents who let their kids watch an awards show that is notorious for such stunts and then cry foul when it turns into a raunchfest.
Yawn. Besides, I’ve written so many articles lambasting the Childhood Corrupted codswallop that I truly don’t have another piece in me.
On the other hand is the equally tired third-wave feminist position arguing that empowerment and liberation and self-esteem and some other mystical wonders are found through donning a pair of hot-pants and grinding against the groin of the son of the dad from Growing Pains.
Yeah, I’m never going to find that argument a good'n either.
The Miley malarkey isn’t an either/or story. In fact, this is what makes it (slightly) interesting. Sure, her every hip thrust and jiggle was contrived and choreographed within an inch of its life, but this isn’t that “special”. What is special however, is the very self-referential nature of the show.
The world knows Miley Cyrus as the plucky young star of the Hannah Montana juggernaut. She’s a Disney alumnus who isn’t allowed to grow up else she’ll, quite clearly, twerk our children into early puberty and then all hell’ll break loose. Ta daa!
Miley did her VMAs routine as a conscious reference to the image that people still hold of her. Not only was her routine part of the sexing-it-up rite of passage that is standard for every female Disney graduate, but most interesting for my purposes, she was trying to pervert it.
And thus we get back to those dancing teddy bears.
Sure, they may have been corrupted in that God-awful film Ted, but generally-speaking teddy bears are a trapping of childhood. We look at them and think of innocence.
Positioning teddy bears as back-up dancers in a scantily clad bump-n-grind is a gorgeously plush reminder of the prurient appeal of Cyrus: that she’s legal. Barely, but still.
In my book Part-Time Perverts, I discussed the Olsen Twins. In 2003 - in the lead up to their eighteen birthday - Rolling Stone magazine ran an article about the duo titled “America’s Favourite Fantasy”. That same year the twins co-hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live. At the end of the show, Mary-Kate yelled out to the audience, “Remember, we’re legal in four weeks!”
Like it our not, our culture salivates for the coming-of-age of pretty young child stars who aren’t allowed to be drooled over while they’re still on the Disney Channel, but it’s a right royal free for all when their contracts end.
And the starlets themselves invariably cash in on this.
Cyrus is 20. Yep, she’s legal. She’s also dancing in her underwear, surrounded by teddy bears in an attempt to reference the naughtiness of fantasising about Hannah Montana: Child Star.
I’m not condemning, I’m not celebrating. I’m not even sure there’s any point to awards ceremonies beyond their function as long-winded excuses for controversy.
But I can’t pretend the kink factor doesn’t spark slight interest.