Among the plethora of things I have read about Miley Cyrus in the last few days (which is but a fraction of what’s been written), some is profound, some predictable and pedestrian, and some sophomoric, and even silly. I advised on FB a couple of days ago that it was time to move on from her. But the more I thought about her performance and the reaction to it, I found something more to say. I think one of the primary significances of Mikey is that she is us!
Her seamy performance undoubtedly displayed the poor judgment of a young adult, the cynical manipulation of said young adult by market forces, misogynistic and racial exploitation, and moral decadence noted by many observers. This 20 year-old woman’s morphing from Disney child role model Hanna Montana to her “twerking” it out on the MTV VMA stage a few nights ago is a work in progress that many have also noticed over the last several years. Cyrus is trying to figure out who she is and has the dubious “privilege” of doing it in the public eye.
I suggest that America is also trying to figure out who we are at this stage in our national life. The “W’s” years were filled with prognosticating, posturing, and policy-making around an identity as an empire. And yet, as we learn near the end of that administration and to the present day that even our empire is at the mercy of market forces and manipulations. Global capital is the real empire here!
Our history over the last several decades has also been an often seamy performance. I call the 60’s – “I gotta be free,” the 70’s – “I gotta be me,” the 80’s – “I gotta get mine,” the 90’s – “I gotta get more,” and the 2000’s – “I gotta get yours” decades. And that’s just from an economic perspective. From our postwar position of world supremacy and moral beacon of freedom and hope, one can track our decline into simply a big bully, and a not very nice one at that!
Poor judgments have been plentiful during these years, particularly in military and economic matters. Women, children, and non-whites continue to be underrepresented among and devalued by the successful.
Moral decadence is too prevalent to even need documentation. No matter what group(s) one examines, it does not take long to uncover frequent, longstanding, and often systematically undealt with cases of moral turpitude and scandalous behavior, usually of a sexual or financial nature. It doesn’t end there though. The sexual revolution, the rising gap between the haves and have-nots, the systematic stripping of supports and services for the needy and for children by politicians and legislators, prevalence of drugs and drug violence, and on it goes in a too familiar litany. Outrageous, disgusting, absurd, destructive behavior seldom surprises or alarms us anymore.
The many contradictions and conundrums that riddle Miley Cyrus’ performance and search for a post-adolescent identity are mirrored by the tensions and struggles in America’s search for a national identity at any uncertain time in our history in a fast-changing world. That’s a take-away from the Cyrus episode, I believe, and why I claim that Miley is us!