Miley’s not the problem: you are

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It was impossible to avoid. She’s been splattered across the front pages of news sites and dominated days of coverage and discourse — a paper thin cover over news holes that could be filled by matters of global importance. But okay, pop culture enthusiasts, I give. Let’s talk about Miley Cyrus for a moment.

I’m not here to tell you that your moral panic would be better spent on Syria or Egypt, because I know you know that you are fucking that up. Nor am I here to say that what can only laughably be called “The Twerking Incident” doesn’t matter. I’m talking to you, aren’t I?

I’m here to ask why on earth you made it matter. Sure, I know why you say you did it: you’re outraged — outraged — that a former Disney child star would publicly show kids how to touch their “hoo-has” with a giant foam finger.

But when a pop star’s lifestyle poses a major threat to the moral character of your child, it’s not time to boycott that pop star; it’s time to seriously reconsider how you’re raising your child to interface with pop culture, and — here’s the rub — how you consume it yourself.

By talking up Cyrus’s twerking as an affront to culture, you’re implicitly condoning the rest of the Video Music Awards as legitimate culture, instead of recognizing it for what it really is: an industry’s self-promotional monument to itself.

The Video Music Awards feature provocative displays on a yearly basis.

When entertainment is dichotomized from meaning or artistry, an environment forms that doesn’t just make shocking, pointless displays possible. It makes them inevitable; vapid spectacles draw ratings.

What exactly did you expect when you tuned in to the VMAs? Has it never occurred to you that only the most popular megastars get nominated for ostensibly artistic accolades? That the whole enterprise might therefore be hollow grandstanding? Yes, Cyrus was being especially lewd, but it was hardly unprecedented; the Video Music Awards feature provocative displays on a yearly basis.

Maybe sex isn’t the real problem, here. While a salacious lyric or Gaga’s bare ass get a few gasps, Cyrus gets a firestorm. You’re offended, but it’s not really because degraded your precious pop culture. It’s because she waved its banality, its intellectual baseness, its totemic emptiness in your face, and there was no longer any way for you to ignore how shallow the whole thing is, and how vapid you are for gobbling it up.

She waved its intellectual baseness, its totemic emptiness in your face.

Cyrus is just a scapegoat for people unwilling to face the fact that they watch lowest-common-denominator garbage. Blaming her is like going to McDonald’s every day and then screaming about how unhealthy their new burger is. Fucking duh. It’s McDonald’s! You think they’ll go healthy if you stick with the quarter pounder?

You have to take responsibility for your entertainment diet. It takes work to actually think about what you and your kids watch. It means stepping outside of your comfort zone of screaming down pop stars, and instead asking yourself “What does all this stand for, and what do I stand for by consuming it?”

Fucking duh. It’s the VMAs.

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