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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

340

I Don't Care, I Can't Stop, and I Love It: Miley Cyrus and Ironic Decadence

Miley Cyrus brought giant stuffed teddy bears and a foam finger to the VMAs this year. She stuck out her tongue indiscriminately, she slapped the asses of some anonymous black women, she stripped to her underwear and bent over in front of Robin Thicke, and and we all pondered again this ancient transition from “good girl” to pop vixen and wondered how we’re supposed to feel. What of this ephemeral existence—and why all the goddamn teddy bears?

Initially, watching the video for “We Can’t Stop,” I couldn’t decide if Miley was at all ironically self-aware; if she was conscious of the messages her reinvention was sending, of the way her studied makeover would make national news. This is our house, this is our rules, 20-year-old Miley sings, the grunge glam appeal of attractive teenagers destroying expensive things filling the screen behind her. And we can’t stop, and we won’t stop. She hasn’t: there was the haircut, then the twerking, and then this video, which was the fastest ever to be Vevo certified, and now the VMAs. She adopts Jamaican patois briefly as she proclaims her right to this new image. We run things, things don’t run we, we don’t take nothin’ from nobody.

Miley’s endless party reminds me of an earlier hit, the ubiquitous single by Icona Pop that’s successfully spanned two summers and appeared on Girls, on Glee, and in this Samsung Galaxy commercial. Both “I Love It” and “We Can’t Stop” feature young beautiful women flaunting a kind of hands-thrown-up wild enjoyment of life, their message simple and explicit: we’re young and having fun, we make our own rules.

What they’re referring to can mean as much or as little as the listener desires. One distinction between the not-caring of “I Love It” and the not-caring of “We Can’t Stop” is that Icona Pop’s lyrics seem spurred in part by a breakup, whereas Miley, in her transition from Disney darling to pop star, is just sharing some things she’s been thinking about lately—OK?

There have always been party anthems and forever will there be. Within this category, the Summer Party Anthem is its own subgenre (lest we forget, this isn’t Miley’s first). And popular music, broadly rooted in rock-and-roll, is itself based on a nonconformity that offers a perpetual middle-finger to the conventions of older generations. Decades ago, partying was a revolt in itself. But today’s corporate pop trades in images of over-the-top decadence as vaguely rebellious, shunting aside thoughts of actual critique.

The aesthetic of “We Can’t Stop” draws on currently popular '90s glam (Miley looks more Madonna and Gwen Stefani than Lady Gaga or Rihanna) while embracing the self-perpetuating nonsensical punchlines that define today’s commercials and memes. Hence the giant teddy bears strapped to backs (another molly reference?), the roasting of marshmallows by a lighter-candelabra, the taxidermied animals with sunglasses, and that weird pulsating cartoon face. There’s also a stylistic embrace of middle-Americana: a boy stuffs his face in a roomful of Wonderbread slices, sneakers stomp a skull made of fast-food fries. And of course, Miley’s drawing from hip hop, specifically of the Dirty Southern, bounce and crunk varieties. “Twerk” spelled out in Spaghetti-Os symbolically unites these the latter two influences.

As the video progresses, the festivities turn more destructive. Skinny-dipping and smoke flares become fighting and biting (Miley’s head gets graze-stomped by a sneakered foot) and piñata-destroying (it’s filled with Slim Jims? hot dogs?). Consider it the guitar-smashing-hotel-room-trashing of the pop star present.

In Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past, Simon Reynolds argues that while all culture is inevitably influenced by what came before, never has there been a society so interested in its immediate cultural past, or more able to access it instantaneously and comprehensively. Reynolds worries that all the referencing and recycling puts creativity in danger.

Miley was born in 1992. She was seven years old when we crossed over into the new millennium. But it’s safe to say that whatever she missed in consciousness, she was able to absorb thanks to VH1’s I Love the ‘90s and all kinds of Internet nostalgia—not to mention, we can be sure, market-driven research and the guidance of the many baby-boomers behind the scenes of her empire. The prosperity and technological innovation of the ‘90s makes the decade tempting for a new millennium of cultural producers influenced by the mega-popularized retro/vintage industry.

In “I Love It,” Icona Pop sings, you’re from the ‘70s, but I’m a ‘90s bitch. It’s clearly a diss to the nameless ‘70s-devotee. After the 2008 crash and following European crisis, do these hits signal the confluence of innovation apathy and nostalgia for our most recent decade of affluence? In the wake of the recession and alongside a major corporatization of the mass music industry, did we break completely from all notions of ‘60s revolution—of the possibility for any real change—in favor of comfortable stability and the repurposing of decades past?

Rock critic Ellen Willis would say no. “What cultural revolutionaries do not seem to grasp,” she wrote in 1969, just after Woodstock, “is that, far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be—and has been—criminal, fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary.” Pop’s push-back has always been more stylish than ideological.

So, is Miley’s Rebellion a post-capitalist promotion of material luxury as the ultimate freedom? Should we worry that it’s a completely corporate-run show? Or, as we’re still blasting it secretly in our rooms, do we just not care and love it?

***

American hip hop’s been around since the late ‘70s, but until the mid-late ‘80s, the new genre was mostly unknown to Americans with no connection to the New York communities in which it was born. Kurtis Blow’s 1986 Sprite advertisement marks the transitioning of the genre into the commercial mainstream, where it has consolidated and stayed.

Reynolds identifies the most recent transformation of mainstreamed hip hop in the currently fashionable omnipop, a sound also rooted in '80s electro and '90s club music, meshing these three movements into a “high-fructose sound of brash, blaring excitement,” super-compressed and stream-ready. Ironically (or not: ask Miley), the boasting, toasting, signifying and flossing of early hip hop—born of particular economic and cultural circumstances, and oftentimes critical of larger systems of inequality: read Jeff ChangTricia Rose and others—now extends, bloated and bland, to this post-Disney mainstream.

Of course hip hop, and the early DJ culture it originates from, is itself based on sampling and recycling. Taking this too to an extreme, today’s omnipop—and, more broadly, pop culture generally—mirrors the way our economy is no longer based on production, but on speculation and manipulation of dematerialized value. This mishmosh of sound self-consciously performs early hip hop’s rebellion against mainstream American structures invested in—thriving on—inequality, while being itself carefully packaged by corporate interest. Miley’s Rebellion, then, performs tongue-in-cheek alienated consumerism for money, while pretending to be free.

***

Produced by Mike WiLL Made-It, “We Can’t Stop” was originally written for Rihanna, but when she passed in favor of “Pour It Up.” Next up was Miley. “We went in, she nailed the record, and she did it with her swag,” said Mike.

What is Miley’s particular swag? Visually: a grill, sported ODB-style, a whole lot of white spandex, and a lot of product placement. To my homegirls here with the big butts, Shaking it like we at a strip club, Remember only God can judge us, Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya, Miley sings, a reference to Tupac.

And then there’s the “swag” of her performance: the twerking and play-spanking with three black women, seemingly the only people above 23 in the video and replicated at her VMA performance too, a form of questionable human accessorizing reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku phase. It’s not that we should be surprised that Miley’s twerking, or that she’s spending time with these women, who could very well be her friends, sure. But there’s an important chasm between individual relationships and the larger corporate controlled pop culture image-making industry in which Miley’s immersed.

“Let's not get it twisted,” Dodai Stewart explains, “The exchange and flow of ideas between cultures can be a beautiful thing. I believe in cross-pollination and being inspired by those whose experience is not like your own. If Miley is inspired by gold teeth and bounce music and has friends who are rappers, that's not a problem.” Snoop Dogg/Lion is a known supporter and friend (Miley appears on his latest reggae album) as are members of Odd Future, and Pharrell, Ludacris, Big Sean, and Juicy J are featured on her upcoming album.

“But when she uses these things to re-style her own image, she veers into dangerous territory,” Stewart continues. Hip hop originated in low-income and, not by accident, black and brown communities. This particular example of trying on stylistic aspects of a culture not your own brings into clarity the very real optical illusion of the ties between race and class in America. Such conversations spurred by the Harlem Shake controversy reached the mainstream earlier this year.

Specific to the entertainment industry, it’s worth considering the purpose and results of a star like Miley adopting certain cultural signifiers. How styles and now-mass-produced trends—specifically, in this case, those originally born of hip hop—can be used, in what ways, and for whose benefit. It’s a complex question of how certain financial-material realities—in this national case, and often, inseparable from race and ethnicity—create culture born of these realities.

A famous young white woman donning a non-Anglo style garners a different reaction than would a famous young black woman (say, Ciara) wearing a grill and twerking—not to mention a non-famous person associated with the culture in question. Miley may know what she’s doing in terms of parlaying her image into media hysterics, but she seems to have no idea of the importance of knowing the legacy of what you wear or do; of how signifiers shift over time; of corporate control and material consequence; of individual intent and contextual history. As Katie Ryder writes, “If we only welcome difference when it’s on the bill—a rap show, a queer night at a club—or when we imitate it, whiten it and straighten it, but don’t want it as a part of our regular space, we don’t really welcome it at all.” Appropriation as deliberate corporate image-making—that’s another form of unwelcome altogether.

***

In the passage to sexy, white female pop stars of the last couple decades often appropriate the work of black, male hip hop artists. On her own breakout album, Selena Gomez, another Disney-to-pop-star, has updated Buju Banton’s 1995 dancehall classic “Champion." Picture for a moment Miley and Selena getting hyped in the mirror, preparing to face the haters head on: Stand up let em know that you shine bright, Throw down let em know that you got fight, Selena sings, And show 'em that you've never felt so sexy, sexy, sexy. Icona Pop’s other song repurposes Jay Z and Beyonce’s “Bonnie & Clyde" (which itself repurposes Tupac's original "Me and My Girlfriend"). Ke$ha’s oeuvre is another example in itself, and, before them all, following her transition from not-a-girl to not-yet-a-woman, Britney Spears notably reminded us, looking to Bobby Brown, that it was her prerogative.

The forceful confidence of hip hop (and its trope of dismissing the “haters”) is reinterpreted by these over-scrutinized starlets as female empowerment on the defense. It converts what can be perceived as threatening black male aggression into a celebratory shield of sexuality and self-determination to be used during their public coming-of-age. This is a messy site of artist autonomy and corporate control. “I did my time, like I did what I was supposed to do,” Miley told Hot 97 of her years as Hannah Montana, “and now I’m at a point where I can just do things because I love it, not because I’ve gotta build this fan base or I’ve gotta make this money.”

“I don't think people have a hard time understanding that I've grown up," Miley told the New York Daily News in another interview. "I just think the world is so lame because you can shoot people in a movie and you can let people like [George] Zimmerman off on trial,” she continued, frustrated about the UK censorship of her video, “but you can't have someone going like this [Cyrus simulates oral sex gesture]."

The reaction to “We Can’t Stop” is no great injustice, but Miley’s frustration is real. The world doesn’t make sense sometimes; political engagement is at an all time low while inequality is at a high; Stand Your Ground law and culture—just the most recent and most public example of a racialized and violent criminal justice system—is tragic: even, in the vernacular of Miley’s contemporaries, lame. A 20-year-old might easily react to the world’s injustices with a shrug, an oral sex gesture, and some molly; she might also do better to more explicitly recognize the vast difference in our country between an image of Trayvon wearing a grill (the stuff of courtroom “evidence”) and a VMA-nominated white woman trying one on for show.

On his new album, Jay Z describes old money disdain for “new blacks with new stacks,” new money that can buy out “blue bloods” in their own neighborhoods. You can turn up your nose high society, he says, Never gone turn down the homie. The track, “Somewhere in America,” is brief, and concludes with a teasing nod to Miley: Feds still lurking, They see I'm still putting work in, Cause somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’, trailing off in the refrain, Twerk, Miley, twerk… and a high-pitched laugh.

It’s social commentary that simply conveys the complexity of the interplay between race, class, and culture in our country, and the ridiculousness of what sometimes follows. There’s no way of knowing what Miley really thinks, besides her pride for the shout-out as part of the “new world order.” As with most celebrity, it’s near impossible to distinguish between Miley the twenty-year-old and Miley the lucrative image. But no matter what’s real and what’s for sale, “We Can’t Stop” speaks to a current mood and moment, where the two are perhaps less and less distinguishable. Only in America.

 

Previously: My Long-Lost Cousin the Vampire: A Not-So-Philosophical Search for Ezra Koenig

Lucy McKeon is a New York–based writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, Guernica, The Paris Review and elsewhere.



340 Comments / Post A Comment

JessicaLovejoy

she adopts Jamaican patois briefly

*literally throws papers in the air*

I am going to 7-11 and I am going to buy something terrible like a Four Loko. I don't care what time/day it is. Done. DONE. See you in 20.

Emby

@JessicaLovejoy You don't care. You love it.

RK Fire

@JessicaLovejoy I think I need to stop read everything about Miley Cyrus, because every new thing I read is pissing me off more and more.

Judith Slutler

@JessicaLovejoy @JessicaLovejoy seriously nobody thought a song written for Rihanna could've used a little rewrite before they handed it over to Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter???

"so turnt up"
"bout that life"

NO, PLEASE DO STOP, I SWEAR YOU CAN STOP

C_Webb

@RK Fire Yeah, I hereby resolve to stop reading/following this UNLESS the dancer who got Miley's head up her ass chooses to speak or write something. I just honestly hope she knew that was going to happen, although who knows where/if dancers are allowed to draw lines if they still want to work.

RK Fire

@C_Webb I really wonder that as well. How do you take something like that? "It's just a dance move?" AAAAAAHHHHH

I kind of hope those dancers and the former Harajuku girls team up together and I don't know, graffiti the homes of major record producers/the artists in question/etc.

katiemcgillicuddy

@RK Fire God, the Harajuku girls, I forgot about them, jeeeeesus, what is wrong with everyone?? It's like everyone in pop music is absolutely determined to be awful.

JessicaLovejoy

@Emby Beg pardon?

sox
sox

@JessicaLovejoy {the Icona Pop song, go listen!}

sox
sox

@katiemcgillicuddy
Ha. My cat was named Harajuku by her original human and the shelter said was "African for love".
I had to quickly point out that:
1) African is not a language.
2) Harajuku was a Gwen Stefani schtick.
3) Kitty's getting a new name.

*ETA that the Harajuku Girls are also a fascinating Japanese fashion movement and worthy of losing HOURS to on the internets and then maybe purchasing fake eyelashes on a K Pop star's website that will make you look like an animae character when applied properly. I'd frankly have adopted them too if I were Gwen....

RK Fire

@sox re. the cat: OMG/sad, hilarious all around.

re. the Harajuku girls: it was weird and gross when she renamed them and used them essentially as props. There were rumors at the time that they were contractually obligated to speak only Japanese, and it was really clear in 2005 if they were Asian, or Asian Americans under a weird contract, or what. Just a mess.

Sophia Jacob

Well, we got Arcade Fire up there, they are not hip-hop. Jhene Aiko? Meh, not a hip-hop artist, something I would call an R&B artist, but hip-hop and R&B go hand in hand so you can make the argument. @me

Slutface

"Miley looks more Madonna and Gwen Stefani than Lady Gaga or Rihanna"

Seriously? She tries to be Rihanna so hard it's embarrassing.

OhMyGoshYouGuys

On a (much) less serious note:
Does anyone else see a resemblance between Miley's furry teddy bear costume and Mitzi Mozzarella the cheerleading mouse from Showbiz Pizza's Rock-afire Explosion?

nonvolleyball

@OhMyGoshYouGuys yes, &: please tell me you're familiar with the work of Chris Thrash.

OhMyGoshYouGuys

@nonvolleyball Isn't there a documentary about him?

nonvolleyball

@OhMyGoshYouGuys yes, indeed! worth Netflixing (assuming you haven't already seen it, & assuming it's still available on streaming).

nina!

"A famous young white woman donning a non-Anglo style garners a different reaction than would a famous young black woman (say, Ciara) wearing a grill and twerking—not to mention a non-famous person associated with the culture in question."

This. The same way if when my mother wears a bindi, she is "other," "immigrant," "different," but if someone — tyyypically white, but not necessarily — else wears a bindi, they are "cool," "hipster."

Jaya

@nina! I always worry that I'll be viewed as more of a "hipster" whenever I wear anything Indian, even though I'm half Indian. #biracialproblems

nina!

@Jaya That's hard! I don't know really know what to say, other than your experience brings up the really important point that people — myself included — can't be quick to judge individuals just based how they look and without context. And that seems like a real concern! In college I constantly felt at a loss of how to meet the vague standards of "Indian" and "not Indian enough," whatever that even means.

Jaya

@nina! Yeah! I mean, my dad came here when he was a kid, so I wasn't particularly raised Indian, besides the influence from my grandparents. But even with my name everyone is like "Oh is that like the earth goddess? Were your parents hippies?" and I have to explain that Ok yes they were hippies but the name is not just something they thought sounded cool.

Nutellaface

@Jaya I lived in Jackson Heights, Queens for a while, and literally the only thing that stopped me from buying all of the saris and wearing them exclusively was the knowledge that it would make me a total asshole. Indian culture, customs, and dress are GORGEOUS and all I want is to be invited to an Indian wedding so that my Dutch/Danish/English/Russian ass has an Actual Reason to partake. Until then, I will be wearing wooden clogs AS IS THE WAY OF MY PEOPLE.

Jaya

@Nutellaface I mean, even then! Obviously I can't speak on behalf of all Indian and part-Indian people, but shalwar pants are crazy comfy and everybody should have a pair, and you can never have too many sparkly bangles. I don't think that makes you an asshole.

Jaya

@nina! I was thinking about how I end up appropriating my own culture, I guess. On one hand, I am good at making Indian food, and can wear a sari and bindis and bangles, and am going to be doing henna for my wedding. On the other, half of me is white, and I have never faced outright racism besides a couple weird jokes about curry and guys hitting on me by saying I'm "exotic." I get to enjoy select parts of Indian culture without having to experience the hardships. Isn't that how most people define appropriation?

Sam I am

@nina! THIS. Yes, this. When I wear these things that I love, automatic fob status. But I dont care anymore, I do it anyway (kusas with everything? yes, please)

nina!

@Jaya @Nutellaface And salwar pants and bangles are a lot, lot different than wearing saris around town.

@Jaya It's hard to say what counts as appropriation and what counts as someone in the diaspora trying to figure out how to balance multiple identities. I feel like I struggle with the same thing as well, as Indian-American. (This conversation sort of reminds of this article about Jains in America. Picking what works and what doesn't and reformulating and readapting certain ideas.)

@Sam I am But wait! According to Bobby Jindal, you're holding on TOO TIGHTLY to your culture that is dividing America! (#ughbobbyjindalugh) But good! I think it's important to just own it.

MilesofMountains

@Jaya This is an ongoing internal argument in my life. My grandfather was native, my (darker than me) siblings and father identify as bi-racial, but I look really, really white, and my grandfather's family were practically poster-children for assimilation programs, so we're completely removed from our band and traditions. I mostly feel obligated to identify as white and not "appropriate" my culture, but sometimes I wish I could lay a bit more claim to it.

baby crow

@Jaya @MilesofMountains my first thought is that it's not appropriation if it's your own heritage. even if you enjoy relative privilege because you don't "look" Indian (or whatever you are) -- plenty of people don't "look" whatever they are even if they have parents from the same nation/ethnic group, but that doesn't mean they can't be participants of their culture and use those signifiers however they feel comfortable.
I struggle with this as well, though. I try to stay aware of the privilege I have from the way that I look, and I too feel that I "get to enjoy select parts of [my] culture without having to experience" all the hardships of it because I'm only half-, and I look ethnically ambiguous. it's hard to balance.

I guess I just feel like there's room for exploring your heritage without it becoming appropriative, as long as one is careful and aware of their privilege. I don't think it's the same as, say, a person with no personal connection to the culture adopting parts of it for their own entertainment, a la Miley.

nina!

And more interesting food for thought: "If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and propagating rape culture, then you may want to reevaluate your acceptance of double standards and your belief in stereotypes about how men vs. women “should” and are “allowed” to behave."

What do you guys think?

C_Webb

@nina! I guess I don't understand the either/or aspect of that proposition? I already thought Robin Thicke was a scary sexist douchebag, so that performance didn't surprise me the way Miley sticking her face in a black woman's buttcheeks did.

Dirty Hands

@nina! Agree. But something about Robin Thicke's tongue staying in his mouth seemed almost charming.

apples and oranges

@nina! I think the either/or comes from the fact that a lot of people thought her performance was trashy and terrible, but his song is a summer hit. While there are many people who don't have a problem with "Blurred Lines," I didn't hear or read a single defense of Miley's performance. (Though I'm with you - I don't think either is worth being defended/they are both gross in their own ways.)

nina!

@C_Webb Right. I think there has also been a lot of slut-shaming of Miley's performance — so it's sort of troubling to see how differently many folks are scrutinizing two people who were performing together. (This is referring to the slut-shaming part, not the very troubling racism.) I mean, I guess we all already know that women's sexuality is often unfairly critiqued and shamed.

Lily Rowan

@C_Webb It shouldn't have to be either/or, but seriously -- how much of the coverage has focused on Thicke?

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@Lily Rowan Could it be because of their histories as performers? Robin Thicke was basically the B-list Timberlake* until this summer, and Miley is the former child star who just really wants to be taken seriously as she grows up, and the best way to grow up is to express yourself sexually. So you've got an adult male artist whose song lyrics were (IMO) analyzed primarily by women, and a young female artist who's basically asking for attention from everyone, including the male-dominated media who will think she's gone too far.

Let's not forget JT and Janet Jackson at the Superbowl if we're going to get into that sort of thing, wherein it felt like Janet got most of the flak, I guess because she was the one who was exposed. But in this case, Miley was taking off her own clothes, and she commanded most of the attention in that performance.

(I should also mention that I think this is a completely valid point, and that we maybe need to take a look at ourselves as consumers before blaming a singer for doing crazy stuff to get our attention.)

Jaya

Another interesting take on this. Still sorting through my thoughts, but this struck me: "This isn’t, of course, to argue that white privilege doesn’t exist — it does, and it’s something that white hip hoppers are more aware of than you might think. But if anything, it’s disempowering to continue to portray black culture as a sort of inert, powerless thing that is capable only of fluttering feebly as it’s plundered by privileged white people. Anyone who continues to think that is true of hip-hop culture clearly hasn’t looked at the world over the last 20 years."

From http://flavorwire.com/412010/in-defense-of-miley-cyruss-vmas-performance

nina!

@Jaya Thanks for sharing this! Although, it almost feels like that the author is equating the critiques of Miley's performance as a critique of white people performing hiphop-inspired music — and I'm not sure if that's quite right. I feel most critics have focused on how she performed the song (e.g. using black bodies as sexual objects), not the actual content of the song.

Jaya

@nina! Yeah, I think that's the thing that was hitting me. Like, I agree with this point, but it's sort of sidestepping the issue. Yes, hip hop is a powerful culture that spans many races, but Miley still used black women as props?

He also quotes another guy saying "Being white, or rich, should never stop someone from enjoying culture that originated black and poor. To say otherwise is to impose a form of segregation that would also preclude a black girl from Brixton from getting into ballet or bhangra." I think, ideally, that's true. But unfortunately it seems like the rich white girls are being encouraged to travel that path far more than anyone else.

realtalk

Look, nice try, but this is not pissed off enough about how fucking offensive and appropriative this was. For more reflection on the forced sexualization of black women and how, once again, solidarity is for white women, please read this. http://groupthink.jezebel.com/solidarity-is-for-miley-cyrus-1203666732

RK Fire

@realtalk That's actually the first article I read about this today, but I think some of the stills on here from outside of the VMA performance (her music video? VMA rehearsals?) only adds to my rage, as well as the fact that this is something to be pissed off about in the context of world events.

RAAAAAGE
/throws self away

katiemcgillicuddy

@realtalk Dead on with the "nice try" and thanks for that link, it's fantastic. Why the hell isn't that piece on the Jezebel mainpage yet??

Slutface

@realtalk YES.

Tu m'fous le cafard, tiens

@realtalk Maybe it's because I'm not American, and I never lived in the US, but I did not see this show as racist or offensive. I'm gonna read the article on Jezebel but I fail to see how "appropriation" of a culture which is not our own is offensive ? Isn't it a good thing, promoting open-mindness ?

eraserface

@Tu m'fous le cafard, tiens Oh dear, friend. No. Just no.

katiemcgillicuddy

@Tu m'fous le cafard, tiens Please, please read the piece on Jezebel, and any link it includes. What happened at the VMAs was absolutely not "promoting open-mindedness".

realtalk

@katiemcgillicuddy right?? cmon jez.

realtalk

@Tu m'fous le cafard, tiens I don't have a response other than hysterical laughter and throwing myself out a window, so I hope you read that article, if nothing else.

Lily Rowan

I'm Jay-Z's age, not Miley's, so I do tend to fall on the "Oh honey, no" side of things. Am I too old and tired to be outraged? Possibly.

OhMarie

@Lily Rowan Me too. I was like "man, she's going to be embarrassed later!"

Lily Rowan

@OhMarie And I've seen too many rounds of appropriation, starting with my own peers' doorknocker earrings. (I just wore huge hoops.)

I AM NOT SAYING IT IS OK.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Maybe I'm just getting too old to care, but I'm on the side of the fence that feels disheartened because all the news is about Miley's performance, and there's some real shit going on that we should actually care about. For example, there is a former teacher in Montana who got sentenced to 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old student, who killed herself after the rapes. His attorney argued jail time was unnecessary because he's been punished enough, because society started treating him badly after learning of his rapist ways. And the judge said the dead girl was partly responsible for the sex because she was "older than her chronological years."

This to me is more important than Miley Cyrus, but alas, here we are.

For reference: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-senior-high-teacher-gets-days-for-rape-of-student/article_b1f84190-ef23-5868-8799-b779c0421dc1.html

Lily Rowan

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose YEAH HOW ABOUT THAT.

Jesus.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Lily Rowan Neat, huh? Prosecutor has also told the Associated Press that there will be no appeal because the judge has broad authority in this case, which I didn't know meant a judge being able to determine a dead child's chronological age in relation to 49-year-old man's sexual advances, but I guess Montana district court judges are more powerful and all-knowing than I thought.

packedsuitcase

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose FUCKING RAGE FLAMES ALL OVER MY BODY.

Wow.

OhMarie

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Yes, A++++.

frigwiggin

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oh, jesus.

It's pretty telling that they don't mention the student's name until halfway through the article, huh? It's still centered on the rapist.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@all Jezebel picked up the story, so at least there will be some justified rage on a larger scale than just the newspaper's comment section.

z(oo)mm

Here's my nitpick: with the caveat that voting in a presidential election is definitely not the end-all, be-all marker of political engagement (but it is something), voter turnout was higher for most racial groups in 2012 than it was in 2004 or 2000, or 1996, so I disagree that "political engagement is at an all time low." http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/05/08/six-take-aways-from-the-census-bureaus-voting-report/

FlufferNutter

Several weeks ago, I saw Miley interviewed on Good Morning America and I was AGOG at the utter crap that spewed from her mouth. She made sweeping declarations that she was speaking for her entire generation, and that, in defiance of the current state of the world, they just want to have fun/ party/ can't stop/ won't stop. It is obvious how uneducated, misinformed, and unaware this little girl is -and hell, it is well within her rights as a human being to be all of those things. What KILLS me is that the world chooses to listen to her. We have made this party monster famous, elevated her to such a status that she clearly believes her opinions and viewpoints actually matter. And now, because of a raunchy VMA performance, she is dominating conversations, thoughts, articles, the internet, etc. etc. etc. I don't think Miley Cyrus or her outfits, tongue, dance moves, or videos deserve such close-reading, because it is obvious that she just has no clue. She is not adopting the dress and dance moves of other cultures as some sort of statement - she just doesn't know any better. She is ignorant and no one has ever told her "no." My rage is directed instead at a society who celebrates this ignorance, at a pop culture that indoctrinates kids with the belief that this is cool.

It all makes me want to go seriously off the grid, to be honest. Arrrrrgh. /end rant

harebell

@FlufferNutter
okay, but let's not call her a "little girl" while criticizing her performance & her role in pop culture, because it's demeaning and dismissive in a way that also feeds into bad stereotypes, just different ones.

(Otherwise in total agreement with your comment).

FlufferNutter

@harebell I was ready to stand by that comment, thinking she was 18 for some reason (which to me is a "little girl" - I mean, I think of myself at that age and realize how much of the world I truly did not even begin to grasp or understand), but the internet tells me she is 20. So I will amend that to "young woman." It honestly wasn't meant to demean or dismiss her, simply a comment on how young she really is, which helps to explain her behavior, I think.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

""But when she uses these things to re-style her own image, she veers into dangerous territory,' Smith continues. Hip hop originated in low-income and, not by accident, black and brown communities. This particular example of trying on stylistic aspects of a culture not your own brings into clarity the very real optical illusion of the ties between race and class in America."

Timberlake = white
Thicke = white
Macklemore = white

But we're stuck on Miley.

Lily Rowan

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Don't get me started on Macklemore. Jesus H. Christ.

Judith Slutler

@Lily Rowan What, do you happen to have a problem with the 100% obvious and true fact that positive hip-hop was invented by a white Seattleite, like, 2 years ago?

aphrabean

@Lily Rowan I hate him so much & think dramatically less of anyone who praises him/ his music/ etc.

mmmcheese

@Lily Rowan Actually, I would like to get you started on Macklemore, Lily Rowan. I don't know anything about the controversy surrounding him, and I'd like to know more.

leonstj

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose - The thing that's always wild to me as a hiphop fan is like - I hate Macklemore and feel there's totally a bunch of weird racial shit to his music.

And yet.....I don't feel that way about the Beastie Boys (who I love) or Eminem (who I don't, though I respect his first couple of albums).

I don't know what it is - and I as a white guy am certainly not the one to judge - but to me, the line between "appropriation" and "just a person who happens to love the culture and feel like expressing themself via it" seems like a kind of nebulous thing.

Also, whenever I hear about Miley Cyrus and appropriation and what's okay and what's not all I can ever hear is "Elvis is a hero to most...."

H.E. Ladypants

@Lily Rowan I dunno. I don't really have any hard feelings toward Macklemore. I don't think he was ever really trying to do anything but make music that he enjoys and when he happened on some success, he and Ryan Lewis took advantage as hard as they could, which I think any of us would have done. For the most part, I think Macklemore may not be brilliant but his music is pretty heartfelt so I give him no ill will. Also, I'm unaware of him turning culture into an accessory in the way that Miley Cyrus has (although if I'm missing something, please fill me in.)

I think the issue with Macklemore is not him personally but the cultural response TO him. Matisyahu is also a white dude performing traditionally culturally black music (reggae) because he loves it but due to his lower profile most of the reactions to his music tend to be critical rather than spilling internet ink over whether his is music is appropriation. The same can be said for Brother Ali. Or any number of white MCs.

So, I feel a bit sorry for Macklemore. His sudden popularity is exceptionally problematic but I feel like it's the reaction to him that's problematic, less than Macklemore himself. People who say that they dislike rap but who rabidly enjoyed "Thrift Shop" are expressing some obvious biases, just like when Eminem achieved mainstream fame more than a decade ago. But you know, in other news, water is wet.

Li'l Sebastian

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I am wondering if anyone else struggles ("struggles") with really liking Thrift Shop but also thinking Macklemore is gross? Or should I just throw myself away?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@leonstj I was thinking about those guys too. Maybe having actual talent has something to do with it?

RubeksCube

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Seriously - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis even won a VMA for best hip-hop video. This problem (at least, as Smith defines it) does not solely exist in the realm of a 20-year old white girl.

Lily Rowan

Definitely most of my issue is with the reaction to Macklemore, not Macklemore himself. All of the "OMG WHAT?!?!? A HIP HOP ARTIST IS NOT HOMOPHOBIC????? THIS IS THE GREATEST THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED IN MUSIC!!!" is a little wearing.

Lily Rowan

@H.E. Ladypants Also I was really disappointed when I learned that Ryan Lewis is not the guy singing "This is fucking awesome..." I want to buy another song by THAT guy.

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@leonstj @I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Well... with Macklemore specifically I'm skeptical due to the nature of the music - there is a certain retro sound to his stuff that seems very connected with wanting to make the kind of hip-hop that's often held up as "real" and "old school" by white people these days, whereas I think the Beastie Boys and Eminem were really trying to innovate and make something new and very much their own, in their day. Plus, straight up, Macklemore is from the Pacific Northwest and so am I; when he raps, his accent is... not from there. To me, it sounds very fake / simply like what a white guy from my area thinks "a rapper" should talk like.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Lily Rowan I mean, I'll take what I can get in terms of gay acceptance in popular culture, but that song grates on me. He just...talks. He's not even rapping or whatever. Just, like, talking about various and sundry items in his life that make him able to empathize with gay people, and then sort of making it rhyme. The best part is the lady singer. I would listen to her all day, hold the Macklemore.

pajamaralls

@leonstj Eminem probably had/has a majority white fan base, but he's never been safe. Beastie Boys got played on alternative/rock stations while no other hip hop made it (save for some stuff like Rage Against the Machine), but I never got the sense that they were seen or embraced in quite the same way. And I'm sure a lot is owed to the specific structure of Thrift Shop and Can't Hold Us - they're made for wide & rapid consumption.

Though to his credit, in their Rolling Stone interview Macklemore talked about how being white made them safe.

H.E. Ladypants

@Judith Slutler I think I'm a bit immune to the accent because I spent my youth listening to West Coast punk bands who were basically doing this fake-yell-y-British-y thing because that's what punk singing is "supposed" to sound like. But you do raise an interesting point.

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I have weird feelings about that song because it was written as a part of the push for Washington Referendum 74, not as a radio single. Then it became this thing that got radio play because DJs were searching around looking for something to play that tied in with gay marriage. And then it kept getting call in requests from people who wanted to hear it and that's how it went up the Billboard chart. (Planet Money went into this in a neat recent episode on the Billboard.)

I say I have weird feelings about it because it's not a very good song. It's clumsy and the rap is poorly delivered. (Although, as you note, Mary Lambert delivers a fantastic chorus.) And like most of Macklemore's serious raps it's heavily autobiographical- but as a straight man he doesn't have much he can contribute to the issue. (Although the cover to the single has an adorable picture of his uncles.) But its rise (and how it became so popular) shows it was clearly filling a hole that needed to be filled.

"Same Love" isn't the best song we could have had about gay marriage. It just happened to be the one we had on hand.

Lily Rowan

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Sure, but it's not like Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z and many other black hip-hop artists haven't said stuff that was anti-homophobia and pro-marriage equality.

Laughable Walrus

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Just a quick side note: if you like Mary Lambert's chorus on "Same Love," check out her video for "She Keeps Me Warm". It's adorable and authentically queer and makes me very, very happy.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Laughable Walrus Yessssssssssss

@Lily Rowan Oh, I hear you.

sunflowernut

@Laughable Walrus Thank you!!! I always meant to look up who did the chorus but never did. The first few times I'd flip to a radio station while she was singing I'd get so excited because it sounded amazing, and then Macklemore's part would come on and it would be so disappointing

LaNegrita

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

In all fairness to Macklemore, this song exists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INNCxVpGpyU

rekabeka

Well, an article about Miley's crotch-grabbing antics is as good a place as any to post an update from the Friday Open Thread...

I posted that I was going to have a second round of images and an ultrasound done on my left breast. Good news, I guess - the lump over which they were concerned is very likely benign. Due to its uniform shape and size, they aren't too worried about it and told me I will need to come in every 6 months for 2 years to have it monitored to be sure it doesn't grow or alter its shape.

I'd rather they said it was someone's thumb over the lens, but I'll take what I can get.

Thanks to those 'Pinners who sent positive vibes my way - this is the best site with the greatest community and most intelligent comments.

SarahP

@rekabeka That is great news! Phew!

(I'm now imagining tasteless Cosmo tips for people with benign tumors: "Use it to spice up your sex life by asking your man to play 'find the lump' with his tongue!")

OhMyGoshYouGuys

@rekabeka This is great news!

laurel

Off topic, I know, but as anyone checked Miley for a brain tumor or a stroke? That whole sideways tongue thing kind of gave me pause.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@laurel Oh my god, how horrible would that actually be! Everyone is all, "God, Miley, enough with the tongue and the weird facial expressions," and she's all, "You guys and gals, I legit can't help it. Here is information on recognizing the signs of a stroke for your future reference. Take care of your loved ones, every second counts."

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@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Thank you for not yelling at me.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@laurel Well, now I just imagined your avatar thanking me for not yelling at it. And it made me sad.

Lily Rowan

@laurel It's the ecstacy, no? Or whatever the kids call it these days? Molly.

laurel

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I'm getting a ton of emotional manipulation mileage out of this avatar, it's true. Sorry (not sorry)!

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@laurel GRUMPY CAT IS NEVER SORRY.

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@laurel
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gulleyjimson

The notion that hip hop crossed over into the mainstream in 1986 is highly inaccurate, unless by "mainstream", you mean people who don't listen to the radio. "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang was Top 40 in early 1980, and white artists rapping on the airwaves soon followed, e.g., the Clash, "The Magnificent Seven" and Blondie, "Rapture".

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I love the comments here. Keep rollin' Pinners. You are all so smart.

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Um...Dodai Stewart's name is not Dodai Smith.

JessicaLovejoy

@Ladyface Dodai Smith is her non-union Mexican equivalent.

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No "Miley is actually a robot" comments yet? It is possibly the only thing from Family Guy that I ever felt spoke the truth.

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Hey, I know I am probably too late to the thread for this, but can anyone point me to some good (preferably on-line)reading on cultural appropriation? As an individual, I like to think that I have the freedom to disregard / abandon the pieces of my own culture that don't work for me, and to adopt the bits of human wisdom (from wherever it has developed) that are useful, worthwhile etc. Also, living as a white person in a place where white people are the minority, I've had loads of positive feedback on adopting some elements of local style etc. I respect this community (<3Hairpin <3)so much and there is a definitely consensus here that 'appropriation' is bad, so I'd really like to understand this concept better

nina!

@seaview And another wonderful link that illustrates cultural appropriation... A Pictorial Guide to Cultural Appropriation

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I don't particularly care for Miley's music, so maybe I'm wrong, but her 'We Can't Stop' is incredibly boring. For a summer/party anthem. I always thought party anthems were supposed to inspire you to dance or something. This song just seems depressing.

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