Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mark and Gloria's Final Word on Miley Cyrus

Punk hair, toungue out,
image carefully crafted to foment
shock and outrage from the
concerned parents of the world.

I’m taking a quick break from all of these Top 5 Lists to Weigh In on Miley Cyrus, the zombie-like non-story that refuses to die. First, here's some wisdom from Gloria Steinem that sort of inspired this blog post. It's short. Check it out here.

I’m glad that Gloria Steinem has scratched this off of everyone’s To Do list. I think she’s one hundred percent correct, by the way, but let me just add this to the mix: if you’re over the age of 30 and you are outraged about Miley Cyrus’ career trajectory, I want you to punch yourself in the face, really hard. Not because I want you to hurt yourself, but because I want you to wake the hell up.

As someone who grew up watching Madonna re-invent herself literally every 4-5 years, this is all just amusing and stupid in equal parts. But never mind that—there are probably more of you who can recall the crop of Mickey Mouse Club graduates that went on to become very famous and scandalous celebrities in their own right, right? On second thought, maybe you don’t. Here’s the wikipage. Go look and be amazed. Ryan Gosling? Yeah, even him.

None of this is new. There isn’t a child actor on the planet that hasn’t rebelled against their handlers as soon as they could do so. And when those handlers are Walt Disney, one of the most restrictive, manipulative, and calculating of our New Corporate Overlords, well, let’s just say, the pendulum always swing back the other way, doesn’t it?

But more to my original point, why on EARTH do you even care? This is music made for children pretending to be adults, made by children pretending to be adults, backed by actual adults with deep pockets and market research. I need you to really understand this: Hannah Montana was never, ever real. It was all made up, and it was done so with profit in mind. 

Remember the outrage? Album sales soared. It's all an act.
I think the thing that was the most upsetting to me was that there were people my age (over 40) watching the MTV Video Awards that night, and actually tweeting and posting about it as it was going on. Really? Seriously? I won't get into a rant about how youth culture is marketed to adults almost as much as it's marketed to youth, and how the only goal is to turn children into good little consumers. You can imagine how that would go already. But seriously. That whole event is one big televised press conference, a chance for the media conglomerates to roll out the new models and let everyone take them on a test drive. 

As parents, you're forgetting the number one rule that has been true for generations and is as bad as it ever was: if you hate it, the kids will love it. Your fear, your disgust, your confusion is like Ambrosia to them. If you can't understand why Miley is suddenly popular now that she's a "little tramp," it's because you think she's a "little tramp." 

But hey, there are a few earnest folks out there who genuinely, if inexplicably, love her music and think she has the voice of an angel and blah blah blah. If you’re a parent, and your child is confused about what’s happening with Miley or that demented little incubus, Justin Bieber, and why they suddenly seem so hurtful and nasty and no longer 14 years old, this is a GREAT opportunity to talk to them about media and the way content is manufactured, for profit and consumption in this country. It’s an important and necessary lesson, and the sooner they get it, the better off they will be as humans on this planet. Heck, while you’re on about it, throw in a discussion about advertising, too. In the end, it’s all the same thing, really.

Shocking. Scandalous. And carefully
crafted by the studio. Nothing is real.
Please don’t think this is some sign of the apocalypse. People were initially upset with Annette Funicello when she wore a two-piece bikini in Beach Party. She recovered. We all did. Most child stars are permanently damaged by the experience. Lindsay Lohan continues to be a slow-motion car crash in progress. The only thing I feel for these people is sadness, and maybe some pity. It's too much to put on the shoulders of a child and expect them to not get banged up by the process. Only a few have survived in modern times, and it's because they went ahead and acted out the childhood they never had, which included rebelling against their parents. It's just that when you build an artificial person and have a corporation for parents, that rebellion is usually well funded and capitalized, and done in the public spotlight. See also Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. But they've come through it, more or less. It’s just a phase.  When you grow up in the spotlight, your “phases” become tabloid gossip, and in the end, just like most monsters that live under your bed, it all has exactly the power you assign to it.

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