Miley Cyrus at the VMAs | Shake a Tail Feather, Baby

Miley Cyrus at the VMAs | Shake a Tail Feather, Baby
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By Jack Sargeant

[Editor’s note: it is occasionally my habit to grab conversation from Facebook and re-post them on Collapse Board… with the author’s permission, of course. This is one such occasion: it seems Mr Thicke, and those who associate with Mr Thicke, are causing a great deal of conversation and consternation. Hopefully, this is to the good. Oh, and if you haven’t read CB’s take on Mr Thicke, then do so. It’s a great read.]

The Miley Cyrus stuff going on today is very odd, I posted something earlier and took it down, because, on one hand I just don’t care and on the other, I didn’t want to spend all day moderating a discussion on some uninteresting pop star. I really used it as an excuse to post a work by Cut Hands and voice an opinion about the mise-en-scène of the unconscious as represented by the giant teddy bears in the MC clip that I saw. But having read the media today (while fleeing from the banality of federal politics and the imminent election here), and seeing such a degree of apparent outrage and opprobrium directed towards a 20-year-old pop star, I’m increasingly fascinated. Not because I ‘care’ about music or because I find her performance interesting, but because some people (journalists, commentators, punters and friends) seem genuinely ‘offended’ or ‘annoyed’ by her, or by something about her.

But watching the footage it seems to me that the biggest ‘outrage’ manifested in this performance is that she seems to be so damned happy to be shaking her ass while also sticking her tongue out (images of her tongue hanging out dominate – just do a Google Image search). Booty shaking is nothing new of course, it echoes, for example, various dance hall moves of the last 30 or so years, and erotic dancers have used such moves forever. The tongue – however – defies simple classification, it exceeds its own function, not merely an organ for taste but also for licking and with its own catalogue of symbolic gestures. These can dance through (for example) the defiant, aggressive, playful, grotesque, erotic, disgusting and so on, the exposed tongue can be played over the lips, moistening them, or it can be pushed out to indicate disrespect and defiance. The fact that she plays on this – her tongue emerging again and again, slipping out (like the pert nipples of other pop stars) is fascinating, not because she chooses to do it, but because its such an unusual gesture in pop music (other than the Rolling Stones logo and KISS, of course). That she does so while shakin’ her rump becomes some kind of affirmation: she could, grinning and slurping, be simply mocking the cultural understanding of sexuality, or she could be offering the spectacle of the joyously eroticised female. Most importantly, perhaps she is not merely playing a single role but playing multiple roles and with multiple meanings at the same time, laughing and eroticism are closer than realised.

Perhaps this is why there are so many ‘offended’ commentators/viewers etc, the confusions that her performance generates can only exceed the answers that her largely uninteresting work seems to offer. I truly can’t enjoy her music, but the fact that she generates appalled comments, moral outrage and confusion seems to me to be something to be savoured.

Now, here’s some truly erotic pop:

Some links for you all. Outraged journalists.

7 Responses to Miley Cyrus at the VMAs | Shake a Tail Feather, Baby

  1. Everett True August 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Here’s a different take on this:

    “The panting, the constant lolling tongue, humping legs, wide eyed bounding around the stage suggest labrador puppies are the go to model for fearless erotica in 2013. Perhaps that makes sense as, after all the lyrics of blurred lines mention attempts to “domesticate” the “animal” or “bitch” Thicke has set his sorry sights on. I’ve read quotes defending the video and by extention the song as “fun” and a joke, isn’t that always the defense for what offends? “Where’s your sense of humour?” says the maker of rape jokes, the groper and the cat caller.”


  2. Wallace Wylie August 27, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    My initial view was feeling unpleasant at how deeply unsexy everything going on was. She looked, to my eyes, like a young girl desperately trying to act like a grown up by acting sexual. She has actually provoked huge amounts of anger by many black feminist writers in America for her cultural appropriation and usage of black female props and taking elements of black culture to appear wild and out of control.


  3. Harry Howard August 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    it’s astounding how much how much uproar women’s behavior can cause.
    looks like innocent fun to me.
    unless she actually wanted to deliberately behave in a way prudes (hey disney) would disapprove of. probably part of the story

  4. James Flint August 28, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Who are these people and why is anyone watching the MTV “music” retards (sorry, awards) in the first place?

  5. Everett True August 28, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Another take.


  6. Everett True August 28, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Dear Society,
    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.

    Dr. Jill


  7. Chester Whelks October 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Scott Creney on Miley Vs Sinéad. GO!

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