I understand. Really I do. As a doctor I know once explained to me a long time ago, it’s hard enough raising teenagers these days without the constant feeling that your entire culture is undermining you at every turn. How do you instill order and sanity in a culture of excess? How do you ensure teenage safety while the entertainment world mocks the very idea of it?
OK, I get it.
I’m still on Miley Cyrus’ side, as I’ve been saying for a while now.
The Disney Channel’s former Hannah Montana, who publicly transformed herself into the tongue-waggling, twerking scourge of American middle-class propriety, has a two-hour concert special at 9 tonight on NBC called “Miley Cyrus: The Bangerz Tour – Barcelona and Lisbon.”
I wish her luck.
I seem to be in a bit of a generational and occupational minority in that respect. Her reputation has been relatively quiet for a while – ever since, in fact, her birth certificate told everyone that, legally speaking, she had become an adult. She’s barely old enough to buy a six-pack of Guinness in a New York State supermarket, but she’s old enough to wear costumes so tight that some of the ruder wags around have had many unchivalrous public thoughts about what they revealed.
She is, as I’ve been saying for a while, a show-business kid. And they do grow up a bit differently, those showbiz kids – as we all know. When show-business kids rebel, they do it in a showbiz way and, with special malice, against showbiz forms of hypocrisy. And, in America’s current Entertainment Industrial Complex, who better for someone like Cyrus to rebel against than the Disney Corp. that so successfully sold her to all those kids and parents as the clean-cut, wholesome Hannah Montana, a sort of wiseacre female Ricky Nelson for the 21st century.
But then she waggled her tongue lewdly and twerked so enthusiastically into Robin Thicke’s midsection during a now-legendary video awards show appearance, that the onlooking Smith family – Will, Jada and the kids – weren’t the only ones shocked.
Shock and outrage of the phoniest, cheapest and least significant kind have become the everyday agenda in our new Internet and 24-hour news cycle world.
When Marshall McLuhan first conceived of the Global Village that electronic media created, he was – as was his wont with his lightning flashes of genius – merely anticipating by some decades what would become almost literal in the Internet Age.
Everything that happens to anyone putatively “famous” can become the instant fodder for shock and disparagement over the cyberspace version of the back fence. It really is a Global Village now.
Did you see what Miley Cyrus did to Robin Thicke? Did you catch her pretending to toke it up in a European concert? Did you see that costume? What does her Daddy say? What does her godmother Dolly Parton say? How many gossip websites and infotainment shows can we get it on, anyway?
She is, of course, not alone. In the world of backfence tsk-tsking, everybody is a visible target.
Did you see what Gary Oldman said to Playboy when he tried to defend Mel Gibson? Did you hear what Jonah Hill angrily called that paparazzo who wouldn’t leave him alone?
Both had to go on late-night talk shows and make public apologies so fulsome that it might have been better if they hadn’t bothered.
A few more of those and the whole idea of public apology will become as hopelessly old-fashioned as the rotary dial telephone.
But then what we all need to remember always is that these are all – ALL – problems of hype.
Gary Oldman’s Playboy interview was, no doubt, intended as part of the marketing of the next “Planet of the Apes” movie in which he stars and which opens Thursday night.
Hill, when he hurled a garden variety gay slur at a bedevilling paparazzo, had to apologize serially as a prelude to doing the requisite publicity roundelay for “22 Jump Street,” whose yuk-it-up audience probably couldn’t have given less of a fig what he called anyone, much less a paparazzo trying to drive him crazy and photograph a surly reaction which the paparazzo could then sell handsomely on the open market.
Cyrus’ offenses against the Will Smiths of the world are nicely timed with the releases of her discs and the launching of her concert tours.
What seems to me self-evident about everything we know about her is that the kid seems to have a solid head on her shoulders amid all her adolescent transgressions against bourgeois propriety.
All she has thus far been doing, really, is following the game plan developed by those, like rock supermanager Shep Gordon, who in the film “Supermensch” explained coolly how he made a major figure of Alice Cooper. “We knew that if we could get the parents to hate you, the kids would love you.”
A lesson Cyrus understands right down to her size 6 Keds.
What you won’t find her doing to the consternation of the international constabulary – not to mention the Internet marauders – is traveling around with a sizable terrorizing entourage determined to test the plasticity of the international legal system.
In an era where actual American states have joined European countries in deciding that weed is perfectly legal, she could go on stage and fire up a blunt the size of the Hindenburg without really awakening the peevish vigilance of Interpol and American customs.
Justin Bieber – to take another example of star constantly on the Internet’s tsk-tsk circuit – is another kettle of misbehavior altogether. But then, I suspect you could take the IQ points of Bieber and everyone else in his entourage and fit them in Cyrus’ navel (and still have room left over for Bieber’s songwriting talent).
The latest young doofus in an apparent rush to confirm his status as police blotter smudge waiting to happen every time he walks out the door is Shia LaBeouf, whose response to the opening of a new film (the much-dreaded “Transformers 4”) in a franchise that once paid him so handsomely was to get himself arrested and detained for a whole evening after engaging in what an anonymous poet in the New York Daily News tenderly referred to as “a fall-down drunken night of bottomless rudeness.” (It was, I hasten to add, LaBeouf’s rudeness that was bottomless and not the actor himself). He was doing it, get this now, at a performance of “Cabaret.”
Compared to all that, Cyrus is merely a hard-working, world-touring pop music professional with a highly advanced satiric sense of humor and every right to corral two hours of Sunday prime time on a major holiday weekend.
There is nothing in the Cyrus dossier that would, I think, cause a second’s dismay or confusion in McLuhan or Shep Gordon.
In their spirit, let’s simply anoint her the newest incarnation of Madonna and Lady Gaga and say that she’s one ambitious young figure who has figured out exactly how tiny the Global Village really is.
I submit to you that at this stage of her career, Cyrus has precious little to learn and a great deal to teach a lot of people.