Every non-mountain-recluse in America knows about the infamous Miley Cyrus incident on the VMAs last week. (For you mountain-recluses, Miley performed a song and dance routine that was so filthy, the title “suggestive” barely applies.) It wasn’t exactly family television.
But for a few reasons, I say go easy on Miley. We’ve all had time to freak out about it, now it’s time to think about the bigger picture.
Some perceptive observers have pointed out that Robin Thicke was also on stage. As a much older adult, you could make a great case that he should have known not to take part in a filthy dance with a girl young enough to be his daughter. Is that asking too much of a famous musician? Was he surprised by what happened? Does it matter? Being surprised by a bad situation typically leads the best of us to turn and run.
And then there’s the sad reality that Miley Cyrus didn’t lose her moral compass overnight. The poor girl has been a superstar for many years now. As she’s gotten older, every step towards the “grown up” and provocative she’s ever taken has been rewarded with sales, ratings, and hype. As much as the media wants to appear shocked by this performance, they got exactly what they’ve always wanted: a media storm, through-the-roof ratings, and an outrage that has expressed itself in only one form of action—increased viewership.
Our popstar culture took young Miley gently by the arm, started running full speed toward the edge of a cliff, then stopped abruptly as she went flying over the edge. To the extent that you and I play a part in that popstar culture, we made Miley into a monster, and now we’re calling her one.
Of course, Miley’s not off the hook here. She is a morally responsible human being. And she’s going to reap the ratings/sales benefits of this “mistake” in the days ahead. I doubt the backlash surprised her.
We could all hope that Miley would develop into a better role model for our kids. But I’m not sure we have the right to be surprised when a girl raised in front of unbelievably massive audiences in the midst of three often seedy industries (music, television, and film) isn’t teaching our daughters about modesty and abstinence.
Probably the best step we can all take here is to remember what the Bible says about humanity’s wayward condition (this event proved the Bible right), to talk to our sons and daughters about what they should and shouldn’t expect from the celebrities we all enjoy, and to check our hearts to see how guilty we might be in creating the kind of culture that rewards this kind of behavior. Maybe we could begin to pray for a young woman who appears to be lost in terms of her identity.
Maybe we should go easy on Miley and take a look at ourselves. Odd as it may seem, I can think of no better words to address our proper response to Miley Cyrus “twerking” than those of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ideal monk, Father Zosima, in The Brothers Karamazov:
“There can be no judge of a criminal on earth until the judge knows that he, too, is a criminal, exactly the same as the one who stands before him, and that he is perhaps most guilty of all for the crime of the one standing before him. When he understands this, then he will be able to be a judge. However mad that may seem, it is true. For if I myself were righteous, perhaps there would be no criminal standing before me know. If you are able to take upon yourself the crime of the criminal who stands before you and whom you are judging in your heart, do so at once, and suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach.”
“Suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach.” If only we had a role model who could display this profound concept for all of us…