Between all the tongues protruding and casual twerking you get the sense that what you're supposed to remember is a memorable time about not remembering. And it's here that the rotation of the earth seems to synchronize with the words of the girl who ceases to just be Miley. And instead of time you feel beats and instead of worry you feel elation. You barely notice you’re being pulled into the heat of the horizon where the shadows of hit singles disappear into the half light of a primordial dawn from a time before we knew what a Hannah Montana was or that she was a thing born to be forgotten.
It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and this extraordinary parody of the video for We Can't Stop written in the voice of Cormac McCarthy is little literary gold nugget to emerge from the Miley Cyrus fiasco. A real parody can stand alone even if you've never read McCarthy and hadn't even heard of We Can't Stop. I know we're all still cringing, but the thing is dang funny, and it's worth reading if for no other reason than it might help erase some of the memories.
Keep reading. I'm only going to talk about Miley for a few more sentences, and then move on to bigger stuff. I promise.
"If you're outraged, then you're paying too much attention," is how I usually feel about the latest Disney girl to turn slutty, not in the sense that these things don't matter, but that they're designed to be degrading and shocking and therefore aren't worth getting worked up about. On the other hand:
The thing that struck me in Weiss’s piece, was the matter-of-factness with which the author mentioned illicit sexual feelings towards little girls. Such feelings are supposed to be a taboo. Why is this something that we have to keep constantly on our minds–that our children evoke illicit sexual feelings? Because it’s the logical conclusion of a culture that has not taken a definitive stance against pornography.
And, referenced therein:
When a young woman who was recently well-known as an underage star comes of age and hits the centerfolds, there is a valuable association -- "Is she even old enough for that?!" -- that her handlers must rush to exploit before it expires.In other words: The Disney-Channel sweet and childlike girl next door is merely Phase I of "Hot, Wild, and Barely Legal."
I agreed with the larger points made in these two posts,but I wondered: how old is Miley Cyrus? It turns out she's almost 21--not what I would call "barely legal." This oversight struck me as odd, particularly because it seems to reflect that of the public-at-large about what makes the incident shocking. Vulgar and stupid is exactly that no matter what your age, but why talk about a grown woman like she's 16 or 17?
I don't wish to give concerned parents a hard time over this confusion, because what mom isn't going to be confused when her 5-year-old is wearing lingerie and her 22-year-old is dancing around with giant stuffed bears, singing nonsense? (Can we please stop with the giant bears? Thanks) In this weird world we inhabit grown woman are infantilized and young girls sexualized; it's easy to dismess a music video, but every time you turn around there's ambiguity and distortion and bi-this-or-that or curious-this-or-that and I can't even figure out what the heck this song is about:
It's catchy. It's doesn't sound dirty, but what the heck does it mean? If you listen really hard, it almost sounds like it's about being in a band, but it takes a while to get there. Does it hurt the brain to listen to all these strings of words that just hang together in the mind and jangle around? I'm like a grumpy old man, but I can't listen to this song anymore. Lately I've turned to country music because the songs follow a predictable human pattern most of the time, which my aunt called "I had a girl and she left me," and on a bumper sticker is "whine whine twang twang," but at least there's a story. There are normal human thoughts and normal human reactions. Your mind has something to hold on to. I'm not trying to get all Hell's Bells on you, but I can't help wondering if it all fits together.
Or rather, that none of it fits together. Satan feeds off chaos and WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST WATCH OH MY EYES because he is chaos. He is perversion and distortion. One of the most illuminating comments on morality I've ever read was in a letter to a Catholic magazine--I don't even remember which one or what the topic was, but the commentator pointed out that it was pointless trying to understand immorality because sin is inherently chaotic. There's no reason why people do evil, disgusting things. God is reason and order and beauty; sin is a howling mess of nonsense, and it creates more nonsense and chaos in its wake.
And then I thought about all those modesty debates, the thousands of hours and millions of words that only lead to disagreement between people who shouldn't have had to fight so hard to find common ground, and I remembered the cognitive dissonance I got when I realized that if I had a teenage daughter, I would not want her to wear a bikini at the beach. Maybe I was a giant hypocrite after all. At the very least, it shouldn't be so blasted confusing, because darn me if I'm going to spend the rest of my life dressing like a child just so I don't set a "bad" example for one. The biggest irony of all is that my attitude as an adult that a woman's body is not something shameful that needs to be covered up grew directly out of those old rules about modesty I was given when I would have been too young and vulnerable to handle being pressured into a perspective I wasn't ready for. Nobody ever let me believe, even for a minute, that my body was intended for display, and for that I'll be grateful forever.
Common sense should tell us that women and girls are different from each other. Shocking, I know. But not really, because even judges can't make the distinction:
And yet, on Monday, Stacey Rambold, a Senior High teacher convicted of raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who later committed suicide, was sentenced to spend just 30 days in jail. The judge justified his decision in part by saying he listened to recorded statements given by Morales before her death and believes that while she was a troubled youth, she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold.The judge also said Morales was "older than her chronological age."Yep, you read that right. A 14-year-old " troubled youth" who eventually committed suicide (as a direct result of the sexual assault and its aftermath, according to her mother) had "control over the situation" with a 49-year-old rapist.
I don't think this is a conspiracy. I wish it was. People really are this confused.
Acting age-appropriate is not a science; it's an art that's simply built into the fabric of a society that understands that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Parents shouldn't have to spend hours agonizing over hemlines. I say "hemlines" because anything else seems icky, and it is, because like Betty Duffy points out, it's not normal for these topics to be "constantly on our minds." Single women committed to celibacy-until-marriage shouldn't have to endure being screamed at for showing a bit of physical attractiveness, like we're eternal children. We're not. Need I mention The Death of Pretty? Maybe I'm just tired, but I'm finding it hard to be quite so angry at old Archibald today. He's reacting to the chaos with more chaos, but it's kind of hard to see right now.
Morality offers an easy formula: grow up, feel attracted to someone, marry them, have babies. Too young, too immature--stay away from the whole idea. Simple and logical. Only the most bewildered and disoriented person could possibly get it mixed up, and there it is.
And if you own a giant teddy bear, well...get thee behind me, Satan.