If you missed the high jinks, the New York Daily News described it as, "lewdly thrusting out her tongue and nastily stroking her crotch, this one-time teen star worked hard to bag the sleaze award of the night." Ooof. Meanwhile, a commentator on NBCnews.com wrote, "Watching the former 'Hannah Montana' star perform, it was hard to not be a little frightened, offended, and shocked all at the same time." Most media outlets published a photo of Will Smith and his kids — 15-year-old son Jaden and 12-year-old daughter Willow — looking appalled, in order to to symbolize our collective horror. But it turns out that that particular image was actually a reaction shot to Lady Gaga's performance. Brooke Shields, who played Cyrus's mother on the Disney show, called the act "desperate" and numerous individuals tweeted, "raise your hand if you felt personally victimized by Miley Cyrus's #VMA performance."
Yeah, I cringed too, but really, the only thing that I found truly offensive about the 20-year-old's performance was the quality of her singing. Sure it was tasteless (though not by VMA standards), but worth all the fuss? Here's a recap: Cyrus bounced out of a big teddy bear and jumped around the stage in a furry leotard, throwing in a signature twerk here and there. She then stripped down to a hideous beige latex bikini and made some rude gestures with a big foam fan finger. She stuck her tongue out a lot (even for her). Finally, she air-molested Robin Thicke who appeared completely unruffled by the whole thing and sang quite tunefully. Later, he tweeted:
There is a slut-shaming aspect to the outraged reaction to Cyrus's antics, both at the VMAs and beyond. Clearly, she makes people uncomfortable and they really, really want her to put some clothes on. The things is, you can't slut shame someone who has no regret and refuses to feel bad about herself — and Cyrus appears to be delighting in her racy image. In response to the hubbub, she tweeted a picture of herself double flipping the bird from her dressing room.
In 2000, Britney Spears similarly crushed her child-star persona once and for all on the VMAs with a sexed-up version of "Oops!...I Did It Again." It's widely considered to be one of the show's iconic performances. While controversial, it was also considered to be a career maker. What bugs some people about Cyrus is that she seems less of a cold, hard professional doling out the seductive moves that the industry requires, and more of a girl who just wants to have fun.
I don't want my daughter to emulate Miley Cyrus, nor do I see the pop star — or any pop star — as being a role model. And that's not their job. My daughter looks up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tina Fey, and Mia Hamm, to name a few.
In her candid and funny memoir, I Feel Bad About My Neck, the late Nora Ephron wrote, "Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four." How many women wish they had owned their sexuality and their beauty more when they were younger? At some point Cyrus is going to retire the bikini and booty popping, but don't expect it to be anytime soon, despite what the critics want.