Camille Paglia, feminist extraordinaire takes Miley Cyrus to task at Time.com for her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Paglia writes that the issue isn’t that she was “Disgusting!” “Raunchy!” “Desperate!” as some reviews would have it, but that Cyrus is simply untalented and doesn’t understand that sexual eroticism without limits that make that eroticism titillating is pointless.
Paglia proceeds to venerate Madonna, for her “sophisticated videos that were suffused with a daring European art-film eroticism and that were arguably among the best artworks of the decade,” and calls the performance by Cyrus “clumsy, flat-footed and cringingly unsexy, an effect heightened by her manic grin.”
How could American pop have gotten this bad? Sex has been a crucial component of the entertainment industry since the seductive vamps of silent film and the bawdy big mamas of roadhouse blues. Elvis Presley, James Brown and Mick Jagger brought sizzling heat to rock, soul and funk music, which in turn spawned the controversial raw explicitness of urban hip-hop.
Pop is suffering from the same malady as the art world, which is stuck on the tired old rubric that shock automatically confers value. But those once powerful avant-garde gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture establishment to rebel against. On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today.
Some responses to this avowed defender of women:
- One of the reasons Presley, Brown and Jagger were successful was that the music was actually good, as opposed to the musically vapid garbage being spawned by Cyrus and her ilk.
- If Madonna’s videos were “arguably among the best artworks of the decade,” Michaelangelo, Raphael and Titian have nothing to worry about. Neither, for that matter, has Jackson Pollock.
- Stop complaining that Cyrus doesn’t understand that pushing the envelope too far sexually isn’t good entertainment in the same article where you gleefully write that “Young performers will probably never equal or surpass the genuine shocks delivered by the young Madonna, as when she sensually rolled around in a lacy wedding dress and thumped her chest with the mic while singing “Like a Virgin” at the first MTV awards show in 1984.” You wanted public displays of hyper-sexuality, you got it.
- Paglia is laboring under the assumption that freedom for women means behaving in just any old way they want. It’s just that Cyrus was too explicit for her tastes, which is quite remarkable. When feminists remember the word “dignity,” they’ll have a far better understanding of what real women understand is basic to the feminine soul.