August 28 2013
Paglia to Miley: Go Back to School
Quote of the Day:
Most of the media backlash focused on Cyrus’ crass opportunism, which stole the show from Lady Gaga, normally no slouch in the foot-stamping look-at-me department. But the real scandal was how atrocious Cyrus’ performance was in artistic terms. She was clumsy, flat-footed and cringingly unsexy, an effect heightened by her manic grin.
That’s the inimitable Camille Paglia’s takedown of Miley Cyprus’ “bizarre performance” at the MTV Video Music Awards in Time’s “Ideas” column.
Leave it to the art historian to get to the heart of the matter. And it’s a great essay in which Paglia talks about how Madonna—clearly an inspiration for the former Disney star—was a real artist. Madonna’s artistic roots (according to Paglia) go back to Marlene Dietrich, who often played sexually ambiguous roles, and Bob Fosse’s brilliant choreography for the 1972 movie Cabaret.
But Cyrus doesn’t know about those artistic roots. She only knows to shock, because “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.”
What was perhaps most embarrassing about Miley Cyrus’ dismal gig was its cutesy toys — a giant teddy bear from which she popped to cavort with a dance troupe in fuzzy bear drag. Intended to satirize her Disney past, it signaled instead the childishness of Cyrus’ notion of sexuality, which has become simply a cartoonish gimmick to disguise a lack of professional focus. Sex isn’t just exposed flesh and crude gestures. The greatest performers, like Madonna in a canonical video such as “Vogue,” know how to use suggestion and mystery to project the magic of sexual allure. Miley, go back to school!