Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke VMA Performance

A few weeks old by now, but this was by far and away the best commentary I read on the whole Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke/VMA’s debacle.

Tressie MC: When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland

One of the reasons I like this commentary so much is because it avoids the trap of slut-shaming that the majority of the commentary (see the complaints filed to the FCC) but rather engages with the intersectional issues of race, sexuality and gender that were on display during the performance. By engaging with the performance in this way, it is possible to see it not only as another ‘shocking’ VMA performance (and shocking is put in quotation marks, as the interpretation of the performance as something shocking is really dependent on the cultural context that you approach it from) but rather as a continuation of an old historical trope that elevated white women above women of color, by highlighting the differences between the groups.


8 thoughts on “Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke VMA Performance

  1. Agreed totally that the slut-shaming was pretty sickening.
    To quote Mika Brzezinski from MSNBC:
    “That young lady who is 20, is obviously deeply troubled, deeply disturbed, clearly has confidence issues, *probably eating disorder* and I don’t think anybody should have put her on stage. That was disgusting and embarrassing.” (emphasis mine)

    But at any rate, the article is pretty great and pretty accurate. Even independently of the performance, that song had issues- this article explains them pretty well.

  2. Thought you might be interested to see how Miley addressed the issue of cultural appropriation in her Rolling Stone interview.

    excerpt from article: If there’s one thing that bothered her about the fallout, it was the idea that her performance was racist, or a “minstrel show,” because, critics argued, she appropriated a dance style common in black culture and used black backup dancers like props. “I don’t keep my producers or dancers around ’cause it makes me look cool,” she says. “Those aren’t my ‘accessories.’ They’re my homies.” Meanwhile, she argues, the idea that she’s somehow playing black is absurd. “I’m from one of the wealthiest counties in America,” she says. “I know what I am. But I also know what I like to listen to. Look at any 20-year-old white girl right now – that’s what they’re listening to at the club. It’s 2013. The gays are getting married, we’re all collaborating. I would never think about the color of my dancers, like, ‘Ooh, that might be controversial.’ What do you mean?” she says with a laugh. “Times are changing. I think there’s a generation or two left, and then it’s gonna be a whole new world.”

    Read more:

    • I’m really confused as to why “the gays are getting married” really warrants being mentioned by Cyrus – just how does she figure that this relevant to critiques of her performance? Just because part of DOMA has been struck down and several states have marriage equality laws, that doesn’t mean that everything is a-ok for LGBTQ people now. I guess it figures into her “a whole new world” vibe, but seriously, Miley. Please read a history book. Or look at the news. Things really aren’t that progressive right now, and you certainly aren’t advancing things by responding to legitimate criticism with a barely coherent argument.

      • I would think that the “whole new world” theme is what motivated here to say that. And kudos to you for pulling out a phrase from Disney. She’d have hated that. Brilliant.

  3. That makes absolutely no sense to me. The fact that she’s from a wealthy background is exactly why it’s so troublesome. Painting this like its racially progressive and that “times are changing” doesn’t address the point at all- it’s a very lazy dodge. The issue isn’t one of cross-culturalism- it’s the way in which she’s taken to using signifiers of urban black culture to demonstrate how rebellious she is. To quote the Jezebel article I’d posted; “If Miley is inspired by gold teeth and bounce music and has friends who are rappers, that’s not a problem. But when she uses these things to re-style her own image, she veers into dangerous territory.”

    Also- “They’re my homies.” I’m sure they are, Miley. I’m sure they are.

  4. I think this is a great article and it brings up a lot of good points, but I just wanted to add something about a generalization you made (the writer touches on it too). I think that it depends on what websites you (general you) frequent and what circles you belong to regarding whether or not slut-shaming was a majority of the commentary. I found that in POC (people of color) spaces, the main issue was cultural appropriation (twerking) and the objectification of black female bodies (Miley’s VMA performance), but in white feminist circles, the main issue was her performance of sexuality.

    • Hey AB,

      This is totally true. I must admit not to reading a lot of the criticisms surrounding her performance (I don’t follow the VMAs or really any sort of popular music, and I couldn’t care less about what Miley was or was not wearing). The only real criticisms that I saw were the FCC complaints (which admittedly, were not generated by any feminist communities). This is what I was referring to when I gestured to the ‘majority’ of criticisms, the complaints that came from the population at large, and not any specific community group online.

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