Last night I’m minding my business watching an old episode of Rookie Blue (because I literally can’t help but watch every police drama on television and I’m old) and the Facebooksphere explodes with “OMG, Miley” ranging from humor to pity to outrage.
I watched the performance and felt just the one emotion — sad. Sad for a generation of young girls that are watching a squeaky clean role model implode, sad that she must not have a Grandma Wanda in her life. (You know, that person you’d rather die than disappoint. That person whose opinion means so much you manage to keep your clothes on.)
Growing up my parents weren’t strict by some standards, but steadfast when it came to the sexualization of the three Harris sisters. I’ll never forget being allowed to finally watch a 90210 episode (with my mom sitting next to me) after begging for weeks. It was the episode where Brenda (or was it Kelly?) lost her virginity after a school dance. We never again watched 90210 at our house. My mother never was embarrassed by sexuality and I had the ‘talk’ earlier than any of my friends after I started asking questions. She was always honest about the consequences of our actions, of what we wore. About how it was a reflection of who we are.
And that’s the problem right about now. The Disney machine has created a subculture of asexual young role models with little dimension who wake up one day to find they are full-grown women. And they’re usually loaded. And hell bent on proving they are no longer girls.
But, can we blame them? Miley Cyrus is 20. And while I had a network of family that held me accountable and loved me to frustration in my youth, clearly this girl didn’t and doesn’t.
I shudder to think how many PLCs (poor life choices) I made (and you, too) at that age. I was in college hours away from home and long before cell phone cameras or Facebook. My mistakes never were caught on film (because I’m so old we didn’t have digital and once about every six months someone would have the nerve to show up to the party with a disposable Kodak camera).
If we’re going to point fingers around here, I’d like to aim at least one at Robin Thicke who is a full-grown man with a brain who participated in the performance. I remember when Britney Spears had her MTV VMA “I’m a woman, hear me get undressed!” moment. I felt then as I do now that it’s a sad thing that we can’t find some balance between being ashamed of our bodies and sexuality and utter exploitation. That when some girls become women they don’t go to “I am woman, hear me roar!” and prove to the world they are capable and strong. Instead they take off their clothes because it’s their party and they’ll do what they want to.
The first time I heard the “Can’t Stop” song I caught on the lyric, “it’s my mouth I can say what I want to” and winced. It goes right up there with “if it feels good, do it.” Even, perhaps, above getting way too naked in public, is this attitude that we can all just say and do whatever we want. That we don’t belong to each other. This belief I’ve noticed of late that honesty is always better than kindness. Just because you can do something, you shouldn’t do it. This attitude that consequence is of no consequence. But, what are consequences now?
Goals, I realize each day, aren’t what they used to be. Being famous, lighting up the twitterverse are their own sort of goals. There’s a generation of talentless people living the high life and another generation watching with rapt attention in hopes they’ll be next. I wanted to get into college and get a good job and go on vacation to the beach every year. Maybe win a Pulitzer or write a best seller. Being famous wasn’t the goal of very many people.
I’m so old, in fact, I remember when The Real World actually felt like a social experiment and The Bachelor premiered (and I totally watched every episode that first year) and thinking “who are these people that don’t mind the entire world watching them French kiss someone in a hot tub?” And now it’s all quite tame.
It’s not that we weren’t misbehaving as we tried to grapple with womanhood and adulthood, it’s that our PLCs were considered, just that. They weren’t glorified and we weren’t making a paycheck off of them.
If there’s one thing that’s come from this Mileygate bit (I mean didn’t we see it coming when she posed topless before she could drive for Vanity Fair?) it’s this: there are a lot of people out there disturbed and disgusted. I don’t think we have any right to judge other people (but, what would I blog about if I didn’t judge just a little bit?), but the fact that there’s been an outcry says much about our standards. And it gives me hope. That maybe there are enough people left out there who think, “it’s my mouth and I can say what I want to and what I want to say is keep your clothes on.”