It’s Monday morning after the MTV Video Music Awards, which means that the Internet’s choice for outrageous, sharable VMA video of the year has already made its way through your various feeds. Yes, that old, familiar feeling is back. You click on Miley Cyrus’ performance of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines,” sense memory takes over, and all of a sudden you find your fingers instinctively fluttering to your mouth as you wallow in a bath of titillation and outrage. She was on some Disney show once!
Yes, yes, I know you want it—to feel scandalized. But may I offer an alternative, one that may be less immediately exciting but ultimately more fulfilling? Try not caring. Step back and really look at the performance. If it were anywhere but the VMAs, we would not be that interested in a mediocre pop star in a beige bathing suit rattling her butt at Alan Thicke’s son in an inept attempt at eroticism. We certainly wouldn’t call it “X-rated.” If you want to see something actually sexy, try porn. Or HBO. Or just wander into any dance club in any major city and see people who can dance better than Cyrus and actually make it hot.
Being outraged at some nonsense at the VMAs is becoming one of our nation’s more embarrassing traditions. It’s easy to understand why. It’s August, people are bored, and getting all bent out of shape about nothing is a way to pass the time. But it has to stop! If you look back at some previous VMA scandals, you’ll see how dumb they always are in retrospect. We as a nation allowed ourselves to get homophobic about Madonna kissing Britney Spears. We had a coast-to-coast panic because Kanye West said something that everyone secretly had to admit was true. We’ve been sucked into scandals that turned out to have been staged. And what was even remotely upsetting about the inaugural VMA outrage—Madonna rolling around on the floor in a bridal gown singing “Like A Virgin”? Most brides aren’t virgins? My eyes! (Meanwhile, the real scandal—that there are still video music awards on a channel that doesn’t play music videos—is such a given that it goes largely uncommented upon.)
Miley Cyrus was so obviously trying to push your buttons, people. Teddy bears to stripping? Oldest trick in the book! She’s insulting our intelligence to think that we’d be scandalized by such an obvious ploy. Don’t let her win.