Too much being made of Miley Cyrus

I’m dope. I’ve got the 4-1-1. And I still don’t know what twerking is.

Sure I had heard the word, but I think I always confused it with “tweaking,” as in tweaking out or going crazy. I am not very involved in pop culture. I like music, but I would be hard pressed to tell you the names of the members of my favorite bands, much less which artist is responsible for the latest obnoxiously catchy pop song or which Hollywood divorce is shocking the nation this week. But I mostly accept that other people are intrigued by these debaucherous goings on and move on with my life.

So two weeks ago when my little sister asked scornfully if I had watched the VMAs, I said of course not and spaced out while her voice careened up an octave and morphed into that of the teacher from Charlie Brown. I made interested noises until she was done, thinking that was the end of it.

Then I noticed that on the top story – I feel the need to stress this was the top story on a generally respected news network while people were being massacred in Syria and Egypt – was Miley Cyrus twerking during her performance at the VMAs.

The internet exploded.

I started avoiding Facebook – my only social media account – because I couldn’t read any more inane and judgmental comments. I have so far avoided throwing my opinion out there, but I just can’t hold it in any longer.

Who cares?

It’s the VMAs, folks. This is the same show where Madonna and Britney Spears kissed a few years ago, causing such a scandal that everyone has mostly forgotten about by now. I have read a lot of reactions to what is, I have determined, just bad dancing in an unflattering outfit. Some columnists bite their nails over how the children who loved Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana will react. They foresee American Eagle selling out of all the flesh colored latex booty shorts and matching bras while parents cry in the corner. Groan. I would suggest not allowing an impressionable child to even watch the VMAs or, if the damage is already done, talk about it. Explain that the dance is ridiculous – and no one can claim she didn’t look a bit silly – and that sometimes people do stupid things.

Another columnist claimed that the dance was racist. Since the dance, she claimed, originated in poor black culture, Miley Cyrus twerking was an appropriation of African American culture by a rich white woman. That seemed to me like more than a bit of a stretch.

Many pieces I’ve read agree with me that this performance should be a non-issue. But we all keep talking about it, even people like me who generally let pop culture do its thing without wasting much energy worrying about it. For many vocal responders, the issue is not the twerk itself but the reactions to the twerk – it seems like kind of a vicious circle, but it’s true. If CNN hadn’t posted the story as the most prominent news of the day, with actual issues like Syria and the Manning trial pushed down the page, I probably wouldn’t have read anything about it and simply let Facebook wear itself out mocking and defending a 20-year-old actress.

But they did, and I did, so here we are. What was, Miley Cyrus has admitted, just a ploy to get people talking has worked. We are talking – about race, sexual identity, feminism and the shallow priorities of our culture. By now Cyrus has mostly been put back where she belongs on the entertainment and gossip pages – and of course the Daily Mining Gazette Living page – and CNN and other news networks have shifted their attention back to actual news.

In the meantime I will be taking bets on the next Hollywood scandal.