Miley, Miley, Miley. She’s whipped parents up into a frenzy and perhaps not in the way she intended. Or maybe it was. I doubt she’s the easily led pop starlet that Mammy O’Connor seems to worry that she is. The whole Robin Thicke/VMA episode pushed boundaries (and bikini lines) just a little bit too far given the show’s potential audience. We now find ourselves in a ‘storm of controversy’ about the heavy dose of sex in pop music, and for that, Miley, I thank you.
I became a prude when the heavy responsibility of owning a 5-year-old daughter dawned on me. They get to an age when Nicki Minaj gyrating on the floor in neon can no longer be mistaken for an episode of the Teletubbies. The questions start. Then the imitation. And don’t get me started on the long-term effects on men’s perceptions of women, female self-esteem, etc, etc , etc. Phew, makes me so hot under the collar I feel like stripping off and putting on a flesh-coloured bikini – if only my principles allowed it.
Let’s be honest, it’s not a new phenomenon. There have been plenty of thrusting crotches (Presley, Jackson) in the history of pop music that have raised the eyebrows of parents fearing for their impressionable young. I’m sure crotches and butts will be thrusting well into the 22nd century and will continue to generate debate as to their effect on our morals. We need to accept that the pop world isn’t going to stop getting its boobs out any time soon. In the face of that, what we can do is develop coping strategies. What can you say to your kids when you find them with Miley’s derriere in their face or listening to what you thought was the radio edit? Here are some ideas, entirely palatable for the prudish parent:
- “No, darling. Those people in the audience aren’t cheering her – they’re laughing at her. Silly thing has forgotten to put her clothes on.”
- “How funny that they’re singing about their socks being on fire. A bit like that Bruno Mars chap singing about how those socks take him to paradise. He’d love M&S wouldn’t he?”
- “I’m not sure why she’s rubbing her bottom on him like that. She doesn’t look very comfortable. It could be worms. Yes, yuck indeed.”
- “Twerking? I’m not sure. Ask Grandad – he’s from Yorkshire.”
- “What does she want? To go up her reward chart of course. She’s been a good girl.”
- “I’m sure that Professor Poet and First Officer Ditty will cover what rhymes with ‘hug me’ on Rhyme Rocket. Let’s not speculate on it in front of your grandmother.”
Rather than beat our heads against a brick wall expecting immediate change, let’s take a step back and view the pop world with humour and disdain in equally useful measures. I hope that I can instill in my kids some sense that what they see on TV and hear on the radio is not aspirational. Let them laugh at it. My daughter needs to know that she doesn’t need to strip down to her undies to be considered attractive or successful or to be empowered. My son needs to understand that there’s more to women than their bodies and what they can do for men.
If entertainment wants to be overtly sexual and entertainers are happy portraying that then who are we really to tell them to stop. Let’s just switch them off. What would be sad would be if the blurred lines between entertainment and reality stopped generating debate and there became no lines at all.