At this point, pretty much everyone knows that all these awards are ridiculous. And perhaps these more than any others. We roll our eyes when a Grammy gets given out to a basic New Artist (how about that back-to-back-to-back streak of Norah Jones, Evanescence and Maroon 5 back in 2003-2005?), an American Music Award for Artist of the Year gets handed over to Justin Bieber, or we have to hold down our lunch when Taylor Swift cleans up at the Billboard Music Awards. But the VMAs have a special place in our hearts. At least, the hearts beating in bodies that were born between 1978 and 2000.
See, back in the day, MTV used to be about music videos in a way that it isn’t now, and in a way that skews the way we think about music videos in general. By that I mean music video success is gauged, more than ever, on YouTube views, BuzzFeed outrage or Facebook shares. No one will ever, EVER forget Madonna rolling around that stage in her virginal whites back in 1984. Or when Britney wore that sexy sparkle suit in 2000 and fucked with a python in 2001. And, of course, 2013 will be known as the year that Miley Cyrus stole the show with her twerking and her creepy latex two-piece.
Sure, by now, this is old news, but I wanted to point out a few resources for your edification and to bolster your dinner conversation game. First, here’s a great Mashable URL that’s got all of the night’s performances embedded for your convenience (Warning: you gotta have Quicktime). Before we get down to Miley, let’s quickly address some of the other performances. Gaga started the show off surprisingly nicely with a three-maybe-technically-four outfit-change moment with the very mediocre “Applause.” In one of the surprisingly decent performances of the evening, Katy Perry closed the night out underneath the Brooklyn Bridge with the obnoxiously fun “Roar,” and Bruno Mars continued to be so damn charming with a stellar, emotional and really well-produced light show behind “Gorilla.” But all anyone was talking about—and is still talking about—is how stupid Miley looked performing a medley of “We Can’t Stop/Blurred Lines/Give It 2 U” with Robin Thicke, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar.
Okay, so first of all, the video itself (162+ million views to date) is obnoxious, and the fact that a live and in-concert performance/manifestation of that video is annoying on many levels is a surprise to no one. This chile is a fame whore, and she’s gunning for being on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and on that front, the Sunday night performance was a smash hit. There’ve been countless essays, think pieces, blog posts, spoofs (The Onion, way ahead of its time) and memes churned out in its wake, and sadly, that’s exactly what Ms. Cyrus was hoping for. The phrases slut-shaming, cultural appropriation, racism and hypersexual have been tossed around like funfetti in the social media world. But the saddest thing about it? She’s just not that special. And we’re a dumb culture for being so shocked and affected by this thirsty, basic trick.