I like to consider myself an eternal teenybopper, a tween at heart who has managed to figure out how to masquerade as a functioning grown up. In fact, I have often vowed to never fully grow up and let the cynicism of adulthood taint my love for pop culture and its fresh, silly, innocent-yet-envelope-pushing nature. Despite my personal mission to remain a teenager at heart, I have developed a nagging feeling of old age this week thanks to the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. That’s right, the twerking bears, rogue foam finger and revenge via moonman have caused me to question my eternal youth. I believe the undeniable question of the week is whether or not many of us have grown up and out of the VMAs’ notorious shock and awe, or if some artists have finally pushed us all too far.
By now, every last person on planet earth has seen Miley Cyrus’ near public impregnation, her Robin Thicke bump and grind session going viral long before the last moonman had been awarded. While the twerking bears, incessant side-mouth tongue-sticking-out and general epitomization of a weird, bear-like bathing suit clad stripper aren’t my cup of tea, I could still chalk the rebellious behavior and over the top performance up to her “just being Miley” these days; it is the VMA’s after all, an awards show notorious for outrageous happenings. I was even still hanging on for hope when she stripped down into her less than lovely nude patent leather bikini for an apparent duo with Robin Thicke.
However, I believe the moment I completely fell of the wagon was when ex-Hannah Montana’s large foam finger – an accessory that would see more inappropriate action than a Jersey shore summer house throughout the performance – found it’s way to Thicke’s “region” and lingered there for far too long. I am also certain I heard the collective gasp of America when she bent over in front of Thicke and all but made a baby right there on the VMA stage. I am certain that throughout all the crotch-grabbing, foam finger pornography and nearly naked twerking, my jaw never came up off the floor.
A quick Google search proves the above-mentioned performance stole the show in terms of shock value and national outrage, but there were plenty of other borderline “WTF?!” moments thanks to both Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. I suppose Lady Gaga’s performance was actually only run-of-the-mill weird when remembering years past, inclusive of a full-on meat ensemble and male alter ego, and I am totally down with the new single, as she clearly continues to impress musically. However, I don’t know that anyone of any age would have minded if she had chosen to not traipse around in her Little Mermaid 2.0 thong for the remainder of the evening.
Gaga may have just been being Gaga, maintaining her mother monster status in a few less clothes than deemed necessary(if only by me), but America’s sweetheart took a page out of Yeezus’ book circa 2009, turning off the high road to diss ex-beau Harry Styles not once, but twice. Our girl Taylor is obviously my spirit animal, so it pains me to disagree with her in any any, but when she was caught red-lipped in the audience mouthing “shut the f**k up” while Style’s and his 1D bandmates presented for Best Pop Video, there was definitely a moment. I get it, girl – he’s probably a little bit of a playboy; that hair and that accent are a lethal combination and the song you wrote was likely warranted. Even so, you already dissed him at the Grammys when you mocked his (sexy) accent during your performance. Enough is enough; we all need to move past your time together and shock value just isn’t the name of your game.
Okay, so perhaps, like me, you considered that our beloved Swift had no idea the camera had panned to her (rookie mistake, since your highly publicized ex was presenting) and she was taking a moment to vent to her bestie. You cut her some slack and all was well with the world again. That is, until she won a Best Female Video moonman for “I Knew You Were Trouble” and people were wishing Kanye would interrupt her speech. After years of taking the high road and gaining millions of fans in the process, Taylor used her time on stage to take the third, and hopefully final, jab at Styles, saying, “I also want to thank the person who inspired the song, who knows exactly who he is, because now I have one of these!” Obviously, Harry’s face was plastered on the television screen faster than Taylor could all but reveal he was the object of her anti-affection, yet he was cool as a British cucumber with an unaffected, innocent-yet-mischevious smile; the epitome of the calm I wish Taylor had been. Taylor, my spirit animal, I still want to be you when I grow up but I like it better when you keep the shock value to a minimum and only write songs about your exes, not put them on blast like a certain rapper we all booed in your honor not so long ago.
For me personally, the stars of the evening were Justin Timberlake (duh) as he epically sang his way through his career with serious swag, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert with their ‘Same Love’ performance and Drake, who continued to represent relevant rap that pushes the envelope; and let’s be honest, *NSync’s reunion, no matter how short lived, is the stuff that VMA dreams are actually made of. These were epic performances. These were fun, cutting edge, culturally relevant performances. Yet, my opinions takes us back to the burning question: does turning our nose up at Miley’s over-twerked performance or Taylor’s 1D diss mean we have outgrown the antics of the VMAs? Are we making our way out of entertainment’s target demographic if Lady Gaga serves up about as much born-this-way-behavior as we can handle? Perhaps, but I also think their is validity in the argument that the shock is just a little too shocking for even the coolest of cool.
Speaking of the boys of One Direction, the pop culture kings who have drummed up the closest thing to “Beatle-mania” we will see in our lifetime, were caught slightly perplexed and not sure which way to look during the Cyrus/Thicke escapade. While Harry chomped his gum, Zayn was seen looking away uncomfortably as Liam, Louis and Niall awkwardly smirked. The pop culture kings weren’t the only ones who seemed unimpressed by the performance. Rihanna, who sat right in front of the boy band, was the latest person to master her McKayla Maroney “not impressed” face, while Drake looked away from the action, keeping his head down for the entirety of the performance. Even Selena and Taylor, who could be seen partaking in their typical BFF dance-a-thon during “We Can’t Stop”, had to put their moves on hold due to what appeared to be disbelief.
Entertainment’s cool kids didn’t seem to be enlightened by the abundance of shock and awe in the moment and the media was quick to announce their agreement. E! Online took to Twitter with a Mean Girls reference proclaiming, “Raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by Miley Cyrus’ #VMAs performance.” Huffington Post Teen’s blogger Blake Kernen expressed her desire to hang on to Hannah Montana and the days of old, while slightly rejecting Miley’s new brand of crazy. And the social media scene? The response far and wide from fellow celebrities and fans, the young and not so young, did not necessarily command glowing reviews. While not everyone was as mortified by her performance – Rolling Stone asserted that Miley was “the one star in the room who truly understood what the MTV Video Music Awards are all about” – a majority of America seems to be reevaluating how far entertainment has pushed us in the name of being known.
In review, there was a lot of nearly nude twerking, unexpected profanity, indirect ex-beau bashing and the breakout stardom of a foam finger. When all the pomp and circumstance was said and done, MTV got the boost in ratings they were after, but does that mean we liked it? I stand firm in the belief that my excitement over the *NSync reunion, a never-ending love for JT, an interest in the fandom of British pop stars and a newfound theme song in Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ uphold my place within the VMAs demographic. But, there is always that outside chance I am just too stubborn to realize I have outgrown the VMAs, sounding like my grandmother talking about “kids these days”!
Tell us what you think! Are we all getting a little tired of the one-upping, attention-seeking tactics of some entertainers or is this truly the latest and greatest pop culture has to offer?