Miley Cyrus's performance (some would call it "behavior") was an impeccably hewn diamond, each facet trolling a different subset of the internet with laserlike precision. She hit all the big ones. She was obscene, she was hideously racist, she's just not very good at dancing... And then there's anger at the event itself. There's her collaboration with Robin Thick in his apology for rape culture. There's the way she's been slut-shamed. There's the fact that she's distracting from actually important issues. There are even people who are angry about how angry everybody is. Miley Cyrus and the VMAs are, in effect, the worst thing to happen on the internet for at least several minutes.
I have seen terrible things on the internet before. I think we all have at least one gaping asshole or horse-sodomy video we're still trying to purge from our subconscious. What interests me about this "scandal" is that everybody's equally up in arms about it, but we're all mad for different reasons. That says to me that there is perhaps something more primal, more unifyingly "human" going on here.
Besides her talent for making astonishingly unattractive facial expressions, I can't find much to distinguish Miley Cyrus from anybody else who has ever lived. She's not an exceptional singer, she dances like an undersexed marionette in bad need of repair, and her fashion sense is calculatedly awful. As far as I can tell, she is one of those people who is important solely because of how terrible she is. It creates a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario, where it's hard to say whether we only think she's so terrible because of how sweet she used to be, or whether she's become so terrible because of how sweet she used to be, or whether she used to be so sweet because she was hiding how terrible she was, or whether the sweetness was just a massive setup for the publicity she's gaining by being so terrible. The only common denominator we have here, the only thing everyone can agree on, is that Miley Cyrus is terrible.
And everyone does agree. I mean everyone. Whether they're condemning her performance, or defending her from slut-shaming, no writer I've read has ever tried to claim that Miley Cyrus is actually good at anything other than pissing people off. It is entirely possible that the only human beings who enjoyed that performance were the shockingly small crowd of people at the taping who were desperately trying to reach over the rim of the stage and grab her butt. Alright, I think I've found the common denominator.
The purpose of Miley Cyrus - in fact, the purpose of the VMAs as a whole (Madonna, Kanye, Robin Thicke, and on and on) - is to be horrible. Not just edgy, not just irreverent, but massively, unforgivably horrible. I put it to you that it is physically impossible to watch the video of that performance without feeling disgusting. And that's the way MTV wants it. Why? You mean, besides the fact that it's the best marketing anyone could ask for? Well, for the same reason the Romans blamed every bad thing that happened on their vestal virgins. The same reason they sacrificed goats to appease angry gods. The same reason the Norse had Loki. Because it's extremely satisfying to be able to find everything you hate about the world in a single person. One stop shopping, you know?
This is what Miley Cyrus has become: A made thing, injection-molded by record executives to sell singles. I would not be surprised if the only thing under those skin-colored panties is a Barbie-style swath of perfectly smooth skin. She was there to be molded, and so she has been molded into a thing that we as a society feel we desperately need: a hate-totem.
And to an extent, I think this is healthy. It's a rage ritual that we badly need in this age of rage. It's a good old fashioned orgy of fury. And hey, it forces us to name the things that piss us off, which is probably good. But at the same time, I think we've got to ask ourselves why it is that we keep killing all our pop stars. Goats would probably be cheaper.
Cory O'Brien actually knows very little about pop stars, this article notwithstanding. Mostly he knows mythology. He has a whole website full of it over here, and also a book full of it over here.