First, let me apologize if you have been living in the happy little bubble of Doc McStuffins and Cheerios and know nothing about what I am going to address. I, too, was living in my own sort of bubble until one of my Instagram friends made a reference to Miley Cyrus that piqued my curiosity and, unfortunately, I took the bait. (And if you are one of those people who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, please don’t go look it up. No, really.) Sorry as I am that I can’t un-see that, I now feel duty bound to weigh-in (with the rest of the world) on this sad spectacle of a young woman “coming of age.”
I’m embarrassed to admit that once I caught wind of this story I couldn’t stop reading the commentary. I think I desperately wanted to know that most people felt the same way I did (shocked, repulsed, sad, angry, embarrassed), and thank goodness I was right. But of all the things I saw and read, what struck me the most was a pre-show red carpet interview with Miley where she said her performance that night would be a starting point for her “movement.”
A movement? What movement? The only movement I saw were the desperate and hyper-sexualized movements on stage that showed a young woman crying out for help and attention. (In full color. On live TV.) Heaven help me if what Miley Cyrus did on stage that night started any kind of movement among people who vote, bear children, or in any other way affect the world in which I raise my children. (I mean it, don’t go watch it. You’ll be sorry.)
The whole thing kind of hit me in a weird way since all the buzz was happening on the same day my youngest daughter was starting kindergarten. As I watched Rachael’s sweet and innocent face fill with excitement over this new milestone in her life, I couldn’t help but think that Miley was once that sweet and innocent, too. Even more sobering, I realized my own daughter would someday be a young adult woman like Miley wanting to make her mark on the world. What kind of mark would that be? How would my own daughter view her “coming of age” metamorphosis?
A question many of us have asked is why do so many child-stars-gone-wrong think that growing up means going raunchy? Which leads to the topic of judgment. Based on the words of Miley’s song and some of the comments she made, I gather that this “movement” she wants to start includes a world of no rules and no judgment. Hmm. I can’t think of anything more naive and childish! Of course we have to have rules and pass judgement. All of us do. How else do we make decisions about what is good and bad for our bodies, minds and souls? How else do we decide what to do with our lives if not through judgment? Grow up!
Speaking of which, where were the grown-ups on Sunday night? Is this really the kind of entertainment people want? Is this sort of media really a reflection of our society, or is there just a small handful of reckless, perverted “grown-ups” somewhere in the production department of MTV trying to influence society in a really unfortunate way? These supposed grown-ups, presumably some with children (and, yes, Robin Thicke is a married man with a child), actually have a measure of power through their industry to decide what is cool for our children and set a tone for them to emulate and follow. Personally, I’m not OK with that. Sure, the vast majority of people felt that this performance was inappropriate for pretty much everyone watching that night, but it still aired on TV, didn’t it? And didn’t the pictures then circulate on every mainstream TV channel and the internet every day for the next week? That wouldn’t have happened 50 years ago.
I understand that I’m very traditional. But the difference between me and a lot of other people is that I don’t mind being considered traditional. I happen to think that living a clean and wholesome life is a virtue, not something to be embarrassed about. I’m sure there were as many people who had the same reaction to Elvis Presley 50 years ago as there were to Miley Cyrus today, but if we look at the transition from Presley to Miley and then try to imagine what to expect in the next 50 years, where does it end? What’s next? Total nudity on prime time? What does TV14 mean, anyway? What is the end point for going down this road of constantly trying to be ever more shocking and on the “cutting edge” of entertainment?
To me, it’s just getting weirder, baser and more perverse. Where is the art and the inspiration? Where are the grown-ups using their talents and influence for good? Do we really want the hallmark of our society to be our ability to look the other way and never judge something as being unworthy of our attention? Are all art forms, all lifestyles and all life decisions equally valuable? Is that really true? Or are there times when the grown-ups of the world should say to those within their influence, “No! That is not OK! That is not going to help you or make this world a better place. Change courses. Now!”
As mothers, we can either throw our hands up in the air and say, “Oh, well, there’s not much I can do about it,” or we can speak up and out and refuse to let our culture go in this direction. How do we do that? Through mothering. Plain and simple. Mothers have more impact on the future boys and girls of this world than anyone. Case in point, Miley’s mother was in the audience that night, standing and applauding with everyone else at the end of her daughter’s public display of tacky pornography. Yes, we should love our children no matter what, but should we condone and support every single move and decision they make without judgment? What is the point of parenthood then? Someone should have told Miley along the way that this is not how to show you are a grown-up. Being a grown-up is a lot of things, but none of them were on stage that night.
And if I had the kind of stage Miley Cyrus has, that’s the movement I’d try to start. A movement where the young adults of the world view their coming-of-age as a sacred opportunity to make the world a better place through their intelligence, hard work and kindness. Not a sexier, edgier, more “open” place, but a better place. As a mother, I can start this movement in my own home with my own daughters. (I have a son too, but a discussion about the “man” who performed with Miley that night will have to wait for another day.) After watching this sad misuse of talent, I want more than ever to use my influence to encourage my daughters to use their life’s stage to make this world a better place.
Because that’s what real grown-ups do.
QUESTION: What kind of discussions are you having at your house about this?
CHALLENGE: Think about the lessons you want your kids to learn from this and have a family discussion about what kind of mark they want to leave on the world and what they think it means to be a grown-up.