Memes and Miley: a Modern Day Parable
The last thing I want to do is get dragged into the Miley Cyrus / Robin Thicke VMA fiasco. There is plenty of intelligent commentary on Miley’s fall from grace, Robin’s equal blame, and our society’s return to a post-modern prudity. But the intelligent commentary is, unfortunately, in the minority. For the most part, the Internet responded as the Internet does these days – in 140 characters and memes.
I want you to know that I tried, really truly tried (as in – spent far too many hours Googling every variation of “Miley Cyrus VMA meme” I could think of) to find a few of those memes that I could post here that would be funny but that wouldn’t subject you to gratuitous sex or tempt you to objectify these people more than they have objectified themselves.
I couldn’t find one. Not. A. Single. One.
All of them were offensive, some of them were funny, and a few even gave me hope that we’re not as depraved a society as people think we are.
But there was one in particular that made me, well, sad.
I understand that both Miley and Robin chose to act in a way that indicates they’d prefer to simply chew up, spit out, and take a big ol’ crap on their human dignity. That makes me sad for them. This meme makes me sad for us. Just because they chose to act that way does not give the rest of us permission to forget that the individuals involved in this circus (Miley, her parents, her friends, her fiance, Robin, his parents, his friends, his wife, etc) are people with dignity and worth.
Whereas the memes using still shots of the performance are, for the most part, a commentary on reality (the performance happened, and that’s what it looked like), this one is not at all based on reality – it’s based on our discomfort.
Billy Ray Cyrus has not indicated that because his daughter made what he believes to be a terrible mistake, he wishes she had never been born. Say what you will about his parenting failures, he has never indicated that Miley only exists to make him look good or feel good. In fact, throughout Miley’s fall from cute Disney star to…whatever the heck she was Sunday night, Billy Ray has indicated that she is first and foremost his daughter.
We, however, as a society have indicated that Miley (and others like her) exist only insofar as they can provide entertainment for us, make us feel good about ourselves, or give us fodder for our sexual fantasies. This meme indicates that we’re done with Miley. She embarrassed us because even we can’t believe that we have created a society where anyone would consider that performance acceptable. She made us question our societal insistence that sexualizing women is the way to women’s liberty, that pornography is harmless, and that sexual morality is old fashioned. Because she embarrassed us and convicted us, we think it would be better if she hadn’t been born.
After the VMAs Billy Ray Cyrus didn’t say “I should have pulled out.” He said,
“She’s still my little girl, and I’m still her dad regardless how this circus we call show business plays out. I love her unconditionally and that will never change.”
This is an unconditional love that truly honors Miley’s dignity and worth at a time when we all most need to be reminded of it. It’s a love that refuses to objectify her or try to profit from her.
It’s also a love that does not condone the behavior. Billy Ray sits on the Parents Television Council with its mission to ‘protect children from graphic and gratuitous programming and to restore responsibility to the entertainment industry.’ The same Council who issued a harsh statement condemning the performance.
It’s not all that different from the love another Father has for His daughter Miley, for His children killed in the chemical weapons attack in Syria, for His son who walked into a Georgia elementary school with an assault rifle, for each one of us.
I seem to remember Jesus telling a story a lot like this one. The father in that story didn’t say “I should have pulled out” either.
And the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation…
Shoot, looks like I let myself get dragged in after all…