4 Reasons You’re Still Hearing About Miley Cyrus’ VMAs Performance

The singer appeared at the MTV awards show, but she isn't in the news because of what she sang

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Theo Wargo / WireImage / Getty Images

Miley Cyrus performs during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on Aug. 25, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

It seems like only yesterday — OK, it was only yesterday — that the biggest question about the the MTV Video Music Awards was whether *NSYNC would appear.

Though the venerable ’90s boy-band did indeed grace the stage during Justin Timberlake’s medley performance, the “Bye Bye Bye” revival has been overshadowed by a very different act from the Aug. 25 show: Miley Cyrus’ performance of her dance hit “We Can’t Stop” and her duet with Robin Thicke on his “Blurred Lines.” Though much of the set merely expanded on imagery from the songs’ music videos, it was enough to drive the online conversation for much longer than is usual for a few minutes of a cable-TV awards show.

(WATCHThe VMAs: The Best and Worst Performances of the Night)

Here are the four biggest reasons the artist formerly best known as Hannah Montana is all over your news this Monday.

Her tongue

As everyone watching noticed, she stuck her tongue out a lot. Though Bethenny Frankel joked on Twitter that maybe the tongue-hanging-out look was in honor of National Dog Day, most people were just confused and overwhelmed and wanted to talk about it.

The crowd’s response

A photo of the Smith family reacting to the performance went viral almost immediately…

…but, as Slate points out, that photo is actually of the family watching Lady Gaga‘s performance (still, there were plenty of other horrified reactions to choose from).

(PHOTOSCelebs Hit the Red Carpet at the 2013 VMAs)

Nudity and Sex

Even more prominent than Cyrus’ tongue was her, well, pretty much everything else. When Cyrus emerged from a giant teddy bear at the beginning of her set, she was wearing a skimpy bear-appliqué leotard (maybe a play on “teddy,” maybe just weird) and, for her duet with Thicke, she stripped to a nude bikini in homage to the scantily clad woman of the “Blurred Lines” video. A tiny outfit is hardly shocking — Lady Gaga has frequently worn less, and there were no ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ — but Cyrus paired her ensemble with lewd gestures, some of which were directed at stuffed animals (to be fair to the performance, the teddies appear in the video too, so this isn’t exactly new). It was a message that, coming from the former Disney star, read pretty clearly as a literal “screw you” to wholesomeness.

Some of the day-after noise is shock over her actions. But, as Gothamist points out, there’s also concern about that shock. Whether audiences should be scandalized by what a young woman is wearing and what she does as part of an overtly sexual performance — especially when she’s performing in the context of lots of other crazy clothes (see: Gaga) and songs about sex — is, by now, garnering more attention than the original scandal did.

Race

As New York magazine’s Jody Rosen points out in a sharp analysis of the performance, Cyrus’ set (as with much of her recent oeuvre) appropriates and tweaks many aspects of music, dance and dress that are closely associated with African-American culture, especially those aspects that Cyrus herself has called “hood.” Per Rosen’s take, the VMA performance “gives minstrelsy a postmodern careerist spin”: Cyrus is using that appropriation to help make it clear what kind of artist she wants to be (not Hannah Montana), in order to sell more records. Is Miley Cyrus just part of the ever-evolving interplay between pop-music cultures in the U.S. — a story that, while still problematic in some cases, is old as rock and roll — or is she making tongue-out mockery of a culture she picks and chooses from for her own profit?

When you think of it that way, it’s less surprising that people are still talking about the show she put on. Which means these aren’t so much reasons you’re hearing about Miley Cyrus today — they’re reasons you’ll probably be hearing about her for a long time.

101 comments
kizi2s
kizi2s

My first observation is most people who are so outraged became outraged AFTER hearing that others were becoming outraged or just the buzz of the performance. People who never have watched the VMA's because if they had this would not be shocking. Second, many male performers have made a career from the rock god pose of the tongue out. Most notably Gene Simmons of Kiss. Never once have I seen any blog or comment on his constant thrashing of his tongue. To the incensed moms, get over it. Hannah Montana is dead. It was a TV character played by a teenage who in fact is no longer a teenager. Our infantilism of our children by the self absorbed mothers who refuse to let their kids grow up is more of a detriment to our society than Miley's performance. Ask any college professor about the endless calls checking on Johnny's grades or inquiring about up coming assignments, calling to make sure they are up for class. Look in mirror before the TV set blaming societies problems on a singer. What a boneheaded article.  No dear, the only reason I'm still reading about it is that you just wrote an article about it.  I didn't come here to read about Miley, only clicked through to correct the glaring mistake in logic posed to us.

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phanglol
phanglol

a character that everyone knows, a TV character as a teenager in fact no longer a teenager. our calculation of our children by the self-absorbed mother refused to allow their children to grow up is more of a detriment to our society than Miley's performance. Ask any college professor of endless calls checking on Johnny's class or asked to be assigned to the job, call to make sure they get to class. Look in the mirror before blaming social problems on TV a singer.
Miley just trying to prove his point: It's party we can do what we want. Them is a good idea and do a lot of work to appear on TV. http://kizi.kizi8x.com | http://kizi.kizigames2014.com

ngockonvang
ngockonvang

Contrary to what you often read, Miley Cyrus is not "hot."  Pretty, yes -- not hot.  You read more about her clothing (or lack of) or whom she's keeping company with, than about her music.  I can't believe we'll be hearing many Billboard hits from Ms. Cyrus.

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JustinBeberIsMileyCyrus
JustinBeberIsMileyCyrus

What a boneheaded article.  No dear, the only reason I'm still reading about it is that you just wrote an article about it.  I didn't come here to read about Miley, only clicked through to correct the glaring mistake in logic posed to us.


Why am I really reading about it?  Because you didn't put forth enough of an effort to cover new events.

lsyeuanh
lsyeuanh

I love I seen any blog or comment on his constant thrashing of his tongue. To the incensed moms, get over it. Hannah Montana is dead. It was a TV character played by a teenage who in fact is no longer a teenager. Our infantilism of our children by the self absorbed mothers who refuse to let their kids grow up is more of a detriment to our society than Miley's performance. Ask any college professor about the endless calls checking on Johnny's grades or inquiring about up coming assignments, calling to make sure they are up for class. Look in mirror before the TV set blaming societies problems on a singer.


Miley is only trying to prove her point: It's our party we can do what we want.

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Patriot60
Patriot60

People still can't get over how stupid she looks in her granny panties.

gildedbutterflies
gildedbutterflies

Tis odd how one can bare so much flesh and shake so much booty and still not come off as even remotely sexy or seductive or even funny. It was...well ...amusing???

Miss Cyrus's performance was too desperate to be enjoyable. It was sad in that sense.

It was the most tasteless performance I ever hope to see.

Poor girl, with all that money,couldn't she have hired more talented people?

soWWMD
soWWMD

My first observation is most people who are so outraged became outraged AFTER hearing that others were becoming outraged or just the buzz of the performance. People who never have watched the VMA's because if they had this would not be shocking. Second, many male performers have made a career from the rock god pose of the tongue out. Most notably Gene Simmons of Kiss. Never once have I seen any blog or comment on his constant thrashing of his tongue. To the incensed moms, get over it. Hannah Montana is dead. It was a TV character played by a teenage who in fact is no longer a teenager. Our infantilism of our children by the self absorbed mothers who refuse to let their kids grow up is more of a detriment to our society than Miley's performance. Ask any college professor about the endless calls checking on Johnny's grades or inquiring about up coming assignments, calling to make sure they are up for class. Look in mirror before the TV set blaming societies problems on a singer.

MaxWright1
MaxWright1

@soWWMD "Our infantilism of our children by the self absorbed mothers who refuse to let their kids grow up is more of a detriment to our society than Miley's performance. "

 Well said!

ProfLewis
ProfLewis

She wins, everybody ia disgusted with that performance... and they're being disgusted over and over and over as they watch it time after time.  

silverose
silverose

Initially, Miley is only trying to prove her point: It's our party we can do what we want. The main problem? It wasn't actually her party.

palmerjbarneyjr
palmerjbarneyjr

Before this performance and all of the controversy, I did not know or care about Miley Cirus. Now I am reading about her all over the media in all kinds of op-ed opinions. That is great name recognition for an entertainer, because I am not in her age demographic and now I will listen to her music!

MichaelB
MichaelB

@palmerjbarneyjr Contrary to what you often read, Miley Cyrus is not "hot."  Pretty, yes -- not hot.  You read more about her clothing (or lack of) or whom she's keeping company with, than about her music.  I can't believe we'll be hearing many Billboard hits from Ms. Cyrus.

pbug56
pbug56

Obviously she's moving towards her career goal of being a pole dancer, or perhaps working in a low class strip club.  I wouldn't care as much if there weren't so many teen age girls who consider her a role model.

BSF1
BSF1

Everyone is talking about her. Isn't that exactly what she (or her handlers) wanted??????  Music and/or artistry be damned!!!!

Celebrity-ism is all that matters today, talent is irrelevant.  Outlandish behavior produces it's own reward.

ngc
ngc

@BeebeLisa you strippers are actually sexy.btway you girls are entertaining adults at private clubs not on national television. Even pole dancing can be a fine art when an experienced dancer adds acrobatics to the choreography. This Miley girl is not sexy. To make matters worse she is doing this not sexy yet really disgusting stuff on national television whilst the whole world is watching. 

MichaelB
MichaelB

@ngc @BeebeLisa Her body movement during her VMA antics didn't even look like Miley is coordinated.  Her movements were very choppy.  Not at all seductive.

pturner1976
pturner1976

Let me get this straight. If you aren't black, and you use african american dance moves to make money. You are racist? OMG. How do these wierd thoughts enter someone's mind??

Me4914
Me4914

What I find even more shocking is this is considered news.  Simple fact sex sells sure some of the uppity people are throwing out their moral laden holier than thou disapproval like Miley is the only woman to do this implying that before she came along highschool kids didn't twerk or do other sex inspired dances.

I think people should stop being prudes and not worry about what Miley does because in the end she's just doing her job and for every stuck up snob that condemns her actions there are 100 or more people that understand that this is just entertainment. I'm in the latter she had the body for it why not use it..

Keep up the great work Miley!!

lovism
lovism

man. young people doing senseless acts, selling their souls and there're people admiring and egging them on. It's not Miley and co. who are the social ills. It's people like you who are. You're very, very confused and misguided. You're confused having confidence in oneself and having skills and taste and audacity to be pioneers with being simply trash.