Remember when Madonna was shocking and outrageous? Back in the early ’80s, she combined sexuality with religious imagery in ways that shocked and angered many people. (Personally, I thought Weird Al did it better in his parody than she did.)
Who else has shocked you? Lady Gaga and her meat dress or her recent nude video? Or maybe you’re old enough to remember when John Lennon shocked people by proclaiming that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
When I got online Monday morning, it seemed as though the whole world was talking about something scandalous that Miley Cyrus did on an MTV awards show Sunday night. On Facebook, it seemed for awhile that half the posts I saw were about her — some outraged, some disgusted and a few defending her.
I honestly don’t know the specifics of what Cyrus did to get everybody upset — and I don’t care to know. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch television, but this isn’t something I’d have been watching even if I did still watch TV. It’s apparently popular with millions of people, but it’s beyond my comprehension to understand why. It’s not that I think I’m too good for a pedestrian medium such as television or something like that. I just don’t think that participating in most of pop culture is very good for me — and I don’t think the culture that’s emerged is a healthy one for anyone.
Maybe there’s always been a popular culture that has shocked older generations. That’s definitely been the case ever since the mass media have been around. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems as though celebrities seem to be going to ever-increasingly lengths to shock people — to change their reputations, create talk and make them more valuable in the long run.
So why does anyone care what Miley Cyrus does? She’s a 20-year-old with no special claim to fame other than some singing and acting roles over the past six or seven years. Why would millions of people — literally — have been talking about her Monday? Why do these non-entities have this sort of power over the public?
They have the power because you worship them and follow them like royalty. You treat them like they’re important. Maybe not you personally, but “you” in the sense of the public. The media treat them as though they’re news because millions and millions of people watch anything put on television or posted on the Internet about them. But don’t blame the media. Blame the public. It’s the market driving their decisions about what’s important.
The United States and Great Britain are probably about to launch an attack on Syria, but the media were too busy pushing the Miley Cyrus story to care too much about that. And why would they? They’re giving people what they want. Although this is satire from the Onion, this fake explanation from CNN about why the Miley Cyrus story was the lead story on CNN’s website is too close to the truth to ignore.
I’m not outraged by whatever Miley Cyrus did. I just don’t care. I’m much more concerned that so many people care what she did than I am about whatever silliness or lewdness a 20-year-old did for attention.
If you find it as silly as I do, tune celebrity culture out and encourage others to do the same. Don’t wait until they shock you. Enjoy their movies when you want and enjoy their music when you want, but don’t worship the stars. Don’t pay attention to their private lives. Don’t turn them into heroes. You’re giving them way too much power over our culture when you do that.