Media has double standard in judging Cyrus, Thicke’s performance
When it comes to nearly anything produced by MTV nowadays, one can typically expect the content to be void of anything substantial or newsworthy. The key word here is “typically.”
This year’s MTV Video Music Awards were host to one of 2013’s most buzzed-about topical events.
In case you’ve forgotten, it involved teddy bears, a pop star desperately trying to separate herself from anything having to do with a certain state in the Midwest and the world’s unluckiest foam finger.
Miley Cyrus’ performance was many things; cringe-worthy, degrading and awkwardly provocative are just a few of the phrases that first come to mind.
One word that doesn’t describe the public’s reaction to it is “polarizing.” If anything, the verdict was rather unanimous opinion toward Cyrus’ new image.
Most viewers seem united in their crusade against her. YouTube comments on the performance’s video feature more expletives directed toward Cyrus than not. Colloquial slurs reserved exclusively for the “sexually sprightly” have been thrown in manners all too casual and comfortable.
Forbes’ Zach Greenberg described Cyrus’ performance as something that “scandalized (Robin Thicke) on national television.”
Let’s break that down a bit.
Cyrus’ performance was scandalous, absolutely, but that’s not what Greenberg — or most of the public, for that matter — have focused on in their analysis of her routine. Rather, Cyrus’ values system — and Cyrus’ values system alone — have been brought into questioning by the always-judicial court of public opinion.
Critics of the performance have glaringly neglected the presence of a fairly prominent pop star in her routine — a star who’s had a great deal more experience in show business than her, too.
Robin Thicke, a man who made no visible efforts to avoid the gyrations of Cyrus or her ill-fated foam finger, has completely shirked any criticism or culpability for his role in the infamous performance.
People like Greenberg have even gone so far as to say that Thicke was actively “scandalized” by Cyrus’ performance … Right. Because nobody better represents a moral high ground than Thicke, the same man who’s grossly profited off one of the decade’s most misogynistic music videos.
Why Thicke hasn’t been held to the same level of responsibility that Cyrus has is more than likely a result of many underlying factors at play.
First, gender conventions have influenced the public’s perception of the performer’s actions, if only subconsciously.
The age-old “boys-will-be-boys” adage that’s used to excuse men’s chauvinistic behavior both makes Thicke’s behavior seem inevitable and Cyrus’ behavior seem catalytic; in other words, we shouldn’t have expected Thicke to object to Cyrus’ advances because he’s male and was put in the position to act accordingly.
Electrical engineering junior Erik Van Aller described the standard he feels all performers, regardless of gender, should be held to.
“It’s insulting to men when we’re held to a lower standard than women are,” Aller said. “Our actions aren’t more excusable than the actions of women … That’s just plain discrimination.”
It’s worth noting that Thicke isn’t just another pop superstar who’s only different from Cyrus in terms of gender. Rather, Thicke is something of an industry veteran.
He’s had far more experience in the spotlight than Cyrus, and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to wish for a world in which Thicke might have advised Cyrus against the performance.
As many of us know, he’s also a man who’s constantly citing the importance of his family in his life. More often than not though, Thicke brings up his family in order to validate his rowdiness.
Most recently, when his “Blurred Lines” video was welcomed with vicious criticism, Thicke wasted no time noting that his wife had given him permission to perform alongside the scantily clad models.
Considering Thicke’s tendency to surround himself with the kinds of women that create controversy — in other words, publicity — one can only wonder if Thicke’s impression upon hearing the performance’s pitch was an opportunity ripe with the kind of controversy that inevitably leads to media exposure. After all, his first LP in almost five years hit shelves just weeks before the award show. According to Billboard Music, it’s his best-selling record so far, surpassing his next most recent one by 40,000 copies.
Seems like Thicke’s business model is working out fairly well.
It doesn’t take a village to figure out Miley Cyrus wasn’t recruited by MTV to perform at their largest annual awards show because of her reputation for refinement.
Still, Cyrus’ right to be treated equally under the microscopic eye of public opinion has been critically compromised. The explicit manner in which Cyrus expressed her sexuality doesn’t invite defending, but her right to be held to the same standard as Thicke in that expression absolutely requires it.
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]