Or, Yes People Are Still Talking About That Miley Cyrus Performance *Sigh*
Had a Facebook argument about the whole Miley affair, yes in some parts this still rages on (!) and having thought about it overnight I’ve realised what’s bugging me about the response to her:
1) Agency. There are lots of white middle class voices talking on behalf of others, this bugs me as a queer when I hear ‘moral outrage’ from straights over homophobia when they don’t ask the community how they feel, I think it’s the same here. Not all, but the majority are white and middle class. What do they know about ‘ratchet’ culture? How can they criticise? Sets the alarms off.
2) Authenticity – ahh that old gatekeeper phrase…obviously Miley has trouble being authentic generally (she tries to cry in the new video, it just looks fake), but this is a power structure, who decided what’s authentic, what’s wrong or right in cultural appropriation, what’s acceptable critically? Who decides what’s authentic? Who decides what is OK and not? As a socialist not really happy with liberal people who do the PC trick being these gatekeepers. And again, agency. This takes the voice of the community away. I’d rather hear black voices talking about Miley, rather than the same old white critics really only talking about their own privilege guilt. And any discussion of authenticity is the death knell of great pop music – it doesn’t DO authentic, that’s not it’s M.O.
3) History & representation – in the past it was about just getting equal representation, or just being seen. You’d watch something for hours to see one glimpse of a gay person. This has changed, and what used to be lauded in the case of Madonna’s Vogue as being a daring and multicultural nod to the Blatino gay scene is seen as using people as props now. Revisionism? Thing is, with the browning of cities, and the mixing of cultures it’s harder to keep these things separate.
I can imagine some white liberals saying ‘don’t mess with that dub reggae – it’s not your culture’ to the rave kids, but I’m glad they did because we got ragga jungle, then drum and bass. There’s also a class element there too – another hierarchy. And who is to say to a person growing up in a mix of cultures that they can’t pick and choose? Obviously Miley started off quite cloistered, but not sure now, maybe she is popping Molly down the club with a mixed crowd? Why can’t she reflect that cultural shift? Are these racial ghettos for life? If so it’d be a very boring world. And also be rejecting that new experience, denying the possibility of mobility across cultures and scenes.
4) What are seen as ‘authentic voices’ can be problematic too – been going through homophobic songs in hip-hop and it’s surprising how many of these are from supposedly intelligent ‘conscious’ backpacker rappers – Q-Tip and Tribe, Immortal Technique, Common, Mos Def, Drake, El-P etc. We’re not talking the odd F-bomb drop, either. That’s the complexity, and might be why certain people are seen as being ‘safe’. I avoid most dancehall apart from what’s filtered through David Rodigan and others because of the common ‘phobic lyrics – love the music, hate that message. I think enforcing a separation stops the education across all cultural camps, and prevents unity of the sort that would help combat such issues. And I don’t want to fall into a dodgy hole, but there is some truth that some do get a free pass (as part of that guilt), or even expected to be mysogynistic or homophobic when others are extra criticised as they are part of the ‘respectable’ major group. We need to drop that like it’s hot, now.
Obviously I’m not really a fan of Miley, and her new video is even strange (hammer licking? is this like a new drug thing?) but I think the response is more interesting. It comes from a place where certain people think they can tell others how to think and be, and speak for them, and define what is black culture and white and enforcing a sort of cultural apartheid. Which is problematic in the extreme, since so much modern culture is dependent on that kind of ‘mixing’ – usually at the lower levels, but at all levels really. Great artists steal, remember?
Yes some take the piss with the ‘exotic’ stealing of cultures without having a clue what they are doing, but it just makes them look silly, as did Miley. And that will be inevitable when people steal the lower, street part of a subculture or group that it looks ridiculous. So just point and laugh, and move on. Don’t try to feather your nest with diversity industry, grant committee seeking liberal hyperbole…and yes *some* do make it their job (see the LGBT local government run events for that, full of white straight middle class women as ‘Diversity Officers’, talking about MY culture!).
I compared it on Twitter to me being offended that someone of another culture took redneck or chav and ‘stole’ it. Which I wouldn’t be, although I admit that could be because of the different power relationship. I doubt the middle class people writing those moral outrage articles, black or white, would want to spend a second with rednecks, chavs, ratchet or hood-rats, they’d be horrified at the thought. And that’s the real irony here, people defending a culture that they’d not want to share a lift with, and probably giggle about behind their back as being tacky, but it becomes a convenient weapon to up your ratings or Liberal Cred, or assuage your white/middle class guilt. Give it a rest…