“My eyes, my eyes!!” I shrieked to myself last night, as it dawned on me during Miley Cyrus’s VMAs performance that I couldn’t and henceforth will never be able to un-see what my poor eyes saw. There’s a German word for this feeling of secondhand, or vicarious, embarrassment: Fremdscham. It denotes the cringe-inducing sensation we get upon watching things like Miley’s performance last night—a feeling that actually comes from activating the part of our brain that processes empathy. As NBC News wrote, “it’s the emotional mirror of the more-familiar German word: ‘Schadenfreude,’ or, the pleasure we sometimes feel from the misfortunes of others.” I’ve definitely had my fair share of Schadenfreude, what with Amanda Bynes’s recent freak out and Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing flirtation with drugs and rehab. But why does this Miley performance feel less Schadenfreude and more Fremdscham? That is, why don’t I feel any pleasure from watching Miley flaunt her white trash gestalt, while I can take some (admittedly perverse) pleasure in watching the recent, be-wigged Amanda Bynes?
I won’t lie to you. When Miley first marched onto the stage last night, I was like, “Okay! Okay Miley!” Then, she touched her lady parts and any favorable opinions I’ve ever had of her crumbled. I’m pretty self-aware, and one thing I don’t take myself for is a good dancer. Know why? Because I’m white, gangly and bony. Reminds me of someone I know, whose name starts with an “M” and ends with an “iley”. If you want to see what twerking looks like, I’ll show you what twerking looks like.
Ugh. Miley’s moves bring to mind haunting memories of my pseudo-lesbian days at my all-girls sleep away camp where “grinding” was an activity we spent hours practicing in our bunks. Any song that has the words “La da di da di” in them cannot be sung while twerking. And while there’s technically no law forbidding that, God help us all if one such law isn’t instated soon.
Let’s dissect this for a bit. So apparently this is “[Her] house, [her] rules,” where she can apparently “Do whatever [she] want[s],”—which, Miley, don’t get me wrong, I totally believe is true since you’re worth $150 million and only 21-years-old. My only concern is what you’re doing with all of this freedom. You can do WHATEVER you want, and you choose to spank a buxom black woman? Why not, I don’t know, house some homeless people in this (probably empty) mansion of yours? Or, hell with it, open up a midwife clinic! You could do so much with all of this space and freedom and you choose to twerk and let people do coke in your bathroom?
It’s all wrong! It’s all just so wrong. The melody, the twerking, the whining voice making vulgar declarations such as “We run things, things don’t run we” and “Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life.” Miley, sweet Miley, do you know what “bout that life” means? Because I’m pretty sure if you knew the Urban Dictionary definition, you wouldn’t be tossing it out so cavalierly. According to Urban Dictionary, “bout that life originally referred to the Florida law that gives 10 years for possession, 20 for firing, and life imprisonment for killing with a concealed weapon. If you are bout that life, you are willing to serve life in prison for killing a person.” So Miley: Life in prison, how bout it?
Her motives are also grossly transparent; the girl obviously no longer wants to be looked upon as her child star self, Hannah Montana. But why this route? Why must she rub her barely clothed tush on Robin Thicke’s swollen genitals? Why must she grab her lady parts? But, most of all: Why must she simulate having a penis? So, fine, she wants to be Miley the twerking twentysomething. But why is feigning a penis with those big foam fingers used for sporting events necessary for her personal growth? Why can’t she try and alter her image without renouncing her vagina?
I find it really rather disheartening that not only can Miley physically not stop, but she simply won’t stop. It’s not like we’re asking you to give up salvia, or incest, or anything like that. It’s just that whatever’s going on here…
…it’s gotta stop.