Dear Miley Cyrus,
This could have been avoided if you hadn't cut your hair.
It's the morning after the MTV VMAs, and your performance of "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" (alongside Robin Thicke) is the social media buzz du jour. None of us saw this coming, but you managed to swipe the title of Conversation Piece away from reigning champ Lady Gaga, whose ballyhooed opening performance of "Applause" wound up just like that song: fun, energetic and serviceable but lacking the sort of Talking Point we've been trained to expect from her. (And something that, I thought, she needed to deliver.)
Unfortunately, your role in last night's show is not receiving glowing reviews. Your bumping and grinding and (most ignominiously) twerking is being described as quite the "trashy" display by a lot of people. Which, I guess, means you succeeded: since you recently described your new style as a mix of "white trash and Chanel." I like that description. Can I try a few? If you were a foodstuff, you would be a bedazzled block of Velveeta cheese. If you were a plant, you'd be a Christmas wreath made of purple tinsel, with a Budweiser can where the red bow should be, left hanging on the trailer door in June.
When I last checked, Miley, about 58 percent of Boston.com readers said they couldn't even watch your performance: so raunchy was it, and so greatly did it shake to the core their refined sensibilities. I guess you're wondering what the big deal was. I am too, kind of.
I mean, to what extent did your on-stage antics really depart from any number of other (albeit, I'm sorry sweetie, better) pop starlets who have preceded you on the MTV stage? You wore very little, but that's par for course. (Square inch for square inch, Gaga probably had on less.) You gyrated to inane lyrics about partying: ditto. In fact, you and I both know that as much as all these old people want to pretend that "twerking" (that's a funny name!) is some newfangled dirty-dance that you've singlehandedly swiped from urban culture in order to spread around the sock hop, that secret rump-shaking has long been known to many of us as, "The Way People Have Been Dancing on MTV in Just About Every Music Video Since 1994." (Which is also why I'm inclined to cautiously defend you against charges of cultural appropriation. Can you really re-appropriate something that has been part of your entire generation's visual lexicon since the day you were born?)
So why the outrage? I think I figured it out. Your hair was too short.
Lady Gaga is giving herself plenty of "Applause." But on Sunday, she really needs ours.
On the way to that peak called "Icon," every rapidly ascending artist eventually reaches a plateau, a crossroads, a pivotal moment. It's where the winds change and the ground shifts under their once-steady, heretofore well-kissed feet. And depending on how the breeze blows (and more importantly how they handle it), the artist can either sail to the top, tumble to the bottom, or set up camp and settle for whatever satisfactory level of success has now been reached. Lady Gaga, I think, is at this moment.
If she wants to continue the climb, she needs more than polite claps when she opens Sunday night's MTV VMAs with "Applause." She needs a standing ovation.
Because while I wouldn't count her out just yet (much as I admit I might like to), the cracks are beginning to show in the once impenetrable egg she rode in on. Her greatest assets are now becoming her biggest liabilities: her attention-whoring, which used to feel fun and playful, now seems self-indulgent. Her once-refreshing artistry, which does contain vision and musical talent that is much better-than-average by pop star standards, is now impossible to take seriously: she buried whatever merit it has under tons of bombastic chest-thumps about her self-ascribed status as The Greatest Cultural Innovator and Most Important Artiste of the Modern Era.
And never have devoted fans seemed like such a liability. Despite her philanthropically on-trend anti-bullying efforts, she's managed to cultivate a virulent breed of super-fan, her 'tween-age "little monsters" that spit vileness via social media to anyone that critiques Gaga, and anyone she has a personal beef with. Most recently, her ALL CAPS CRAZY PANTS JUNIOR HIGH TWITTER ARGUMENT with Perez Hilton caused her proud "stans" (that's "stalker-fan," which should tell you everything you need to know) to send death threats to the Internet gossip-monger... and his baby son. They may reflect a loony fringe group - the Westboro Baptist Church of music fans, promising fire and brimstone to anyone who dare question the supremacy of their messiah - but they still make her Nutso By Association. And while Gaga may post sanctimonious, after-the-fact admonishments on her website, reminding fans that such behavior runs counter to her messages of peace and love and happiness, there's no denying that she encourages it. You don't broadcast your feuds to famously irate fans and then sincerely expect them to let you "fight your own battles," any more than you post about your shitty day on Facebook because you're "not looking for sympathy or anything, you guys."FULL ENTRY
Guys, a dream came true last night.
No, not Powerball. Better. Sally Jessy Raphael answered my tweet.
"Who is Sally Jessy Raphael?" I hear you ask, my poor post-millennium child, robbed of her no-nonsense sassitude. She was a trailblazing female talk show host generally identified, sort of like my great-aunt Eleanor who I didn't know much else about, by her iconic red frame glasses. Her show flourished during the daytime talk boom of the '80s and '90s, a veritable garden of dysfunction delights. At the time, every host had his or her "thing": Maury Povich became famous for springing paternity tests on deadbeat dads, and Jerry Springer specialized in stripper-slash-meth lab CEO sex triangles. Sally Jessy? She sent bad kids to boot camp. Like this.
I'm really disappointed that the only boot camp-related clip I could find came from 2001. Trust me: it was even more charming in the '80s, when the set looked like the escalator-side "lounge area" of a shopping mall.
"Boot camp" episodes. They were. The best. These were what you hoped and prayed for when you were lucky enough to be home sick from school, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese off a TV tray in your PJs and imagining what all those poor schmucks sitting in Social Studies were doing. (Flash cards, prolly.) They were fun to watch, because it felt like someone was finally giving a comeuppance to all the bad kids on the school bus: the ones that had rattails and insisted on sitting in the single rear seat on field trips. (Guys, it's a seat - not an INVISIBILITY SUIT.) Plus, it was an early entry to the television format of Culturally Sanctioned Sadism that would eventually flourish in the reality TV era. So watershed stuff, really.
Anyway, I follow Sally Jessy Raphael on Twitter because a) everything about that and b) for a 78-year old she's pretty social media savvy. Last night, because it's my job as a citizen of humanity, I asked her the burning question on everyone's mind:
She answered. Did you see that? Sally Jessy Raphael talked to me. My heart dropped to my knees. This was big. One time I got a "favorite" from Chilli of R&B super-group TLC and almost threw myself a party, so I couldn't even handle this. I went for a walk.
Naturally, I tried to keep the conversation going. She didn't respond again, because: who am I? A nobody, that's who. But that's okay. The deed was done: we now have confirmation, from pop culture's foremost authority on Kids Who Need to Get Their Act Together and Go To Boot Camp, exactly which kids need to get their act together and go to boot camp.
The answer is: Amanda Bynes and Justin Bieber. Both of whom (Bieber certainly) were too young to have ever witnessed the cautionary tales that Sally Jessy Raphael so thoughtfully imparted to the wild youth of America, in the form of finger-wagging audience members ("Ooh sweetie, if you were MY daughter...") and drill sergeants who may or may not have just been somebody's Neighbor with Anger Issues in a rented Halloween costume. They never saw these. They didn't have a strong adult figure like Sally Jessy Raphael around to teach them consequences.
I think now we understand where it all went wrong for them.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Shark Week.
Seriously. Every summer, the Discovery Channel's seven-day celebration of Great Whites, Hammerheads and other predators of the deep becomes a sort-of-ironic-but-not-really-ironic obsession among my peers. Why? Because awesome, that's why. Also, because we were indoctrinated to appreciate the gnarliness of sharks (I mean, their intimidating majesty) by cartoons and commercials for gelatin fruit snacks. More on that momentarily.
Since Shark Week kicks off this Sunday, August 4, I thought it made sense to devote a "Throwback Thursday" to my personal favorite shark flicks. Let's turn back the tides, shall we?
5. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Do you like Jurassic Park? Do you like The Poseidon Adventure? Are you a true blue cinephile looking to round out the filmography of esteemed American actor LL Cool J? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this late '90s popcorn flick deserves a gander. Short version: on some floating laboratory in the middle of the ocean, researchers are developing "smart" sharks to harvest their brains for an Alzheimer's cure. But you can't just override Mother Nature, you Arrogant Scientists, You. (Here we have the shades of Jurassic Park.) So they escape and kill everybody. Including Samuel L. Jackson, in a scene that is, frankly, more unintentionally hilarious than anything that happens in Snakes on a Plane. Warning: don't blink.FULL ENTRY