The VMAs have always been positioned as the anti-awards show, largely because of the loose, party-going atmosphere that stands in contrast to more formal ceremonies like the Grammys. Increasingly, however, that reputation is being earned due to an escalating arms race of outlandish performances and outfits that garner attention and publicity far beyond the recognition that comes with winning a Moonman. So while Justin Timberlake may have won last night’s highest honor, Video of the Year for “Mirrors,” the story on social media was mostly about Miley Cyrus and her awkward transition from Disney princess to would-be sexpot.
In case you haven’t been by the watercooler today, Miley Cyrus did a lot of gross things during the performance of her song “We Can’t Stop” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” A partial list of offenses include: lewd acts involving giant teddy bears; a “twerking” display that basically looked like a slice of thinly-cut bologna flapping in the breeze; and utilizing a foam finger in a way that did not, in fact, let everyone know who’s number one. Much of this occurred with Cyrus’ tongue sticking out from her mouth.
So, yeah, awkward. Despite being highly promiscuous -- with Cyrus wearing not one but two risque outfits -- it couldn’t have been less erotic. It’s understandable that as she gets older, Cyrus would want to establish an identity outside of her past with Disney, but clumsy provocations like this come off as juvenile, and ultimately reinforce her image as a child star. It felt like watching someone who’s memorized the necessary choreographic elements of a striptease but has never actually seen one performed.
Naturally, Twitter exploded. According to the New York Daily News, “Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke perform” brought in more than 300,000 tweets per minute, over last year’s VMA’s peak of 98,300 tweets per minute. As a point of comparison, the Super Bowl in February maxed out at 230,000 tweets per minute.
As with most things Twitter, snark prevailed. The foam finger, the Smith-clan reaction, Thicke’s striped suit, and of course, the disgrace brought upon her family’s once proud name were all popular sources of jokes (although distinguished patriarch Billy Ray Cyrus seemed to be taking things in stride). Because no topic is truly trending unless it has it’s own hashtag, #mileycyrusa**smallerthan quickly made it’s way around, leading to some truly hilarious (and borderline NSFW) memes, the best of which was either this or this. A Tumblr search of Miley Cyrus also brings up a whole host of reactions from users on the site, some of which are quite eloquent in their defense of the singer.
While the performance itself may have been the subject of scorn and derision, the staggering volume of reaction to it certainly makes it a net publicity win for Cyrus. Following the show, she tweeted a picture of the cover for her upcoming album “Bangerz,” and shared a new song, the ballad “Wrecking Ball.” Cyrus and those in her camp know how the game's played; no better time than the present to get the word out.