When Miley Cyrus performed for the VMA’s, many people watched in shock. The added amount of booty twerking, perverted uses of foam fingers, and skimpy flesh colored outfits made her performance one to remember, as well as one that was not so easily digestible, which is why it has taken me so long to create the right words for this article. As we all watched, I found it pointless, lacking entertainment and originality, but the one factor that did present itself is the concept of “blackness” that engulfed her performance. From the black record producer she arrived with, to the black women shaking their darie aires, Cyrus wanted to achieve the “urban feel” for her album, even titling it “BANGERZ”. Needless to say, the fact that her performance was so over the top and lascivious inadvertently, but blatantly, shows how Cyrus looks at the black culture: as raunchy and ratchet entertainment.
This performance, and Cyrus’s actions, were in the making for a short while. Her good girl image began to slowly dip from pure country singer, to wild pop singer, to rocker Diva, and finally, her worst image to date, her “urban” image. The biggest issue with this urban image is that it shows black men and women to be some sort of sexual deviants and play on the old stereotype that black men will corrupt the “pure, white women of America,” especially since Cyrus started from southern roots as a country singer and Disney star, which screams American Girl. When she began to create her record, she claimed to want a “black feel”, misappropriating what is black and what is ratchet. It all culminated on Sunday, August 25, 2013 as she arrived on the red carpet with a black record producer, who had to be at least five to ten years older than her. The rest of the night went to displaying her antics while Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other website blew up with comments displaying disgust or support of her actions.
Drawing back to how her performance misrepresents African Americans, Cyrus has become obsessed with the conditions of ratchet culture, one that many black people do not want to be stereotyped in but yet another one that white Americans want to be a part of. This has happened with black culture throughout the years, where a culture we are trying to dismiss is reaffirmed by white America, making this negative culture acceptable and our race trying to hold onto a shred of dignity outside of its limits. This can be also seen in a recent Honey Nut Cheerios commercial that has their Bee mascot dawned in a flashy outfit and “bling” jewelry dancing with back up dancers to a remixed hip hop song. To obtain black customers, they wanted to give it an urban feel. However, trying to create a marketing strategy for a group that they knew nothing about, they missed it and created a tacky and cheesy advertisement that showed remnants of a minstrel show.
This biggest issue with Cyrus’s performance is that it shows white America that Black men are responsible for making their white daughters become uncivilized and impure. This has been a southern, white belief since the inception of slavery. Once upon a time, the Ku Klux Klan’s number one initiative was to kill any black man who had any “inappropriate dealings” with white women, a belief that led to the death Emmitt Till. This was the actual plot for movies such as Birth of a Nation. Nearly 100 years since that movie’s release, we have performances such as Cyrus’s inadvertently showcasing that believed corruption.
The most important thing to do is to show our youth, Cyrus’ biggest fan base, that what she did was inappropriate, and more so, that it is not the concept of what is urban or black.