I have a bit of a problem with today’s blog post because I want to talk about how I don’t want to talk about something that’s not worth talking about. That sentence is two things: it’s really bad writing, and it’s indicative of how my subject matter will tie your brain in knots. Here goes…
A word about Miley Cyrus: stop.
Some more words about Miley Cyrus: don’t bother talking about her. Obviously a lot of people are thinking about her, and talking about her, and obviously this is bad and stupid and a poor use of brain-space.
I’ll summarise as briefly as I can – Miley Cyrus is a Disney child star who has obeyed the inescapable biological imperative to grow breasts and a sense of self-awareness and has celebrated this fact by becoming “edgy”, “troubled” and “hardcore”. At the Video Music Awards (and yes, they’re every bit as bad as the title suggests) she danced provocatively with sentient genital wart Robin Thicke and as was every bit as edgy, troubled and hardcore as network programming regulations would allow. In short, bottoms were wiggled.
This has of course created an incredible furore in America, a nation famous for being obsessed with white jailbait and at the same time deeply uncomfortable with that same obsession. The idea of sex has always been troubling for our cousins across the pond; ironic, really, being a nation set up by people fleeing from puritanism. The idea of a twenty-year-old white woman who used to be the face of Disney shaking her bottom like it’s full of click beetles is too frightening to countenance. War with Syria? Okey-dokey. Bouncing flesh? Get my gun.
Of course this VMA thing is inconsequential to the highest degree, which brings me to my main problem: I can’t express my disdain for this sort of thing without talking about and, mutatis mutandis, adding to the problem. Because the main problem is that anybody thinks there’s anything worth saying at all.
It’s a recursive problem not dissimilar to Gödel’s famous Incompleteness Theorem of 1931. Just as, in his theorem, any ω-class set of integers must be either incomplete or internally inconsistent, any dispute of the significant of any α-class object is by definition inconsistent with itself. I’ll put it more bluntly: an unimportant spunk-trumpet that everybody calls an unimportant spunk-trumpet is by definition an important spunk-trumpet because everybody’s talking about it.
This is terrible because the nature of celebrity is so warped that even detraction is somehow promotion. I’ll give you an example: I avidly read the content of women’s-lib blowhard website Jezebel (I like it, shut up) who covered every aspect of the VMA “furore” in order to detract from Miley. They described her as, “some self-obsessed, entitled, gleefully ignorant 20-year-old white woman”. They called her statement the “SELF-ABSORBED GARBAGE RAMBLINGS OF A DODO”. They poured invective on her. They analyzed every aspect of her content.
And in doing so, they only added to her fame. Because, if I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard anything about this until I read Jezebel. In fact, up until that moment I hadn’t been aware of her existence, at least not in a tangible sense. Maybe in the sense that one is aware of the existence of Swindon or distant comets. I was ignorant.
Learning about Miley Cyrus is not really on my list of priorities: I’m too busy trying to learn Spanish and re-watching the amazing, incredible and spell-binding BBC program Planet Earth, a nature documentary that manages to shock, stun and astonish within its first five minutes and only gets better from there. Seriously, watch it – it will blow the shit back out of your ears. These two pieces of cultural data provide a counterpoint to each other: on one hand, a sentient primate doing nothing special, on the other, non-sentient hump-back whales quietly doing extraordinary things. I know which one makes better subject matter.
But to get back to the twisted part of the story: by vilifying Miley, Jezebel actually increased her fame. This is the crux of the infinitely recursive argument: by being written about, it became worth writing about, and here we are: now I’m writing about it, and I don’t even really want to. And even worse, I might have told you about it. I’m only adding to the problem!
And here’s the problem: as Gertrude Stein would have it, “fame is fame is fame”. Our dear Miley does something inconsequential and some rage about it. In the raging about it, it becomes a bigger story, until everyone’s seen it and more people are enraged. And Miley’s got people talking about her again, nourishing her ego…until the next thing comes along.
So what? Well, exactly. I don’t have any problem with fame. It’s a necessary evil: there are seven billion people and some have got to have their faces on all those posters, so fame is inevitable. What I object to is fame without form, if you like. In the Leviathan, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that, “the reputation of power is power”. This is true of fame, too.
And as fame is fame is fame and the reputation of fame is fame, when we start talking about something we contribute to the problem. I’m doing it right now (and hating myself for it). Damn it, I’m making Miley more famous in spite of myself.
And, even worse, this problem is endemic, because a nation of children with lots of disposable income have created a generation of child stars who don’t have to reach too hard to earn a hundred million. Justin Bieber, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Carly Rae Jepsen… triumphantly inconsequential stars abound. That’s not to say I’m down on modern pop culture – far from it. A partial list of people who I think are deserving of their fame includes Beyonce (talented, manages own image), Rihanna (ditto), Jay-Z (The Black Album is often on a loop on my iPod), Lady Gaga (Paparazzi, Telephone, and for being the new queen of the gays or whatever), etcetera. We have a lot of talented people who are famous, and rightly so. Admittedly, their personal lives aren’t as interesting as the tabloids think they are, but these people produce content with cultural value. Power to them. Many of them struggled for years to get where they are, developing character and talent. By contrast, Miley Cyrus is a human soap bubble, a butterfly’s fart, a will-o-the-wisp, a nothing. What she does with or where she puts her bottom is inconsequential in the extreme.
The music industry does this, of course. Before Brian Epstein got hold of them, The Beatles were in the middle of creating punk rock. They played the dingiest, dirtiest clubs, wore leather jackets, and got bottles of piss thrown at them . Then Epstein showed up. Two years later…
But the music industry only gives us what we want. The real issue, of course, is us: you and me. Our standards of fame and shocking behaviour are so low that we actively encourage the existence of human soap-bubbles like Miley Cyrus. By talking shit, we create gods. Vox globuli, vox deo.
My ideal vision of the world goes a little something like this: I make a billion dollars writing books that are intelligent, witty and thought-provoking (har har). With that money, I hire the O2 arena for the night, organise a concert for Miley Cyrus, and buy every seat. No expense is spared: laser lights, fog machines, and fireworks. Miley comes on stage and it’s just me, sitting there, alone in a 20,000 seat arena. Nervously, hesistantly, Miley starts her first song.
Half-way through, I walk out. Alone in that vast space, Miley perceives the immense hollowness and frailty of her own fame. It’s a, “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around, does the existential void still open up and scream in your face until you burst into tears?” sort of arrangement. That would be my gift to the world.
Childish revenge fantasies aside, the solution is simple, of course: stop talking. Stop now. Don’t talk, don’t mention her or anyone like her. Raise your game. Start talking about people with genuine talent who write music that moves you. Ignore the flibbertigibbets and the nobodies who perform empty gestures of rebellion, who say nothing, who mean nothing. Revel in the superiority of your perception: you are the king-makers, the fame-mongers, the people who matter.
And for god’s sake don’t read articles like this. Thank you for your cooperation.