From where I sat—in front of a screen, reading Twitter—it was as if I could see the Miley Cyrus backlash building in real time, as delighted though distanced cataloging of Miley’s outrageousness gave way to critiques of her hip hop appropriations. (You might’ve seen something different depending on who you follow, or whether you bother with Twitter at all.)
Jon Caramanica of the New York Times posted an early thoughtful response on Sunday night, calling the performance a “clumsy white appropriation of black culture.” The next morning, Jody Rosen at Vulture wrote that Miley’s “act tipped over into what we may as well just call racism,” specifically mentioning the “thickly-set African-American” dancer whose behind Cyrus slapped and stuck her face in. By lunchtime, the idea that Miley has a “race problem” surfaced on the Huffington Post, where Kia Makarechi quoted Caramanica and Rosen and cited widely-quoted comments of Miley’s, like the one where she said she wanted to make music that “sounds black.”
Naturally, as a pop music nerd with progressive political opinions, I loved all this debate. But after all is said and done—and this being Tuesday, it mostly is—I have to agree with Adam Lambert, who last night asked, “Why is everyone spazzing?” I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how the aforementioned dancer came off, almost like a prop.
At the same time, I can’t fault Miley for including a black dancer in her act. She should just remember that it’s only her own ass that she has the right to use as a disembodied object.
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