That Which Has Not Been Seen Does Not Have To Be Unseen

I did not see the Video Music Awards last night, and as is common at this event, there was some shocking stunt, which not terribly surprisingly involved Miley Cyrus. The mother of the other singer involved (Robin Thicke) commented about the event that she could not unsee what she had seen [1] which is probably how the Smith family saw it too, given the picture of their horrified faces that has circulated the internet in the aftermath of the awards show. Although the VMA is not exactly the most significant piece of news that has been going on recently, whether in my own life or the larger state of the world (I would consider the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against their own population to be more serious as a news item), the VMA is a cultural harbinger and that is a matter of considerable seriousness for the fate of our culture, which is in the advanced stages of decadence as it is.

Before her son was famous for getting involved with blurred lines involving a scion of the Cyrus family (which is one family that it would be best not to entangle oneself with), Gloria Loring was herself a woman whose music pushed the boundaries of moral society in her own way in a way that was ominous for our society as a whole. As much as she might not like to see the even more advanced decadence of our own time, she herself was not entirely innocent in this process either. When I was a child, she was a duet partner with a black jazz singer named Carl Anderson on a song called “Friends and Lovers.” Even for those who (like myself) were not offended by the interracial aspect of the pairing would find much to be offended of in the slow and gentle adult contemporary song when they looked at the lyrics to find out that these two singers were proposing to each other to be friends with benefits in a no-strings-attached relationship [2] (with apologies to ‘N Sync for the bad pun, as that was the title of their most successful album). Decadence is not an all-at-once sort of proposition, it is a gradual decline that has many people pushing the envelope and making shock more and more difficult and leaving others to have to do more and more outrageous things to get attention for being naughty. Just because Gloria Loring cannot remember her own role in the increasing decadence of our culture does not mean that she has no place to lament it, it just means that she too is complicit in it.

Some people have tried to point out Justin Timberlake is a classy entertainer as a contrast to Robin Thicke (and even more so Miley Cyrus). Just as Justin Timberlake has largely escaped censure for his starring role in “Nipplegate” in the 2004 Super Bowl [3], where he ripped off Janet Jackson’s clothes in an effort to stir controversy, which led to an indecency investigation by the FCC, similarly, in the outrage of last night’s event, the outrage has focused on Miley Cyrus and not Robin Thicke, even though from the pictures I have seen (and I have not seen the video of the act and do not wish to), it appears that she was acting as one of the singers of his music video for “Blurred Lines,” which is a very indecent music video itself. While Miley Cyrus certainly does deserve a great deal of outrage, it is not as if she is alone in deserving the outrage for her shocking act, it is not as if she was the only one involved, and in fact, she might have planned and coordinated it with others, while alone taking the blame for it. While I am no fan of Miley Cyrus, I dislike the double standard that is involved in the way this incident has been viewed.

Let us not forget that the Video Music Awards have long been full of controversy. Although it is perhaps easy to forget this, let us comment on at least some of the shocking events that have occurred on that award show through the years. In 2009, Kanye West rudely interrupted Taylor Swift in her acceptance of an award [4]. In 2003, there was the infamous kiss between Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera (none of whom could be confused for a classy lady) [5]. Even as far back as 1984, in its first year, the Video Music Awards involved a controversial Madonna performance involving writhing around indecently in a white wedding dress [6]. So, basically, for the entire run of the Video Music Awards, the event has been a showcase for decadence among artists eventually spreading into decadence for our society, with a bit of a lag while something initially shocks and then becomes so passè that it ceases eventually to be worthy of shock because it has been so commonly accepted by others. Unless there is either a drastic metanoia (repentance) in our society or the provocation of a rise of reactionary leaders whose anger at moral corruption leads to social conflict, the trend is very clear, very consistent, and very ominous: a corrupt cultural elite behaves in a way that initially shocks, and before too long enough people are following their example that it no longer shocks any except those who are relatively innocent or seen as very restrained. Our choices, if we are culturally aware, are either to be increasingly out of step with an increasingly ungodly culture, with all of the tension and discomfort that involves, or we are to become increasingly corrupted by that culture. It is not an enviable position to be in, but we do not choose our times, only what to do about them.

[1] http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/miley-cyrus-outrageous-vma-performance-shocks-everyone-165836505.html

[2] Here are the lyrics, for those who are curious to see it:

What would you think if I told you
I’ve always wanted to hold you?
I don’t know what we’re afraid of.
Nothing would change if we made love.

So I’ll be your friend,
And I’ll be your lover,
Cause, I know in our hearts we agree,
We don’t have to be one or the other, Oh no,
We could be both to each other.

Yes, it’s a chance that we’re taking,
And somebody’s heart may be breaking,
But we can’t stop what’s inside us,
Our love for each other will guide us.

So I’ll be your friend,
And I’ll be your lover,
Cause, I know in our hearts we agree,
We don’t have to be one or the other, Oh no,
We could be both to each other.

I’ve been through you,
And you’ve been through me;
Sometimes a friend is the hardest to see.
We always know when it’s laid on the line.
Nobody else is as easy to find.

So I’ll be your friend,
And I’ll be your lover,
Cause, I know in our hearts we agree,
We don’t have to be one or the other
Oh no, we could be both to each other.

This song was #2 in 1986, by the way. Source: http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/gloria_loring_carl_anderson/friends_and_lovers-lyrics-483659.html

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-janet-jackson/

[4] http://askville.amazon.com/kanye-west-involved-biggest-video-music-awards-scandal/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=59142516

[5] http://www.mtv.com/photos/the-evolution-of-britney-spears/1619579/4213076/photo.jhtml#4213076

[6] http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/madonna-1984-vmas-wedding-dress-wed-her-pop-073524862.html

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to That Which Has Not Been Seen Does Not Have To Be Unseen

  1. I remember the song well. She was also a star in one of the daytime soap operas at the time as well. It is also interesting to note that the practice sessions for “nipple-gate”–just as last light’s VMI’s striptease–did not include the ripping off of those outer garments. The former was choreographed for the show specifically, because sewing would have been required, and the practice session was timed too close to the event to allow for it. The latter was for shock value–to Robin Thicke, as well as the audience. I’ve seen him perform that song elsewhere, and his solo rendition is very sexual on its own. He didn’t need her to spice it up; she did it in rebellion against her “Hanna Montana” image–and alienated her younger fans in the process. The tweets verify their disillusionment. She’s lashing out, and I hate to see her go down the same destructive road but, like you said, it’s as much a reflection of the environment around her as it is her statement to the world.

    • I agree; I certainly think she was frustrated with being typecast as a wholesome girl (clearly she’s not), but it’s not like she is the only one to blame for this either, even if it looks like she is the only one whose career would suffer from the backlash.

  2. I think it’s VMA, not VMI 🙂

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