Is it because she came of age as Disney’s Hannah Montana, the country girl with the secret career as a pop star, and we just can’t stand it when child stars grow up?
Is it because she is a young white woman who appropriated a piece of black culture to convey her urban bona fides onstage? (Hello every white rock star who ever lived.)
Or maybe because stars in the audience seemed unengaged by her antics?
It's not exactly clear why 20-year-old Miley Cyrus’ grinding medley of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” on Sunday night at MTV’s Video Music Awards pushed so many cultural buttons.
But by Monday, it’s all anyone wanted to talk about.
Little Hannah Montana, all grown up and twerking her heart out, hijacked the VMAs.
Wearing a flesh-colored vinyl bikini and working a giant foam finger as lasciviously as a stripper works a pole, she expressed the crude sexuality that performers often use to engage or outrage their audiences. (Madonna simulating masturbation during “Like a Virgin” in 1990, anyone?)
Consider who else was onstage Sunday: actual music superstars Lady Gaga and Kanye West. But no one’s talking much about Gaga’s many costume changes, or West’s subdued performance.
And if they’re talking about Robin Thicke, who performed his sensational summer hit “Blurred Lines” with Cyrus, it’s because she used him as a prop, bending over and backing into him.
Cyrus was weird, for sure, sticking her tongue out in a pale imitation of Gene Simmons that just made her look loopy.
But she has no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed, as many have suggested.
When it comes to sexual exploitation, it’s performers like Thicke who have something to answer for.
In Thicke’s creepy “Blurred Lines” video, he and two other male singers, Pharrell Williams and T.I., wear snappy suits while bare-breasted young women in nothing but thongs dance around them and vamp like strippers. It’s disturbing to see the juxtaposition of the naked women with the fully dressed men. Especially since they’re used as ornaments.
Sure, Cyrus was over the top Sunday. But look around. The pornification of the culture is a fait accompli. They’re even twerking at high schools in San Diego these days.
You might hate Cyrus’ songs or disapprove of her using the stage as a glorified strip club.
But at least she was nobody’s ornament.