If you saw the VMA award’s show on Sunday night you will know what I am writing about. Miley Cyrus stages her best impression of Madonna – who (by the way) was the top earning female performer last year over Gaga and Katy Perry – for the broadcast.
- Yes it was ludicrous.
- Yes it was audacious.
- Yes it was scandalous.
- Yes it was obscene.
- And Yes is was racist [linked article is just one of many]
added: Read this and also this for important elements of the racial concern.
But that is not the point … at least not initially.
My concern is about my pre-teen and teenaged girls who watch her and imitate what she does.
There is plenty of conversation out there about the effect that her antics might have on emerging generations. I get that.
My concern is not generated from a holiness, pietistic or modesty-oriented perspective. I am under the impression that we need to address female sexuality with a 21st century ethic that is free from the bonds of “who gives this women to married this day” morality standards of patriarchal repressive ‘Leave It To Beaver’ era domesticity.
My concern is much deeper. I am concerned with young women – who I know by name – and what they picture when they think of ‘female’ and ‘sexuality’.
Unfortunately, none of them have read Baudrillard. More telling, none of them probably know who Andy Warhol is. Which is a shame because even more than ‘Reviving Ophelia’ (of which they also have no awareness) they are impacted so deeply by the issues that Baudrillard addresses.
In Baudrillard’s view “identity is increasingly dependant upon images” and this leads to replication, imitation and simulation. This is marked off in four stages:
- the first is faithful copies
- the second is a perversion of reality
- the third is an absence of profound reality (but where there is a pretension to a faithful copy)
- and the final stage is pure simulation.
This is the concept of simulacra – which is composed of all “references with no referents, a hyperreality.”
Simulacra and Simulation explains:
Simulation, Baudrillard claims, is the current stage of the simulacrum: All is composed of references with no referents, a hyperreality. Progressing historically from the Renaissance, in which the dominant simulacrum was in the form of the counterfeit—mostly people or objects appearing to stand for a real referent (for instance, royalty, nobility, holiness, etc.) that does not exist, in other words, in the spirit of pretense, in dissimulating others that a person or a thing does not really “have it”—to the industrial revolution, in which the dominant simulacrum is the product, the series, which can be propagated on an endless production line; and finally to current times, in which the dominant simulacrum is the model, which by its nature already stands for endless reproducibility, and is itself already reproduced.
In other words – the original has been reproduced so many times (simulation) that the concept itself has been corrupted and the reproductions are increasingly corrupted to the point that the original is almost unrecognizable.
And the further this continues, the less reality is contained in the imitations. They become references to references and, at some point, become copies of copies which have no intrinsic value within themselves.
Miley Cyrus’ performance is, therefore, not the end of the line.
It is the penultimate in a long line of reproductions.
I am not concerned with Miley’s performance Sunday night. It was simply a poor imitation of a real mold. What I am concerned with is those who might imitate her poor impression. This is the clear cross-over from simulation to Simulacra and hyper-reality.
I’m not concerned with Miley’s performance or her fame (even a simulation of a Madonna-like performance in order to access her level of fame). I am concerned with those pre-teen and teenage girls who want to be famous (first and foremost) and who think they need to be imitate that behavior (simulate) in order to do so (stimulate).
I am not concerned with Miley’s or Madonna’s sexuality. That is what it is. I will even say that the latter is specimen and the former is a simulation. What I am concerned with the Simulacra that is to follow.
2 quick notes:
1) I know that some people hate Wikipedia links but for the audience I am most concerned with, it is the accessible.
2) I know that there is a whole conversation to be had about reproduction in art. We will do that some other time.