The Spectacle Blog

Of Gladiators, Minstrel Shows, and Miley Cyrus: How Modern Mainstream Music Isn’t Art

By on 8.26.13 | 3:32PM

Last night, as Ben Brophy mentioned, Miley Cyrus grabbed the spotlight at the MTV VMA's with her foolish and grotesque “performance” where she stripped to her underwear and shook her body in a primitive manner to primitive noises (it wasn’t dancing or music because both of those require some form of talent). While many have condemned the act, some are justifying it as a form of satire or raunchy fun. Others are brushing it off as being so bad it’s good.

It’s neither funny nor justifiable. It was a disgusting and embarrassing tribute to the state of humanity, which apparently is devolving at an exponential rate. Technically, none of this is anything new. Between the perpetually misogynistic and overly sexualized performances, the shameful lip-syncing, and Lady Gaga, modern music award shows have been worthless for decades now.

Arguably, watching a half-naked woman (who is famous for starring in a kids show) twerk it up, touch herself, and literally act like an animal on Robin Thicke (who is now famous for a music video where he features fully topless women dancing aimlessly) is a new low. However, that isn’t the point.

The point is that America continues to not only allow but accept such foolishness. While some celebrities appeared unimpressed or even disgusted by Cyrus’s antics, watching the video will show numerous zombified fans wildly cheering and worshipping her act. Cries of “Leave Miley alone!” have already turned up on social media. No doubt some leftist blogger will post something about how it was actually genius.

Now it’s understandable that art will never be normal. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a reflection of the artist’s deepest thoughts and feelings, expressed in media such as music, paintings or dance. It’s strongest when it conveys a deeper meaning, but art for the sake of pure entertainment is often used for relaxation, and there is nothing wrong with that. Furthermore it’s not news that art, whether it’s Picasso’s pictures or Elvis’s “wild” rock n’ roll, will always have critics crying foul only to universally accept it as genius years later.

But not all art has been accepted. Take for example the Roman gladiator games. The overwhelming majority of people would now condemn such barbaric entertainment which entailed watching animals and humans brutally kill each other in an arena. But at the time critics were in the minority. Another example would be the minstrel show, which at one time was a wildly successful and popular form of entertainment in America. Such art, as it was called then, endured long into the 20th century, with several TV cartoons displaying graphically racist caricatures of African-Americans. Nowadays the minstrel show is complete taboo and a painfully embarrassing stain on American entertainment.

This post-modern, vulgar, touch-yourself-in-public form of art, along with all the overtly sexual, misogynistic, and utterly foolish videos and lyrics of top 40 music constitute a cancer that needs to be stopped. It isn’t even a matter of letting loose. This is going out of one’s way to portray excessive, unattractive decadence in a shameless manner. It’s a modern minstrel show that mocks all of humanity.

The reason it keeps going is because of the money – sex and foolishness sells, moral and thoughtful lyrics don’t. Let's start small by not buying these artists songs and albums. Besides, Cyrus’s latest album is title “Bangerz.” No one truly wants that in their collection.

Let’s stop this train wreck sooner rather than later so when we look back at our generation’s history, we won’t have to sheepishly condemn at least two decades worth of pseudo-art.

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