Well done, Miley. You've finally done it. I was trying to ignore you, like all the rest of the dross and mulch that is forced through the rotting intestines of the frankly dead music industry, but your latest little vid seems to have snaggled onto the broken shards left by the departed consciousness of Western civilization and has gone viral, so you must be doing something right, you little minx!
You were on cue to become a forgotten piece of family friendly fluff, but now you're strutting around in the soiled, baggy, and spangled panties of Madonna and Lady Gaga, in the clacking high heels of a modern day Whore of Babylon, shaking that skinny little booty of yours to an audience of billions, very few of whom will actually buy your 'product,' but who might just have to click through an ad or two to see what everyone's talking about.
Just as the dull, drugged-up dirge of the song proves how dead music is, so the vid's flailing attempt to attract fleeting attention is proof of the existence of the final "nano-capitalism" stage of American capitalism.
The video certainly does the job it was intended for – "click, click, click, hmmm penis enhancers? no thanks" – but that wouldn't be difficult as America and the West in general is such a welter of contradictions and twisted emotions that it's actually getting easier to push shock buttons if you know what you're doing, and this video obviously does, even if the people behind it may not. So what is the magical formula that has propelled a naughty, little girl-next-door to "fuck-WWIII-I-want-to-blog-about-a-pop-video" status?
The idiots over at Vice seem to think they have the answers. Black writer Wilbert L. Cooper seems to think it's all down to the 'appropriation' of Black culture.
"But as a black man and a person who is concerned with the representations of hip-hop and black culture in the wider world, the cultural-appropriation stuff is what's been nagging at me," he says in a language developed by White people in a medium invented by White people – ho hum!
Liberal dorks and their trained houseboys, like this, have a pat little theory that goes something like this: Black culture is so unbelievably great, authentic, real, etc., but its massive popularity is unfairly restricted by the evil racism of White people. According to this theory, once Black culture is "appropriated" by some evil Whitey this gives the other racist Whites a green light to appreciate the genius of Black culture without recognizing its Blackness. Elvis supposedly did this, as did the Beatles and the Beastie Boys, and this is exactly what young Miley has gone and done.
Cooper backs up this racially egocentric line of reasoning with a quote from a Black African American Studies professor Akil Houston, quoting a "professional Black woman," Bell Hooks (three people to make one banal point – how's that for non-productive job creation):
"It continues a long tradition of what bell hooks (sic) might refer to as 'eating the other.' Hooks noted that within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes like spice seasoning. It is used to liven up the dull dish that is mainstream/white culture."In addition to resenting the supposed enslaving of Black culture to White economic interests, what really pisses them off is the fact that Miley focused on the skankier elements of Black culture, in the process leaving out all the great stuff about inventing peanut butter, space ships, pyramids, and "I have a (plagiarized) dream."
"Given her statements about wanting to achieve a 'black sound' during the production of the record—and considering the drug-referencing, butt-bouncing, gold-teeth-laden final project—it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Miley has a problematic view of what 'black' is."If we are to judge Ms. Cyrus and her handlers on their anthropological exactitude, then it is probably unfair to fault them too much, as Cooper tries to do. Drugs, bouncing butts, and bling do seem to play a slightly more prominent role in that culture than readings of Schopenhauer, violin concertos, or a gripping game of chess.
No, adding Black culture to White culture often makes something more crap, especially if you get the proportions wrong, as Ms. Cyrus's production team do. The song and its video imagery are actually aesthetically weak, and the total product has little intrinsic appeal. So, why the massive hit status? It's not enough to just say people love crap. They love crap, but there's crap and there's crap.
The reason for the success of We Can't Stop is because the video shocks by playing to the one sense that can't be jaded and dulled by constant repetition: namely our racial instincts. This is something I wrote about previously at great length in my article Sub-Racism, which I suggest you read NOW.
From an emotionally detached meta-aesthetic viewpoint, the most notable thing about the video is its colour scheme of strongly contrasting whites and blacks, partly harmonized by grays and small touches of discoloration, such as tattoos. None of this is incidental to the message or effectiveness of the video.
Rather than trying to make Miley "Black" with fashion touches as you would expect from a video that pushes her in that direction musically, the makers of the video visually emphasize her Whiteness, clothing her entirely in white and keeping her hair blonde. A less obvious White touch is the way they subtly emphasize her androgyny. This is done through her hairstyle and in the part of the video where she shakes her comparatively skinny (and therefore White) booty with the Black chicks who have been eating too much chicken.
This all creates a heightened sense of her Whiteness. This is all done with a pomo sense of irony and consequent all-directions moral licence, but just because something is done ironically doesn't mean that it loses its basic semantics. Miley is being both blatantly and slyly White at the same time.
The Whiteness, along with her Disney heritage (emphasized at the VMA performance by her teddy bear costume and dancers), is also used to create a semantic of innocence and virginity that is intensified by couching it in a scattergun of sleazy and sexually-charged imagery that constantly threatens it.
The message we're supposed to get is of a young girl on the verge of erotic knowledge and going off the rails. Like a baby Disney duckling that has just hatched out of its egg, there is a fear that she may sexually imprint in an extremely inappropriate manner.
The video throws in hints of drugs, pretend suicide, self-mutilation, and lesbianism. What is being created here is a visually semantic, symbolic, psychological drama of the loss of White female innocence. None of this, however, would mean very much in these morally desiccated times if it were not for the element of racial fear that is also skilfully woven into the kaleidoscope of images.
Throughout the video, the notion of the good little White girl going "Black" and "never coming back" is constantly aired. Much worse than the other threats to Miley's innocence is the one of becoming a piece of meat for an alien pimp culture. Throughout the video she teeters on the edge, shaking her booty like any pimp-scarred ho, striking suggestive poses with rappers who would see her as just another stupid White girl to humiliate and sexually defecate into. In one scene she lights a Black rapper's cigar, the symbolism blatant.
But, set against this, there are also the young White men in the video, the one's we find ourselves stupidly rooting for, vacuous entities with crappy tattoos and head gear on the wrong way round. But they still represent an element of racial hope, the chance that Miley will be unwittingly rescued by them to survive the perilous years of teenagerdom and twenty-somethingdon to become a 'normal,' racially-untarnished White woman. The skill with which this deep racial drama is encoded in the banalities of the contemporary pop video is the secret of We Can't Stop's success.
"No, Miley, don't go off with the chain-bedangled baboon just because he's going to give you some crack," we hear ourselves whispering. "Go for the obviously vacuous but nonetheless White White boy with smoke coming out of his pants."When, near the end, she bestows her only kiss on a faceless White torso, it is a moment of great relief, a veritable Gates of Vienna moment, when the Black gangsta rapper hordes with their shoddy drugs and deracinating interest in our womenfolk have been driven back to the ghettos where they belong, to "bust a cap" in some bro's ass — although, in accord with the rules of sub-racism, it is quietly and deftly slipped in.
Yes, Miley, you're still 'our' girl, but how long will it last? Answer: as long as people in the entertainment industry realize that pushing a White girl into Blackness a little bit may spark interest, but that pushing her too far in that direction will finish off her career.
It's Our Land We Can Do What We Want