Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miley Cyrus' Twerking: More Compelling than Syria?

President Obama is oh-so-trapped when it comes to following up on the use of poison gas on innocent civilians in Syria. It's a press of his own making, having said that use of nerve gas was the "red line" that would "change the equation" and possibly trigger US action. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said any aggression would bring repercussions to the region, igniting a dangerous conflict that threatens to involve the Muslim world on one side, and European and American forces on the other, with Russia and China alienated and warning against any move not authorized by the UN Security Council. Tension is mounting as more grisly evidence and anecdotes about the torturous deaths of as many as 1,400 Syrians, mostly women and children on the outskirts of Damascus, surface.

It's in this consequential context that the world seems fascinated with child star Miley Cyrus, 20, whose "twerking" wiggles at the MTV Video Music Awards and foam finger made nearly every mother jump on a soapbox. From my view, Miley and Pres. Obama are unintentionally collaborating toward the same end.

President Obama wants focus on anything that will keep his foreign affairs faux pas and Syrian decision-making out of the news. Miley Cyrus apparently will do anything that will put herself in the news. The two dovetail nicely.

I'd wager more Americans know about Miley Cyrus' embarrassment of Robin Thicke on Monday night's awards than can name the president of Syria, a person, it could be argued, who could explode the security of the world. True, viewers are likely to have been exposed to images of swaddled bodies killed by sarin gas, simply because those images are ubiquitous. But Miley Cyrus images are equally prominent, and while few consumers are in a position to comment on the fragile mid-east, every mother and teenager holds an opinion about the flesh-colored lingerie-clad former Hannah Montana.

Miley Cyrus must be gloating. She managed to commandeer every entertainment page and blog and in a period of five minutes transformed her image from wholesome to skanky. She's now a candidate to replace Lady Gaga in outrageousness, which is an enviable place to be in a world now so bulging with competition that YouTube nobodies can in just a few days go viral and overshadow the cadre with agents and portfolios.

Do I want Miley Cyrus in my mind? Well, I'll admit it: I'm scared about Syria and would rather not think about it. And yes, Cyrus' thrusty gyrations were offensive, but no child was forced to watch, and the ones who did likely relished the naughtiness. 

Can parents protect their children from such overtly smarmy content? Probably not completely, but they'll mitigate damage by establishing a home culture where more lofty topics dominate, and where achievement and thoughtful discussion of values permeate. By themselves exemplifying the kind of adults they'd like their own children to emulate, and talking often about their own decision points, and the inspiration for their own aspirations.

My son, who's starting his junior year of college, watched part of Cyrus' performance on a friend's cell-phone. Then tonight, he stood over my shoulder muttering how disgusting it was, as I watched it via YouTube on my generously-sized desktop computer screen, for my cultural education. The whole twerking brouhaha is simply silly. The situation in Syria is decidedly not.

But we're more comfortable with issues over which we feel some control, and last I checked, turning off YouTube or the TV still qualifies for that.