Courtesy commentor PIGL. The girl can sing, y’all.
And then again… this, from the New Yorker:
… This seems as good a time as any to reflect on Ronstadt’s greatness, which might cheer us up a little. She has made several decades’ worth of records: her Stone Poneys era, in the sixties, which included the sterling Mike Nesmith cover “Different Drum,” the song that introduced the world to her incredible voice. Her fantastic seventies rock-meets-country solo recordings, in which she covered everyone from the Everly Brothers to Smokey Robinson to Waylon Jennings. (Also notable from that era: one day, her backing band went off and formed the Eagles.) Her eighties forays into Gilbert and Sullivan (remember “The Pirates of Penzance,” with Kevin Kline?) and the Great American Songbook, with Nelson Riddle, as well as guest vocals on Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” A couple of Fievel numbers on the “American Tail” soundtracks. Her “Trio” country collaborations with fellow-legends Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, and her Spanish-language canciones recordings, on which she sings the traditional Mexican folk songs that her family loved when she was growing up, in Tucson. Later, more jazz and standards.
Ronstadt also did one of the all-time great “Simpsons” cameos, in the 1992 episode “Mr. Plow”: the character-assassinating “Plow King” jingle for Homer’s business rival, Barney, which she sings in English and Spanish (“Señor Plow no es macho / Es solamente un borracho”). It cannot be said that she hasn’t made full use of her talents. And she’s publishing her memoir, “Simple Dreams,” in September…
Wow, I was just listening to that. And, fwiw, who cares if she flounced around a stage? She’s, what, 19 or 20? Don’t be fucking bluenoses.
Also, Blurred Lines is catchy as hell.
Yeah, and there’s this duet with Dolly her own self on “Jolene.”
I don’t know what the hell she was thinkin’, but I was in college and a dancer at her age, and acted the fool without any cameras.
I think everyone in the world is aware that she’s not Hannah Montana at this point.
She should shelve the engagement because she’s too young, and just do some more music, because she’s got talent.
@Omnes Omnibus: Of course “Blurred Lines” is catchy! They nicked the groove from Marvin Gaye!
Watching Morning Ho yesterday, I don’t think Mika is aware.
There is a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSpkaBeZckY” rel=”nofollow”> this as well. Leave the girl alone.
ETA: She is not perfectly in tune through out. but still….
Bless her heart.
@Omnes Omnibus: Looks like the edit f’ed up your link.
@Omnes Omnibus: Let me try this again: here.
I can’t even fucking deal with Linda Ronstadt. That voice lost forever, and what pain for her!
At least Michael J. Fox can still practice his craft.
Joe and Mika continue to publicize the MTV awards. Tsk tsk. This is fucking ridiculous, Mika is about to cry she’s so upset.
@raven: While saying the media shouldn’t publicize it. And Miley Cyrus is a disturbed young woman.
@BillinGlendaleCA: And ignoring Gene and Howard “where’s the parents”?
No one cares that she “flounced around on stage.” A significant portion of POC’s care that her entire persona is now premised on the trashy, disrespectful, wholesale, and non-consensual exploitation of black culture as something that can be randomly donned when you want to make yourself “adult” and “edgy.” It was essentially a theme at this years VMA’s, where the only winners were the white people who most shamelessly stole their styles and techniques from a still-influential musical culture that can still get none of its due credit.
We like celebrating the supposed racial awareness of Millennials and post-Obama, non-conservative America generally, but we don’t seem to like acknowledging the regressive expressions of our racial politics and how recent events display a shocking apathy toward what was essentially a minstrel show without the blackface. There’s nothing musically interesting about Macklemore, Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake, not in isolation. But there is something interesting about a straight, white rapper who’s getting white credit for gay awareness by talking down to black people in a genre with openly gay and trans rappers who are black. There’s something interesting about a white dude whose claim to fame was publicly stripping a black woman naked without her consent and making sure that it was the stripped woman who was blamed for it (all the while taking songs from black writers and borrowing heavily from black producers like Timbaland to create his style). And there’s absolutely something interesting about a woman who thinks being black is something a white person can put on when she wants to be taken seriously as a counter-culture artist and how she doesn’t even think she has an obligation to do it right, do it respectfully or ask permission before she does it.
These were the forms that were recently given legitimization and they deserve to be recognized for what they are. And about the supposed slut-shaming, for once, I don’t care, because Miley Cyrus started it by thinking that “twerking” – which is inherently black and which she can’t do – is, itself, some kind of oversexual expression of promiscuous availability instead of a dance move that requires rhythm, technique and physical skill. That says a whole lot about where she’s coming from. That kind of presumptive sexualization of black culture has a long history that’s being consistently repeated and uncritically affirmed by her while using black women as props. This is an appropriate quote to end with, I think:
“Black people find Miley Cyrus annoying because her white privilege makes it possible for her to experience only the painless enjoyable parts of being Black. When Miley Cyrus has had enough she can leave. She can leave this Blackness and call it a phase. Where as I, I will be Black forever and I will continue to be reminded of my race for the rest of my life and not in the safe, un-life altering reminders that are just on social networks that Miley feels so oppressed by.”
I can’t really take the liberalism and social awareness of this blog seriously if there isn’t at least a minor acknowledgment of what uncritical acceptance of appropriation means.
Completely aside from the blatant sexual overtones in Cyrus’ performance, artistically the music, the performance was total banal CRAP. If I heard the audio of this, even not being able to intelligibly make out the lyrics, this wouldn’t last 5 seconds before I turned to something more worthwhile. TOTAL lack of imagination, visually or musically. This may have been overlaid on the frame of an old Marvin Gaye song, but in its own crude way it’s as empty a variation on it as elevator music versions of the Beatles or Rolling Stones.
Compare and contrast Linda Ronstadt for what real talent sounds and performs like. At least while she could, before Parkinson’s stole it from her.
@BillinGlendaleCA: Mika knows that the boys who run publicity for her show will be asking her to twerk for a Friday feature story.
@raven: Ya know, these new fangled TV’s have ways to block channels. I’m not sure Mika and Joe know.
What?? A hot young starlet behaves lewdly on MTV in a desperate ploy for ratings and buzz? The only thing that shocks me is that Madonna didn’t manage to push her way in. I just hope I can get a set of the commemorative clutching pearls for this event. They will look good next to the set from the Madonna/Brittany kiss and the Madonna Sex video. Can’t have a good, corporate sanctioned fauxtrage party without the Viacom licensed clutching pearls.
ETA: Do they even still make music videos anymore? Who airs them?? Youtube?
@Drexciya: It was essentially a theme at this years VMA’s, where the only winners were the white people who most shamelessly stole their styles and techniques from a still-influential musical culture that can still get none of its due credit.
OK, scary, was trying to align this while watching Ms Cyrus VMA vid – the moves, the beat, everything is just a brutal smash & grab. My comment was, “its everything that’s wrong in American pop culture rolled into one segment” and theft is pretty clearly a big part of it.
Theme this year? Shit, Led Zeppelin perfected the craft in the 60’s. Not much has changed.
@Adolphus: Fuck yeah.
How long will it take before someone blames the President for Miley’s performance… link
@raven: Mika probably misses Hannah Montana.
1) Your protest undoubtedly includes Elvis in it’s arc, correct? Not to mention Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, et. al.?
2) You may not believe this, but Timberlake was famous well before the Super Bowl. True story.
3) Exactly how do you ‘twerk’ respectfully? Or whom do you ask permission from? Maybe the drunk girl at 1 AM twerking in front of the car at the gas station? Or the one twerking on YouTube at Walmart?
Okay, so nobody’s perfect.
3a) Please explain how twerking is “inherently black.” Preferably without engaging in some “presumptive sexualization of black culture” of your own.
Also, are we still pretending Janet didn’t know about the “wardrobe malfunction”?
I’ve heard many sad songs, but Ronstadt’s version of Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s “Heart Like a Wheel” is still the saddest:
@Marc: The post I responded to framed it like this:
I’m starting from their stated viewpoint. If this person wants to proclaim air grinding as ‘black culture’, I’m not going to argue with them.
Of course, I’m one of those who favors leniency to those who don’t have the “rhythm, technique and physical skill”, simply because I bet I’d have been bad at Twisting fifty years ago, too.
Black people created. Black people created the music for it – and continue to. Black people created the technique. It’s honed in black neighborhoods. It’s made to emphasize and glorify black bodies. Typically, only black people do it properly. When she “twerks” she’s inescapably and ineptly taking something associated with blackness and formed within a black context. There’s nothing sexual about it. There’s absolutely something racial about it.
I’m not unwilling to answer questions, provided that you aren’t deliberately dense and insulting about it. Marc’s question was an exception I don’t plan on making regularly.
created it* of course.
@Drexciya: $$$$$, nothing else means shit.
Pat Boone-Tutti frutti
raven, no. That’s not critical enough. If money were the only thing that mattered, then it’d be going to the originators and to the people who were doing it and making music for it before white people even knew what it was. That’s not what’s happening, and that’s not who the money and attention is going to. It’s not about money, it’s about who’s being societally allowed to profit from black culture. It’s certainly not black people. I think it’s appropriate to question why that is and why, when black people do something, it’s evidence of its lewdness, talentlessness (I believe Nobody unsurprisingly referred to it as “air grinding”) and violence-encouragement, but when white people steal from it, it’s rewarded as a talented validation of black artistry. I don’t accept that. You shouldn’t, either.
@NobodySpecial: I know, I was adding to your questions.
@Drexciya: I have a hard time distinguishing between your answer here (“made to emphasize and glorify black bodies”) and your earlier criticisms about Cyrus’s “presumptive sexualization of black culture.” It seems to me that twerking didn’t become sexualized only when Cyrus appropriated it (and I’m not disputing that she appropriated it). Nor am I particularly interested in signing up for the kind of cultural border patrol that says culture is “inherently” racial.
I’m also perfectly willing to have a conversation, provided you aren’t preemptively condescending and insulting about it. That would include questioning “the liberalism and social awareness of this blog” when commenters don’t immediately address your personal priorities.
@Drexciya: Critique on.
@Marc: She shook her fucking ass so she could sell records. The Stones were horrified to follow James Brown on the TAMI show but they did it. How’s that for a critical analysis?
And then there is the Harlem Shake.
Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony
The gays were twerking more than 20 years ago, in the Midwest, which is frequently a little behind the times. I can’t believe this is now controversial.
You aren’t aware that black bodies are stereotyped? You aren’t aware that particular shades of blackness are viewed and presented as ugly? You aren’t aware that black features are deemed by broader, white society as “deviant” at best and “mutated/bizarre” at worst? You aren’t aware of the steady weight-shaming that’s directed toward black communities and black female bodies in particular? Because twerking addresses that, corrects it and expresses empowerment and dignity despite it. It’s telling that you think glorifying something that’s societally reviled (unless it’s tinged with lighter skin and de-racialized features) is “sexualizing” it. That’s not how it works.
And racism is not a personal priority. Addressing it and challenging it is a responsibility for Americans who live with its history and force entire demographics to drown under the repercussions. A video unquestioningly supporting someone who’s currently being pilloried for shameless appropriation was posted and not a single acknowledgment was given to the controversy properly surrounding her racism. It’s neither condescending or insulting to point that out.
Well, see, there’s the problem. You’re assuming everyone agrees that what Cyrus did wasn’t lewd, talentless, or violence encouraging. It was lewd and talentless when she did it – and her color or the color of the person who started it didn’t matter much.
I will say, however, that I don’t get why Cyrus ‘twerking’ is violence encouraging, and if it is, how is it different from a black person ‘twerking’ and does that encourage violence – and if it does, why would you celebrate it as ‘black culture’?
@Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony
Unless the gays you’re referring to are also black, I can’t really accept this comment. Twerking is heavily influenced by the still ongoing New Orleans Bounce scene and got incorporated into black music and hip hop generally in the 90’s. One should note that it’s still being influenced by black genderqueer artists like Sissy Nobby and Big Freedia who rarely get the credit they deserve.
@Drexciya: Ya think the sisters backing the no-talent skank got “credit’?
Is it empowering and part of the glories of being black when black people do it but lewd and sexually parodic, slutty, and uninteresting when Miley Cyrus does it? I’m pretty sure the second clause is correct (lewd, sexually parodic, slutty and uninteresting when Miley Cyrus does it) but I’m not sure I think its one of the great African American contributions to humanity when anyone, regardless of talent or intent, twerks.
A dance move is a dance move is a dance move. If you want cultural validation and admiration look somewhere else. Influence someone more interesting and artistically meaningful than Miley Cyrus.
I have absolutely no idea what this post is supposed to mean or what it’s supposed to be responding to. Are you implying that Miley Cyrus is facing a misogyny and sexism that black women aren’t? Because if you are, you should go ahead and say that so I can respond to your post accordingly.
In fact, I’m just going to leave this here.
Wait–now who’s being “deliberately dense and insulting”?
Nobody has disputed any of those points, which you seem to introduce as a rhetorical smokescreen whenever somebody challenges you on your highly questionable claim that twerking is exploitative when Miley Cyrus does it (hint: I agree!) but a noble and totally non-sexualized expression of black bodies whenever black women do it.
Then again, this is just another version of your fantasy scenario in which only Justin Timberlake can be responsible for how Janet Jackson presents her body at the Super Bowl. Exploitation for me but not for thee, right?
You opened by making a number of important points about America’s tendency to recognize and reward black popular culture only when whites start making it. I thought your quote about Miley having the ability to opt in or out of blackness was also spot on. Unfortunately, you’ve also advocated for a model of culture in which black culture is “inherently” racial, never open for adaptation by white artists, and, apparently, always exempt from criticism, and when called on it you toss around insinuations of racial insensitivity or ignorance. There is an important issue here, and it’s more important than your attempts to claim sole possession of the cultural high ground.
America is inherently racial. Maintaining selective blindness toward that fact does nothing to undermine the persistently racist dynamic in almost all of America’s social and cultural expressions. That includes the type of dynamics that taints black artistic experimentation with obscurity and worse until a white person comes along and does meek variants of the exact same thing with almost no credit and no recompense for the originators.
I’ll engage in games of situational and contextual parity when such a thing actually exists between blacks and whites. Until then, I have every reason to judge white actions toward blacks from an entirely different angle, context and history than I judge black actions toward whites and to society generally. Calling it the same thing doesn’t make it the same thing.
@Drexciya: But that’s changing the terms of the discussion, isn’t it? It’s one thing to say that American culture is shaped by its construction of race and history of race relations, or even that any particular American culture is influenced by that construction and history. But it’s quite another to suggest that a particular aspect of that culture is “inherently” black and explicitly out of bounds for anybody who isn’t black. That implies something less historicized, less socialized, and far more essentialist.
And again, you could easily discuss these issues without assuming that anybody who has the temerity to disagree with you is “maintaining selective blindness.”
@Drexciya: No, I’m absolutely not saying Miley Cyrus is facing sexism and misogyny that black women aren’t. Of course not. Do you grasp how incredibly obvious your points are? Its not like you are making an argument that no one (no woman, no white woman, no black woman, n o person) has ever made before in such detail and care. For christ’s sake who died and made you the voice of the world?
But it should be obvious that the twerk is not a neutral act whoever performs it. Its context based and has to be understood in context. I get that you want to argue that its sexually empowering and all about some kind of validated female sexuality when its performed within an all black context and insulting and parodic when its not. I will even agree with you. What about when it is performed, as the wiki argues it was, in strip clubs? Are those women being empowered? Is it a celebration of blackness there? If not, who is being degraded by it and how? Discuss.
Also: do you honestly want to argue that an dance move based on a sexual act is owned by one race. Are you nder the impression that white women don’t have sexuality, can’t be erotic, can’t choose when and how to express their sexuality? “Can’t even perform it?” What does that even mean. Do you think we reproduce asexually by budding? That we don’t dance with our lovers? Come the fuck on.
Don’t you people have class now?
Miley Cyrus is white. She’s superficially accessorized her videos (and her live acts) with black people as though they were props while borrowing the aspects of black culture she thinks is cool and open to commodification. Society reacts to that commodification far differently and with far more generosity when a white person does it than when black people try to do the same thing. And she’s done this while wearing consistent black objections and black offense to her act and her approach as a badge of honor that justifies her behavior. I don’t know how you can, on one hand, seem to support awareness of cultural context and cultural history and, on the other, delegitimize reactions to that cultural context as “essentialist.”
Her behavior and her apparent disregard for black offense derives from a long and ongoing history of white people viewing blackness from without and picking and choosing the parts of blackness they wish to emphasize while ignoring the non-pretty, unpleasant aspects of it. It comes from a long history of caricaturing blackness and profiting from the caricature while the reality of black people doing the same thing is frequently met with a level of disregard that justifies defensiveness. It’s not “essentialist” to respond to that history with the assumption that microaggressions and open aggression should be answered with protectiveness and critique until the racist component of her behavior – and the behavior of other artists – is corrected. It’s not “less historicized” and “less socialized” to demand that white engagement with and white theft from black culture come from a place accountability to black history and open support and acknowledgment of the black artists that make their existence possible. And it’s absolutely not “less historicized” and “less socialized” to respond to it from a position that assumes that if that basic empathy can’t be met, it shouldn’t be respected or supported. It’s responding appropriately to that history.
The only thing that’s less historicized and less socialized about this current spate of minstrelsy is that black people no longer have to tolerate it, be seen/assumed to silently tolerate it or pretend that it’s neutral, fun and anti-racist when it’s none of those things. I call that progress. Why do you think it’s problematic?
@Drexciya: Does that mean you won’t be buying her records?
I find your post shockingly uncharitable. I’m not really sure how to respond to it.
Black sexuality and black female sexuality in particular is disturbingly policed and just as disturbingly responded to. There’s an assumption of black oversexuality, presumptive black promiscuity and black sexual availability artificially embedded in discussions of black (and POC) physical expressions and some of its more common forms come out when “single moms” and “baby daddies” and the “crisis of black families” is discussed. I don’t think strippers twerking or women twerking sexually is bad or that twerking is less defensible when it’s sexual. But I do think the sexualization that was pretty central to Miley Cyrus’s act can’t be divorced from the negative and presumptive sexualization innate to how black women are commonly discussed and depicted. If you start from the assumption that twerking can easily be seen as (and can easily be) non-sexual, do you see why I’d raise my eyebrows when Miley Cyrus’s theft overemphasized the sexual dynamic as though that was all there was to it?
The slut shaming isn’t coming from the people objecting. It’s coming from her and the implicit associations she made in her caricatured performance of blackness. Like I said, I don’t really know how to respond to your post, but perhaps you can better see where I’m coming from with that.
Actually, one other thing.
I can’t even begin to imagine where any of these interpretations come from. When I say that twerking is a dance move that requires technique and rhythm, I mean exactly that. If you’re convulsing and falling on the ground, you’re not doing the robot (or the Harlem Shake). If you’re wiggling your butt off beat to music, you’re not twerking. It’s not that complicated.
I can’t believe in 2013 we are still/again having a conversation about how an international medial conglomerate appropriates and commodifies subaltern cultures for profit. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick were you people born last night?
To paraphrase Moriarty from the season 1 Finale of Sherlock:
THAT’S WHAT THEY DO!
Especially when delivered by official members of the nepotistic “meritocracy” that is modern corporate media. These two nits have been raised awash in all that is superficial and insincere about American pop culture and have step and fetched for corporate suits since before they were born.
Now, excuse me while I enjoy those truly authentic cultural products, “English” tea and “Belgian” chocolate.
See, there it is again: the insinuation (or in this case, open assertion) that anybody who disagrees with you can only do so from a position of racism.
Your go-to move whenever you’ve been confronted with criticism in this thread has been to change the subject, raise a point that was not previously in dispute, assume that you’re the only person who holds it, and castigate others for not agreeing with you. It’s an easy way to claim moral authority, but not an especially honest one.
A troll may use the language of the seminar room and still be a troll.
I just keep seeing, in my head, that photo where Mika posed on a table, wearing a dress and heels, with one leg in the air. I can’t unsee it.
@Drexciya: I find your posts interesting, because it’s not something I’m exposed to much (meaning pop culture and the intersection with racial appropriation, because mostly I think pop music sucks big time), but… I think there definitely are black people profiting from black music, no? I mean music is one of those careers where black people are actually properly represented, maybe even over-represented. I can think of tons of famous black musicians off the top of my head, who I think are financially well-off. I’m not being glib, I’m just wondering what you mean by this statement. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a double-standard, the way women are paid less than men for the same job. But I haven’t heard of that, specifically.
You know, you’re right. This is what you said:
Were you implying that my reaction was less than a construction of race that was informed by a history of race relations? Because if you weren’t, I retract my assumption and request an elaboration on what you meant. What is the “quite another” thing I’m doing?
I guess you can find something to be outraged by pretty much everywhere you look, huh?
Several black artists have praised Miley and worked with her. I guess those guys just don’t know what’s good for them.
And Ronstadt cover “The Rivers of Babylon”! For shame.
@Drexciya: No, I wasn’t implying anything about your reaction or your motivations (and I appreciate the same courtesy from you). I was saying I saw a qualitative difference between your initial statements about twerking being “inherently black” and your later statement about America being “inherently racial.” I view the latter as a social and historical assessment, but read the former, within the context of your other comments, as a claim that culture can or should be racially delimited. That’s the claim that I took issue with.
Hey, I’d say more, but it’s not easy on a mobile. You said yourself MC is being pilloried. And she is, all over the place, by white conservatives and liberals.
I’m sorry that fewer than 100% of the people on *this* blog are pillorying her. I can see how frustrating that must be.
Why do you take issue with it?
Why can black people object to minstrel shows and not respond to the consistent trend of “white influence” coming with the automatic erasure of black input and black inspiration with “racial delimiting,” as you say. I don’t understand what response you’re suggesting other than meekly accepting it as the cost of being black in America; where what “blackness” means is determined externally and insulting by parties with no attachment to, no loyalty to and no knowledge of black culture. Because without racial delimiting or at least actively and rhetorically marking the boundaries of what can be done/said, what can’t and when, there’s no actual, meaningful way to correct the racist appropriation going on here or the caricaturing and stereotyping that comes with that appropriation.
If we agree that this kind of appropriation is wrong and racist, why can’t we also agree that saying “it shouldn’t be done by white people” and certainly shouldn’t be uncritically celebrated is the only appropriate response to this? I can only see such a response being viewed as extreme or negative if it’s divorced from the history and the consequences of the history that was referenced above.
Look, I find this discussion interesting because like many other people who share the planet with you I am perfectly conversant with the issues you are raising. You haven’t said anything new, or interesting, or particularly startling–that’s not what is interesting–its just your determination to appropriate for yourself everything from white sexuality to black sexuality to twerking to the entire history of race relations. We are massively all in this together. White and black artists have been influencing each other and apprpriating each other’s shtick for years–for money, for artistry, and for pleasure. Producers of all kinds of art have not received recognition, or royalties, or even names for centuries. This is as much an aspect of the circulation of art and images from “craft” to high culture as it is about race. Even in the context of racism in the US this circulation goes on from outside to in, high to low, craft to art, pop to classical, forgotten to celebrated and back again to kitsch.
Outrage at Miley Cyrus? Why the fuck should I care if she bumps and grinds? You call it “twerking” and then say “she’s not doing it right because she isn’t entitled and besides she’s not giving her black backup band any props?” I say “ok, sure, whatever.” Miley Cyrus and her dance moves don’t enthrall me, I’m not her target audience, I don’t pay her bills. And, apparently, you don’t either. So what is it to you? Is your beef that noted African American musicians and dancers aren’t getting royalties from her performance? Do they ever? Do people have to pay Johann Strauss when they waltz?
Basically: you are doing the musical equivalent of accusing Miley Cyrus of scabbing (that’s what appropriation is in this context). She’s taking something that isn’t hers and benefitting from the performance of it. In your version thats wrong because she is somehow preventing real black women from enjoying the fruits of their labours or she is coming across as parodying/imitating them and making them self conscious? Its not hommage its appropriation. Its not her performance its theft without payment of royalties? But this is to ascribe to dance/music/performance a kind of integrity and ownership it doesn’t have.
Anyway, not that you are reading for an argument, you are just reading to get your feelings hurt–Rap music has always made most of its money selling itself to white teens. If something is being sold, its going to be sold on the biggest, widest, market. This is why Elvis is problematic for African American artists and, at the same time, served as an opportunity for a musical style to cross over to a wider audience.
No, we’re not.
1) You don’t have to accept it meekly.
2) Its not the “cost of doing business” in America because of being black
3) But its not necessarily “a minstrel show”
4) Its part of a long artistic tradition of appropriation and recirculation and can also be judged on whether its good or not, whether people in “the audience” like it or not.
5) Most of us, including me actually, agree with you that Miley Cyrus is borrowing something she is not talented enough to actually perform.
Where I part company from you is in the blanket assertion that no white person can ever perform (or should ever perform) something–some music, some dance step, some piece of artistic endeavour tht was originated by a black person or that has traditionally circulated within the black community without it being some kind of parody/theft/policing of the black community. That’s partially because black and white are very crude terms, even in the context of America’s racial history which is only one part of world race history. And that’s partially because I just don’t think that art is the same, or should be treated the same, as something patented in the sciences. I don’t even think (non white) artists themselves will thank you for your agressive policing of their rights and duties to their art.
Your divergence requires the assumption that it’s generally possible for white imitation to be neutral when said imitation is never separate from white power and white perceptional dynamics processed through a generally white media and cultural environment. It requires the assumption that white neutrality is possible when white consciousness is inseparable from racism in an American context. You may not agree, but believing this requires the astonishingly unrealistic assumption that white participation in black-white racial discourse (which includes white engagement with black culture) is capable of being innocuous. That’s not really true and engagement from whites with black culture without first making yourself mindful of that history, accountable to that culture and without taking efforts to correct the racist implications, associations and caricatures that come from that engagement is de facto illegitimate and there’s nothing that can make it anything else. Not nearly enough “progress” has been made to make that untrue.
Miley Cyrus is representative of a broader problem and a broader handicap with white engagement with black culture. She’s not exceptional and talent wouldn’t make her exceptional. If that were true, I’d be cool with Justin who, unfortunately, made a great album that’s way too problematic for me to listen to again. I’m glad you’re capable of ignoring this, but the fact that you are is a wonderful example of why and how “we’re not in this together.” That implies we share an experience, share a history and share an emotional attachment to that history that we don’t. We’re not kin in this, and we’re not friends, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that we can be as long as the aforementioned racial dynamics are omnipresent in crossracial discourse.
Sorry. Except, I’m not.
@Drexciya: We don’t have to be friends to be “all in this together”–historically and politically we are all in this together whether we like it or not. My experience is informed by yours, not shared. I don’t need your permission to observe cultural issues, or enjoy (or dislike) musical styles, or disagree with your interpretation. Thats not because of my whiteness or my privilige or my power its because the existence of privilige/power/race does prevent me from having experiences or ideas or understandings just as it doesn’t prevent TNC from enjoying european history, or reflecting on the HOlocaust, or loving Tolstoy.
I’m not looking to be liked by you. And you for sure don’t have to like me or my opinions. But you don’t care why are you demanding that pseudonymous blog posters give some kind of stamp of approval to your Miley Cyrus stole my twerk issue? What does it matter if we do/do not take this seriously? By your reckoning its power relations all the way down so we must take these positions because our interests and our experiences force us to.
You do realize that the reason we’re discussing Miley Cyrus at all is that there’s been a huge backlash against her by the white press, who are virulently criticizing her performance, right?
People aren’t saying that her performance was great. They’re saying that it sucked. So I’m not really getting where the “generosity” you’re seeing is coming from. The kindest thing I’ve seen people say so far is, Well, it’s not surprising that a girl in her 20s would rebel and do something embarrassing like this.
How do you figure? That implies we share practical consequences and share political power and share political focus. We don’t.
You do realize that Miley Cyrus’s problematic qualities started before last night, right? You do realize that last night’s performance was a culmination of problems that black people have been screaming about – with not inconsiderable dismissal from the broader press – for months, right? You do realize that she was present and asked to perform because she had a preexisting success that was based on her profiting from racial caricaturing, right? Let’s not pretend this started yesterday and let’s not pretend a belated negative reaction to it somehow paves over the general dismissal this issue had beforehand. One criticized performance doesn’t really negate the fact that she’s already been handsomely rewarded for her efforts. Just as most well-financed cultural appropriation from whites is.
@Mnemosyne: I think D. is arguing that this is to critique Cyrus from the wrong angle. She has specifically said the quality of the performance (and the novelty or lack of it, or its monetary goals) are besides the point. Its an appropriation, one of a long historical line of appropriations, which by its very definition is wrong. I actually agree with that except that I don’t find twerking to be a meaningful cultural statement or particularly AA except in some weird historically contingent way.
Except I haven’t suggested that. You’re creating another straw man.
I haven’t said that anybody should “meekly accept” appropriation or the critical double standards that come with it. I objected to your own double standards and the model of culture that seemed to underwrite them.
Because I don’t believe in walling off culture–I don’t think it can be walled off, frankly–and I don’t believe in policing what gets to qualify as “inherently” white or black. (It’s funny how the idea that race is a cultural construct, which has become a commonplace in academia and elsewhere, gets tossed aside when convenient.) I see that response as extreme or negative when it’s used to segregate culture.
Why would you? It isn’t yours. You don’t have an attachment to why black people would be defensive about it.
@Drexciya: We neither share political power nor consequences on a personal level. But we are both citizens of a particular polity and we are sharing the consequences of a destructive level of racism–for example you believe that we can never share a political focus that is anti racist or work together on a political/economic and class agenda because I can never share your history and thus can never be acting in good faith or with any political utility.
Since I occasionally read gossip magazines over lunch (don’t judge me, my co-worker brings them in), I am aware that Cyrus has been coming in for a huge amount of criticism for quite a while now. This specific criticism is fairly new to me, but it’s not like she’s being celebrated for her appropriations — in fact, the white press seems to be criticizing her for them quite a bit.
Please note that I am not saying you don’t have a point about Cyrus’s appropriations essentially getting a free pass — one of the AA writers at Jezebel noticed the same thing, and rikyrah linked to her in the thread above. But I think that, right now, most of the white (gossip) press is criticizing Cyrus on white girl grounds, if you will, and ignoring the rest.
ETA: I guess I’m not seeing how Cyrus’s appropriations are being “uncritically celebrated.” They’re being ignored at best, and most often criticized by the white press on white (“slut shaming”) grounds. Some white feminists have been trying to defend Cyrus from what they see as “slut shaming,” but that’s about as far as I’ve seen anyone go. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone claim that the performance was objectively good in any way.
@Drexciya: Twerking was performed in strip clubs–is that part of its AA background? I’m honestly curious.
But look, I get it–actually, I do. Unironically I get it. There are many cultural practices which are historically contingent, performative, conscious and unconscious that because of their associations are or can become treasured and also threatened when they make a leap (or are taken) from their original locale, their original setting. Something that is important because it happened around the family campfire, or in your local religious organization, or at your family sunday suppers. Women’s practices that are adopted by non women. Native american practices that are taken over by non-native Americans (pow wows, sun dances, manhood quests). Sabbath candle lighting that are taken over by Christians.
But as someone pointed out upthread capitalism is always going to seek out practices and commodify them and delocalize them–strip people of their control of their practice an dproject it onto a world stage and then take the money. Thats as true for Monsanto buying up and storing heirloom seeds as for the twerk.
@Mnemosyne: Isn’t criticizing Cyrus on white girl grounds part of the problem that D is pointing out–which is that criticizing her for acting (too) sexual is part of shaming the black women whose dance she is appropriating. First, we steal their cultural baggage and then we go through the suitcase and say “this is slutty, we don’t like it, its not good enough for our race virgin Miley Cyrus?”
Actually, I suppose I’ve talked myself around to agreeing with D. There’s no way of getting around it, whether we celebrate Cyrus or condemn her we can’t do it from a race and gender neutral stance.
I think it’s also that white Christian, country/western-raised redneck Disney starlet Miley Cyrus is reaching into her bag of tricks for the “worst” thing she can do, the thing that would be most embarrassing to her family and culture … and that’s “acting black.”
I’m not sure if I agree that the white gossip press is deliberately concealing the origins of what she’s doing, since I don’t give them much credit for their perceptive powers when it comes to this stuff, but Drexciya may be right that it’s informing their criticism of her.
No, you don’t get to do this. You don’t get to passive aggressively suggest that we share consequences when the sum total of your stated disadvantage is that I correctly don’t trust white racial engagement. That’s not a meaningful consequence and it’s insulting to mention it in the same conceptual frame as the actual, material consequences that come from existing within a racial caste system. But you do have political utility, but that’s only because whiteness automatically carries disproportionate political access. You can take your aforestated understanding of anti-racism and apply it and police it amongst your people, for instance. You can take the societal power aptly and freely provided by a racist society and use it to make sure you delegitimize your own social power and promote the access and advancement of POC’s, if you’re not doing that already. You can make sure your views on race are influenced by and contextualized by black voices and black racial consciousness. But that’s bare minimum anti-racist action, and can’t even come close to putting us in the same boat. Because regardless of your dissent from certain forms of racism, you can still substantively benefit from it unless you actively reject that benefit, and I can’t. That’s huge and that’s an open and common expression of racism that shouldn’t be dismissed with half-baked “we’re truly with you because I’m empathetic enough to pity you from a distance” nonsense.
One way that fact is evidenced is, again, by how relevance is prioritized and how blithely certain forms of negative racial engagement can be dismissed. There are certain points made here that can be auto-rejected or at least questioned because addressing it doesn’t come from anywhere close to the same context. Our perspectives are fundamentally opposed and can’t really be anything else. Otherwise, almost none of my points would be controversial.
This is not only not charitable, it’s not even in the same realm as anything I’ve said or thought. It’s coming dangerously close to “omg, you’re a hypocritical reverse racist!” When I said “inherently black,” I explained what I meant before. Its presence is inseparable from the blackness that birthed it and its performance is tied to and caricaturing that same blackness. I can’t take our engagement much further if you can’t even see how “inherently black” was tied into my preexisting points and hardly a statement of genetic racial essentialism or whatever. Where did you even get that from?
Also, your beliefs are irrelevant. That’s the whole point. When someone cries racism, you don’t use your whiteness to go “hmm, I don’t agree so I don’t have to react to it.” That’s the dynamic of dismissal that makes racism possible and makes white people go “I didn’t intend for it to be racist!” as though that magically undermines the racist component. If that isn’t your suggestion, what is? Because you seem to be perfectly capable of seeing the problem but become critical when an active solution is proposed for it. Do you have a better one that would yield a similar effect?
Here’s my starting position, folks: I shouldn’t have to experience racism, ever. I should be able to do whatever’s possible to, if not erase, then minimize my experience with racism.
If your love for culture and artistic expression and free speech and for the open display of artistic influence overrules my starting position, I’m absolutely going to take that as a white-centric prioritization that makes racism subaltern to the things white people find fun. I think this is perfectly fair.
Actually I’ve seen press (New York mag for one) criticizing her for “minstrelsy.” And of course Jezebel has been all over that.
My own impression is that some of these writers are just itching to slut shame her, but that wouldn’t be cool, so they feign concern about ripping off “black culture.” That impression arises from the fact that of all the white performers doing black-influenced music and moves, they single out the 20 year old female.
The piling-on is pretty disgusting..
I get that. I’m cool with it.
And yet, you portrayed a white woman who stole from and basically molested people with lower social status as fraught and helpless, and portrayed people’s offense at her racism as insincere concern. You get it, but you don’t seem very interested in helping. What am I to make of that, I wonder?
And I want a pony.
@Drexciya: I’m pretty sure that somebody who’s spent the whole thread assigning other people’s motives, changing the topic, and generally assuming that you and only you are both aware of and outraged by racism, has closed the door on calling anybody else “uncharitable” a long time ago. You asked why I took issue with your statements and I told you.
To your next post: You should be able to do whatever’s possible to erase or minimize your experience with racism… just as we are free to do whatever’s possible to challenge your neverending stream of personal attacks, bad faith arguments, straw men, and assertions of privilege.
I wish you were prepared to show other people the same respect you demand for yourself.
Robin Thicke’s mother is also appalled by MC.
Okay, I may be off-base here, but after reading the Jezebel piece and the other piece you linked to, it seems as though what black people are pissed off about is not appropriation per se. It’s that Cyrus seemed to be parodying black culture with her performance.
So it’s not like, say, Paul Simon’s Graceland, where he showcased African musicians respectfully and took some flak for “appropriating” that culture by using those musicians in his own pop songs. The problem is that Cyrus seems to be making fun of black culture, like, Oh, isn’t the way these people dance ridiculous? Don’t I look stupid dancing like they do?
Obviously, all appropriation is a fraught subject, but this seems to be a particularly nasty case of it because she didn’t do it in a respectful or friendly way. She did it in a way that seems mean-spirited and mocking.
There’s not one goddamn thing that happened in that “routine” that wasn’t planned and rehearsed. A “woc” slaps MC on the ass at the beginning and the woman she “molested” went on to throw roses or something to the crowd.
@Mnemosyne: The problem is anything anybody wants it to be.
It could have been worse…
I want a pony that makes martinis and rubs my feet.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@BruceFromOhio: Holy shit – is that an option? I want a pony that makes (perfect) martinis and snacks and rubs my feet. I want it all!
No, I would say that it’s definitely an actual problem when white people decide to mock black culture, not just a made-up one. Getting upset with Paul Simon for using Ladysmith Black Mambazo for his album was a made-up problem. Getting upset with Mylie Cyrus for (apparently) making fun of the way black women dance is not a made-up problem.
@Mnemosyne: Apparently huh?
In theory, Cyrus is a trained dancer, so the only explanation I can come up with for her performance is that she was doing a parody. Either that, or she was so drunk she could barely stand, which is always a possibility. But, given the whole creepy teddy bear thing, it seems like a deliberate parody of that style of dancing.
@Mnemosyne: The more logical explanation is that two days later, you’d still be talking about Miley Cyrus.
Has no one in this comment thread ever been to a strip club? Jesus Christ.
On a lighter (no pun intended) note: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UUD3zyu7Ek
@NobodySpecial: ding! African American folks are mad, white mommy scolds are mad, MORNIN JOE and Dr Nancy Sniderman are mad. And the kids are laughing their asses off.
@raven: Ding! Part II – quizzed the onsite pop culture expert about it last night, and got the requisite rolling of the eyes, as in, why the hell are YOU interested in THAT?
J R in WV
I suspect Drexciya is a troll who sometimes goes by “Ted and Hellen”. A bunch of meaningless babbel and pseudo-intellectual nonsence about race that no one with any artistic talent has any time for.
Duke Ellengton invented a lot of musical twists that every other band since have used over and over. The great jazzmen like Miles Davis and Oscar and Monk and Basie, they all were “appropriated” just as Benny Goodman, Glen Miller and Harry James were. My piano teacher played with Harry James, and wrote arrangements for those big bands, and he taught me a million things he learned from black musicians, and a million more that he learned from white musicians – to a musucian, you are either a musician, or not. Race doesn’t enter into that equation.
I find it amazing and worrysome to see someone distort this whole thread – which was at least in part about Linda Ronstadt, obviously far more influential than Cyrus, if for no other reason than she’s had 45 years to be heard – into a thread about race, not art. Just sad! And so wrong.
And I think Cyrus has a lot of native talent, and I hope very much that she doesn’t go Amy Winehouse on us…
attacking her for appropriating bits of black culture, and doing so poorly, isn’t constructive.
And we are all in it together – race notwithstanding. If you don’t think so, you don’t understand that we’re all in danger from the consumption culture that we all live inside. Wake up, read the tea leaves.
@Drexciya: I’m Black and probably couldn’t “twerk” to save my life. Don’t you think your posts are a little over the top? I mean youth culture as displayed by Miley is non-racial. Not seeing how dancing with your bum sticking out is “Black” or otherwise racial. It’s just dancing.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
Does this mean I don’t get a pony?
@J R in WV: No way, dude. Drexciya occasionally came across as hostile and sometimes appeared to presume ill-will where none existed, but she made some interesting points and provided food for thought. The troll you mentioned contributes nothing but hur-hur-hur-sploodge. No way would he have the chops to pull that off.
What struck me more than anything when I saw that video is that, whenever the cameras panned the audience the black viewers were not even looking at the stage, they were looking down and/or to the side and looked decidedly pissed & unhappy. So I think people should just shut up and listen to Drexciya.
Meh. I’ve been talking more about Macklemore. Did you see it? Awe. Fucking. Some. Especially when the surprise guest pops up right at the end.
ETA: Scroll down a little for the video of the performance.