Based on the number of views, I suppose I’m one of the last people on earth to watch Miley Cyrus nude in her Wrecking Ball video. You’ve probably watched it, whether you will admit it or not. If you have not, to fully understand this blog post, (and if you plan to comment) you might want to watch it HERE.
Knowing that Miley had once attended my church, yesterday a pastor friend asked my thoughts on her new video. I sheepishly admitted that I did not know what he was talking about. I do now.
In the sake of full disclosure, let me say that Miley was one of hundreds of youth that attended the mega-church near Nashville where I served as Pastor of Arts. Her Dad (and her sister) were kind enough to sing for several of our Christmas Eve services. Billy Ray and I once had lunch to discuss the challenge of mentoring young artists in todays crazy world. He briefly mentioned Miley (she was around eleven years old at the time—a year or so before her Hannah Montana audition) and that he believed she had the talent to do something special one day.
As I watched the video, I was riveted—not by the nudity, I’ve seen much more on the beaches of Florida where I lived for twenty years—but by the shocking rawness of the message. On the VMA’s I was embarrassed by an awkward child wanting to be an adult. Here, I saw an adult desperately wanting the magic of her childhood back. It would be very interesting to know who really came up with the idea for this video. Was it the controversial director Terry Richardson or was it Miley herself?
The video seems an intriguing use of the medium for Miley to give us all a message. Here’s my interpretation. “Thank you for screwing up my life and thank you for making me an object. First, you made me an object lesson for your kids, then an object of ridicule, so now I’ll make myself an object of your desire.” Our psychosis as a culture makes it impossible for us to resist. She embodies all we have been taught to desire—youth, beauty, fame, fortune and talent. And she (or her influencers) know it.
It’s one of the saddest videos I’ve ever seen, not because of Miley’s nudity but because of her nakedness. It’s as if she’s saying, you’ve stripped everything away anyway, so I’ll just leave nothing to your imagination. I’ll take away your fantasy and replace it with reality.
If we judge the video as art, I think it passes the test. Thomas Aquinas says “Three things are needed for beauty: wholeness, harmony and radiance.” James Joyce says, “Art does not start as something beautiful, but from experiences that are rough and raw. What transforms these experiences into art is how one can recreate the esthetic emotions felt by the artist.”
If we judge the video as layered art, I think the case can be made that it passes that test as well. It certainly has the layers to present Dante’s four levels of meaning. Literally, she has been wrecked. Allegorically, she rides the ball (the world) that has wrecked her. Morally, she is stripped naked. Anagogically, she is ashes on the ground.
It didn’t seem a video about unrequited love to me. Perhaps that’s because I’m in the throes of editing chapter eight of my memoir which speaks to a childhood filled with accolades for my performance rather than who I really was. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. I do not pretend to know the magnitude of angst experienced by Miley Cyrus, but a child star, no matter in front of hundreds or millions, never has opportunity to be truly loved for who they are.
If we choose to moralize the video, well now, that’s a different matter altogether. We humans are all too capable of judgement on the surface level.
It has been interesting to hear the cheap shots Nashville (my home town) throws at Miley. But we should not forget she is our prodigal daughter. For now, at least, Ms. Cyrus is fair game, and Nashville loves an inquisition.
But perhaps the harsh questioning should begin with us.
Have we made Miley or has Miley made us?