For those of you reading this blog sixteen years from now, these are the two stories currently swamping our culture:
1) Reverend Jeremiah Wright is causing all sorts of problems for the Obama campaign due to his media blitz, where, among other stupid things, he made disturbing eugenic-related comments about how blacks are different from whites.
2) Miley Cyrus, who tours as the TV character Hannah Montana, appeared “topless” in Vanity Fair magazine, causing a nation of tut-tutters to wring their hands in agony.
Yep, this is pretty much where America is right now. But the fascinating thing, to me, is how similar both stories are. Jeremiah Wright would be horrified to share an elevator with Miley Cyrus, let alone be compared to her, but their situations are exactly the same: BOTH of them forgot who they really are.
Or, better put, who they really aren’t: real people. Wright and Cyrus are brands, trademarked™ confections invented by vicious news cycles and their own aspirations, and they’re both trying to sell you something. Wright is trying to sell his skewed version of race, and Cyrus is trying to sell music downloads, toys, and advertising dollars. By incorporating the mainstream media to sell their goods, both have given up being real people, which is fine: when properly curated, they give their customers exactly what they want.
Ah, but on the same week, these two incredibly disparate Americans forgot they were merely brands. Jeremiah Wright fancied himself much more than an old inspiration to a current presidential candidate: he thought it was time to make his mark. Miley Cyrus believed she was going to “grow up” from her bubbly, sanitary TV creation, and strike a pose in VF that suggests statutory rape. How unbelievably stupid can you get?
Jeremiah Wright has turned himself from a mentor to a dangerous punchline, and if he’d possessed any self-awareness, he would see there’s a time and place for his divisive bullshit, and NOW WAS NOT IT. His brand was “crazy old uncle” who, many would have figured, would know his lifelong struggles would be immeasurably served by the election of an African American president, a man he is now sabotaging.
Miley Cyrus is a 15-year-old concoction, sprung from the achy-breaky loins of someone who seems too stupid to draw breath; a few phone calls, and she waltzed into the perfect tweener kids show. Her brand is to provide edge-free entertainment for kids with parents struggling to keep them off the hip-hop. She’s the place you turn when you need to be fourteen miles from the nearest swear word, and now? She got nekkid-ish in a big boy’s magazine.
Where is the scene in the back of the limo, where our protagonists Jeremiah and Miley are sat down, and told to cut this shit out, or it’s curtains? Where is the man with no eyes, mirror shades reflecting their faces, telling them they have to play ball? Culture loves a story about a person who bucks the system, but capitalism and the court of public opinion really reward those who truly know who they are not.