golden arches

4/30/08

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.

0 thoughts on “golden arches

  1. Jason Savage

    is there evidence that Billy Ray Cyrus is stupid? I’m actually being serious. Sure, he may play to an aw-shucks fan base, but maybe he’s fairly shrewd. Just curious.

    Reply
  2. ken

    Be careful, because while one hand is (to borrow a Colbert phrase) giving a wag of the finger to Wright and Cyrus, the other is furiously typing a blog post that is extending their presence in your own (and by extension, our) personal news cycle.

    Reply
  3. mcf

    “too stupid to draw breath” ?
    i realize this is your point of view, and a free country, and you are putting yourself out there etc. etc., but you are also fully cognizant that at least a few people read this blog from time to time.
    you do yourself an incredible disservice with people who are trying to understand your point of view — even if they don’t agree with it — every time you write something as presumably baseless and plain old nasty as that.
    In fact, I’d say, it plays into the perception that you are “out of touch.”

    Reply
  4. Big Scott

    Honestly, I try not to pay attention to most of the stories that appeal to the “read the gossip mags in the supermarket checkout line” crowd, but for some reason or another I found myself reading Miley’s apology yesterday. All I could think about was that she sounded like she had been to the Crash Davis/Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh school of media relations. “You’re gonna have to learn your clichĂ©s. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends.” Gotta admit it was pretty funny when I viewed it from that perspective.
    I guess if the drivel that you’re spouting to the media is bland enough, all of the magpies of the modern media will fly off in search of something else shiny/pretty/shallow. Crash was right on: “‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.”

    Reply
  5. Matt

    “…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. … [H]is lifelong struggles would be immeasurably served by the election of an African American president, a man he is now sabotaging.”
    I don’t know about that. If you’re Rev. Wright now seems like the perfect time to air your opinions (which Wright sees as truth rather than “divisive bullshit”). When is he ever going to get a larger audience or more attention? He’s hurting Obama, no doubt, but I imagine he doesn’t care about that. Maybe he feels mistreated by Obama and this is his revenge. I also disagree that Obama’s election would help serve his cause. He’s heavily invested in the notion that America is irredeemably racist, conspiring to kill the black man with crack, AIDS and whatever else it can dream up. Electing Obama would undermine that premise and perhaps usher in an era that would have less room for people like Rev. Wright and Louis Farrakhan. That’s an appealing prospect, I admit.
    I’m sure the Miley photos are all about branding for Disney. Yet, she’s 15. Call me a prude, but…

    Reply
  6. Anne

    I am quite discouraged by the whole Rev. Wright spotlight-grab. I struggle with how to put Obama’s long-time relationship with Wright in a perspective that doesn’t make me doubt my own candidate.
    As for Miley in VF: Eh. Anyone who believes the squeaky-clean Disney hype on any of its young stars is naive, I’m sorry to say. There have been MySpace photos of Miley going back a year now that debunked her dewy girl-next-door image. Why anyone is ever surprised that young performers go along with the Hollywood star-making craziness is beyond me. Also: I didn’t think the Leibowitz photos in themselves were at all sexy. More like silly.

    Reply
  7. gabhayes

    Hey, you sound like a guy with some pretty half-assed takes on some really stale media theory. Ever consider grad school?

    Reply
  8. Matt

    I would’ve taken Lyle for a Red Ken supporter. But then I guess a “conservative” in Britain isn’t the same as one in the U.S.

    Reply
  9. Neva

    tp://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/06/miley_slideshow200806?printable=true&currentPage=all
    Check out this series of photos from Vanity Fair of the actual photo shoot. As you can see she is basically wearing a strapless top in the shoot and both parents are standing there watching this. My first thought is, as a parent who should be invested in my child’s media image, I might have been a bit concerned about this particular outfit. However, my second thought is that VF made it look much worse in the actual photo where it appears she is wrapped in a bed sheet. I wonder if Miley and her parents had any veto power once the photos were done. Also, how many 15 year olds don’t want to play a little dress up for photographers once in a while? I think it’s hard to know with this age when you’ve crossed the line.
    First, I don’t think BRC is stupid. He just plays stupid on TV. The man has made millions off his little girl. A bit sleazy maybe, but not stupid.
    Second, even if you decide they are crossing the line I don’t get why these photos bother people so much. Have you seen what’s on MTV? How about BET? Yes, this is the Disney Channel show but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention to what’s on it. We don’t get the Disney Channel for many reasons. Maybe it’s “clean” but if you’ve ever actually watched these shows the kids are brats and are incredibly disrespectful to parents. I don’t really want my kid seeing that every day, but that’s my decision and other’s make different ones. To me that’s a bigger deal than showing the skin on your back anyway. These photos are a decision that Miley and her parents made. Yes, she is Hannah Montana, but it is our job to be parents to our own children no matter what’s in the media. If you think that this photo is enough to warp your own child then you are pretty sad. First of all, maybe it will begin a discussion with your kid of things that are important to discuss and also, why is your young kid looking at Vanity Fair anyway? I don’t think my 7 year old would even recognize that as Hannah Montana and I’m not about to point it out. If she were to see it, we’d discuss it and it would be a good discussion that was valuable. If this is the worst thing a parent has to deal with they are damn lucky.
    What a shame about Rev. Wright. picking this opportunity for his 15 mins. He finally got the limelight he’s always wanted I suppose. A great man and real friend would step back and save this moment for Obama.

    Reply
  10. josie

    So how is this Miley bruhaha any different from the uproar caused over Brooke Shields’ Calvin Klein ads of the 80s (or was it 70s)?
    And with the Rev – He certainly is a colorful guy, but I bet that’s what makes him such good company. Why wasnt his friendship with Obama an issue when the guy was seeking a Senate seat? This whole entire dialogue equating Obama with his former pastor is just bad for the U.S. in its entirety.
    Too bad McCain isnt Catholic with a childhood priest caught up in some altar boy sex scandle. What’s the connection, you ask? Nothing. And that’s the point.

    Reply
  11. Ian

    mcf, I take it back. For all I know, Billy Ray Cyrus is a Rhodes Scholar. And you’re just now realizing I’m “out of touch”? I’ve been fairly upfront about being an elitist prick for about six years now.
    And “gabhayes”, I do wish you’d use your real name – as you have in the past – when you get in a good zinger, or else you’ll never get proper credit.

    Reply
  12. Matt

    “I’ve been fairly upfront about being an elitist prick for about six years now.”
    No elitist would have a toilet magazine rack. You’re a man of the people, Ian.

    Reply
  13. LFMD

    Matt, you gave me the biggest laugh about the toilet magazine rack! Thanks. It was a rough week, and I have not laughed out loud like that in a while.
    Ian, Miley is actually very talented.
    Josie, I think your comparison with Brooke and her Calvin jeans is spot on!

    Reply
  14. Jackie

    My question in the entire Rev. Wright issue is this:last October, Obama toured with Rev. McClurkin, an extremely homophobic minister and also with Mary Mary, again, an extremely homophobic gospel group. These people have equated gays and lesbians with murders, pedophiles etc.
    At the time, Obama’s people said that Obama had a “big tent”, big enough to include both gays and lesbians and also, apparently, big enough to include those who hate gays and lesbians.
    This week we discover that the big tent is not big enough to include Rev. Wright who expresses anger and hatred of the same sort as Rev. McClurkin.
    So, can someone explain the difference to me?

    Reply

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