by David Dean
I've been in a writing slump for several months now. The following narrative may account for this unwelcome condition:
Certain phrases get used a lot. They tend to go in and out of fashion with the passage of time and different generations, then pop up again. "Cutting Edge" is one such phrase. Others are "Groundbreaking", and "Edgy". There are many more, and I'm sure you can think of them without my help. Lately, specifically in the case of the aforementioned examples, I've been left wondering what they hell they actually mean.
What caused this seismic tremor within my consciousness was an event that I was wholly unprepared for--Miley Cyrus grew up. I was happily ignorant of this important, and "groundbreaking," event until a typical morning some months ago. In fact, I was only vaguely aware that such a person actually existed. I think I had been under the impression that she was a character on a popular sitcom.
Settling down in front of the television with my coffee and bowl of porridge, I found myself swept up into a debate that was hotly raging on the "Today Show." Robin had left it on as she prepared to dress for work. If only she hadn't.
Over the next several minutes, my bloodshot orbs were treated to footage of a scantily clad young woman grinding against various persons and stuffed animals, while using a large, foam finger in a lascivious manner. I was informed that she was "twerking". She may have been singing, as well, I'm not sure. Apparently, she had appeared on a music program the previous evening and set the world afire!
While I was still pondering the stuffed animal imagery, trying to grasp its deeper significance, the staff of the show discussed the merits and meaning of young Miley's performance. "I was in." This is another currently popular phrase, though I may be misusing it. Riveted by the cultural upheaval occurring before my very eyes, I was treated to the spectacle of seemingly mature adults (the men were wearing suits) tossing words like "cutting edge," and "edgy," at one another like soapy loofas. Experts on music and Hollywood were interviewed, as well! This was important! My oatmeal went cold.
This was no "flash in the pan," either. The rest of the broadcast day (which is now endless) carried the debate to other networks and cable outlets. More experts were consulted. Some pronounced it "performance art." Others pooh-poohed this as weak-minded, insisting that we had collectively witnessed the "coming out" of Miley's long-suppressed sexuality. I felt torn and didn't know which way to go on this issue. Words failed me, adjectives became stuck in my throat. Until I came to terms with this phenomenon (also a very popular word when describing celebrities), I could not consider myself a modern man. No one "had my back."
In my defense, my only experience with performance art such as Miley's, had been confined to bachelor party outings. Of course, my role when patronizing these "gentlemen's clubs" was always to be the voice of restraint. "Anyone for a cup of coffee?" I might suggest, when the drinking got a little out of hand. Or, "Hey, save some of those ones for the poor box, boys!" Many of the dancers (or performance artists, if you will) were very cutting edge. And though it pains me to say it, there were some who could have given Miley a run for her money and left her in the dust.
Fortunately for me, the furor over this very important issue faded before any reporters made it to my front door and demanded my opinion. I remain happily obscure, if still trying to come to terms with what has happened. Now, when I see a book or movie review that features those much sullied descriptors, I back quietly away--the book remains on the shelf, the film unseen. How can I risk it? What if that "edgy" new thriller features a giant foam finger as the killer's calling card, or that "groundbreaking" film has people "twerking" all over the place? What if all these overused adjectives actually mask yet another tired, hackneyed rehash of what's been done before and better?
It's enough to make me beat the stuffing out of some huge teddy bear.
Fortunately, since I wrote this piece, Skidmore College has added a new course to their curriculum: The Sociology of Miley Cyrus". It was about time someone did.