29 April 2014

Cutting Edge

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.            




  1. David, well done article. I feel the need to comment that both Miley and her dad are masters at gaining public attention. As you commented, acts similar to Miley's twerking have been seen in some places way back when. (I still won't divulge what used to be shown as some small-town fairs in the past.) The wonderful thing is that you took something like Miley and her foam finger and made an interesting read of it.

  2. Thanks, Fran. It appears that anything can be an inspiration...of sorts.

    I noticed that I left out the word "in" in the first sentence--Miley has robbed me of even simple words it seems. Soon my sentences will become incoherent and dribble off to nothing. Sigh...

  3. Not I, but some people may think you should have used an illustrative photo as part of this post.

  4. The images are burned forever into my memory. I couldn't bear to inflict them on others who might have escaped the experience and its resultant trauma.

  5. The retinal burns will remain with us all.

  6. If you get your news from the radio you experience less of this stuff. Good piece.

  7. I've added the missing word for the comfort of future readers.

  8. David, thanks for the morning laugh. It appears that your article got you through your writing slump, even if that writing may not have been in the genre you wanted to work in. Keep on trucking.

  9. Miley Cyrus? Is that "cutting edge" entertainment? Is even "dull edge"? Whatever happened to Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Marge and Gower?

    Oops, I'm showing my age. But talent is timeless. Miley is not. At least I hope she's not.

    Fun article. Thanks for the laugh.

  10. With three kids, I've seen a lot of Miley -- mostly as her alter ego Hanna. But, this phrase "twerking" cracks me up. I first ran into it about six months ago, and I still can't get the image of "a turkey doing a hula" out of my mind.


  11. Love the article.

    Since I don't watch TV news (I get my news from the newspaper but I don't read entertainment news), I must ask? Who is Miley Cyrus and what is twerking?

    And why does my computer keep wanting to make it tweaking?

  12. Louis, Miley Cyrus is a major purveyor of pop culture and other important things. In order to accomplish this she sings,acts, and twerks. Twerking, is a mind-bending examination of our sexual mores and attitudes, which Miley accomplishes by simulating sex with both fully-clothed humans and bare naked teddy bears. An entire sexual revolution occurred in my mind as I watched her do this.

    As for your computer being unable to compute twerking, this is further evidence that machines may, indeed, be smarter than man and are due to inherit this world, and soon.

  13. David, I would say it's obvious the phenomenon that is twerking is not "in your wheelhouse". The whole episode disturbed me greatly when I first saw it having watched the "Hanna Montana" series with my children as they grew up. It was kind of like discovering Big Bird and Miss Piggy are doing porno in the twilight of their careers. If you need fodder for a future blog post do a Google search on Furries...

  14. "...like discovering Big Bird and Miss Piggy are doing porno in the twilight of their careers." That is funny stuff, Rick. Thanks.

    And yes, not in my wheelhouse would be a correct assumption. I'm afraid to Google "Furries" for fear of what I might find.

    I think the real question here is, when did it become so important to share all our sexual information with the world at large...and why? It's become a national obsession.

  15. The most disturbing part, David, is that it's a readily accepted practice to share. I know that in my "first" youth, (I'm entering my third now) my late teens, early twenties, I had a much different perspective. Fran Rizer and I were talking about this today and she brought up Madonna and her antics in the eighties, but I think we both agreed that while she was edgy for that time, she pales in comparison by today's standards...or lack there of. For myself, I can easily identify the point where my outlook began to change. It was when my daughter was born.


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