Currently, Miley Cyrus was seen on-stage in German television when trying to lip-sync one of her songs, on stage assisted by five performers of unusually short stature. Subsequently, German blogosphere interpreted this as some sort of disability discrimination.
Is that discrimination?
It cannot be all that easy to decide as a number of news sites seem to re-post these news but ask the commentators to "decide". So, if it was so easy to decide whether this was a discriminating act, we'd probably know it by now - by way of bloggers, journalists and everyone else. Instead we are getting "commentators" that all but actually "decide" whether this was good or bad or what.
Apparently, there seems to be no attempt being made that seriously examines possible underlying or defining mechanisms, that examines the argumentative quick sand, that we might be relying upon or standing on.
As what appear to be underlying realities also seem to overlap with experiences that I am making myself, as below elbow amputee in this world and culture of ours, with increasing frequency, I will now try to explain why in this instance, there is no real case for discrimination to be made despite an eerie feeling all around.
So what are we looking at?
A video of the German television lipsync attempt of "We Can't Stop" that represents the corpus delicti here:
Here is the song "We Can't Stop" in its original video presentation:
Spoof video addressing some of the underlying issues:
There are other songs that made it to the public by way of Miley Cyrus. And while she does what she does, here is what she does with "Wrecking Ball" which was written by Lukasz Gottwald, Maureen Anne McDonald, Stephan Moccio, Sacha Skarbek and Henry Russell Walter:
Neurology and culture of news
Neurology - the hard-wiring of our brains - and our cultural conditioning make us tend to crave new or novel and possibly even revolting experiences.
So to a degree, we are innate voyeurists, many of us, but not just a few. So many of us crave novelty come what may, that one probably may reliably plan industrial empires to thrive on that. Only, covering that need with quick fixes comes at a price: the more often and the more such experiences we are making and the more give in to such unreflected cravings, the harder it may and will become to satisfy these brains.
That is how we, as consumers, mostly function. Notwithstanding any other aspect of these novelties or news whatsoever.
From Vogue to Baudrillard
There are exquisite examples of representative individuals in our culture that - from point of view of a street person and plainly speaking - just lost it. They left to another world, so to speak - and while that may be irrelevant, they serve as great case studies to see where reality left off and what happened there.
They left actual reality to chasing their own demons. Loss of connection with reality does not necessarily mean loss of financial (or academic) success, however - au contraire. One great example is Anna Wintour, who chases things that only seem to make sense to people that stumble around in similar spheres as she does; and yet, she and her magazine Vogue must make a killing. Other examples include academics such as researchers in domains the cover aspects of prosthetic arms or hands - they entirely and comprehensively live in their own world that has nothing to do with actual requirements of amputees any more and yet, their publications are rated highly, they are promoted, they speak at conferences and maybe even have their own swimming pool.
The underlying concept is the same in these case studies. And that is where things become tricky though: the earth has long gone but someone made a map. Now, the map also has long gone, and the increasingly artificial copies are not simulating realities any longer: we are looking at the world of self-defining or free floating simulacra here (Jean Baudrillard). This provides probably a more relevant key to understanding what follows when we discuss Miley Cyrus and her mostly artificial persona. In fact, simulacra do not conceal any truth, as there is no truth. So all symbols used within the realm of simulacra are not interpretable from a realistic or real point of view. From a realistic or reality based viewpoint, that type of content - simulacra - can neither be understood nor used for any adequate critique - not formally, not logically, not rationally and certainly not in any concise given instance. As an example to illustrate this, one could attempt to say that "fashion as advertised in Wintour's Vogue is not exactly ideal for daily work in contaminated facilities" - and while that would be somewhat correct, obviously, given a wider horizon, and particularly given the entirety of what fashion as defined by Wintour does, it would be entirely and most gloriously missing the point.
The simulans and simulacra concept gives us a leverage to try to understand what the consumer industry may be tempted to do in order to stay alive. Given our rational insight in how our brains work, combined with a certain restlessness when depraved of tomorrow's shocking or revolting but oh so invigorating novelty that we crave so much: we must admit that what consumer industry risks and tends to produce by and large is a result of how our brains work. And in an increasingly artificial world, increasingly meaningless and senseless (seen from a realistic view point) simulacra will pile up. And it is for us to chose - if at all we can, if at all we are able to - what of these we want to take on. More importantly, we may not waste too time trying to analye content that has been designed as simulacra to begin with when we can make it go away by itself by not buying it, by not consuming it, and by simply leaving it alone.
If we are not careful, we are all guilty of furthering these mechanisms in the first place. Everyone, who participates in kicking forward unreflected novelty. Everyone, who participates in trying to tickle these reflexes. Everyone who participates in satisfying that greed for entertainment. All are guilty of furthering these mechanisms.
Only meditation, calmness, retreating, sleeping, breathing deeply, and abstaining from the news craze sex scream hypes can help overcome this.
There is a counter-trend, too. Recent news have it that some dating agencies reverted to a mail-in sign-up process by post card, and to (physical) single parties. No internet community, no fake profiles, nothing of the kind.
But I digress.
We are all guilty when a Miley Cyrus succeeds. Because neither does she sing particularly well, nor does she act particularly well. She is as attractive as many other people are.
And yet, she probably understood the mechanisms of how to satisfy the culturally based neurologically rooted craving for spiked novelty better than anyone else. And more than others will she present us with novel, totally artificial mind bending most useless simulacra, with creations that reside outside of any real aspect or clear interpretation. She is paid so extremely well because she spear-heads our culture, this culture, that craves and raves on simulacra. If she, for some reason, would start to sport furry orange long eared bunny hats from tomorrow on, I guess everyone and their grandmother would want them.
So as mentioned above, Miley Cyrus was seen on-stage in German television Pro Sieben when trying to lip-sync one of her songs, on stage assisted by five performers of unusually short stature. And German blogosphere (here, here) interpreted this as some sort of disability discrimination.
Now, this is not a knowledge free environment where "anything goes".
We do have to accept cultural constraints here.
So who might Miley Cyrus be?
Miley Cyrus comes across as an exquisitely sharp Southern Belle. Southern Belles typically might be considered to be awfully aware of discrimination issues, and they surely feel and know the feel of discrimination themselves - from one side or another, they have a very vivid appreciation of that subject. They do not come from a culture that treads lightly given discrimination at all. Far from it.
Furthermore, Miley Cyrus is likely to be as media aware as it ever gets. With having made it to number 13 of Forbes' top 100 celebrities and being the richest Hollywood teen at age 19 ever, she is literally swimming in money.
So one has to concede that she most likely has a very keen sense of her business. And with what she is doing, she does seem to walk that fine line between what goes and what does not go exquisitely well. So much success, otherwise, cannot be explained.
She is by all chance and likelihood, given her background, culture and success so much "in the know", that any suggested discrimination at her German television event was most certainly not taken into the remotest account by her, and most certainly not intended.
With that in mind, we might be better advised to search elsewhere for possible reasons.
Need for hype
Nothing beats getting other people worked up over their own misconceptions.
To waltz into Germany, as an American artist, to publicly celebrate a fun fest together with people that have a handicap: that is nothing short of bold. It seems to somewhat violate German standards - after all, it was a bunch of Germans that told me personally (when I attended a non-disabled Masters swim competition) that handicapped and non-handicapped swimmers should not compete against each other and certainly not swim at the same event. Given anyone's preconceived notion about Miley Cyrus, how can it not be unfair, how can the it be prejudiced or otherwise bad, when she presents herself on-stage with people that are considerably shorter than her?
Of course, given our free society, we would normally assume that all of the artists that performed with Miley Cyrus on that German television show were legally able and free to judge and act when they were contracted.
And it must be sufficient for us to accept that after they agreed to cooperate with Miley Cyrus, that no more subtitles are required from us. It has been said that the artists would do any other handicapped people "no favor" with such a show. But no person with a particular handicap automatically represents other people with the same handicap (unless of course we are dealing with representatives of handicapped organizations or such). We do not owe each other any favors. Along the same lines, any amputee is completely entitled to make a hero or fool of himself or herself on behalf of a prosthetic company or movie director as long as they are free in their choice and legally able to judge and act. And lo and behold that is what they do, come what might.
And as long as we are a free society without a legally binding representation of one handicapped person by another across all walks of life, any other calls are off, as long as we are all within good taste, legal behavior and respect of laws.
If, for our own reasons, we may disagree with artistic decisions (and we may very well disagree with an artistic decision), it is for us ourselves to come to terms with that. We may comment their specific taste, arguments, actions or presentations - but any of their media works per se are not to be interpreted as "acts of discriminating others". This does not, from my personal viewpoint, make the overall aspects of any particular simulacra tasteful or good in any way - but I am not sure we should or could, based on any sane foundation of arguments, claim discrimination. There is no good justification for that argument.
Context and personal preference
With that German television stint, Miley Cyrus coming out of the Disney movie factory may have put herself into something along the lines of the fairy tale "snow white and the seven dwarves".
Furthermore, she may have acted on personal desire and urges. Because on July 31st 2013, Miley Cyrus apparently was photographed when making out with a man of short stature wearing a baby mask in a photograph tweeted by Perez Hilton.
While one may regard this as unusual, strange or disturbing, if they were both consensually involved, no formal objections would be declared.
TMI (too much information) moments otherwise do not seem rare in Miley Cyrus' short but entertaining career:
How to properly deal with future Miley Cyrus stories
Good example: this TV journalist was given a "Paris Hilton" story to read and tore it up right in front of the camera. Just so this also becomes a visual exercise for all of us here:
So why was it that we were giving a mediocre singer with a seemingly insane craving for attention so much space?
And why are we giving so much credit to what appears to be an ongoing personal preference for people of unusually short stature? Once all participants cooperate out of their own free will, so what?
Why are we pulling her stunts into our own homes, onto our own screens, if at the end we are not enjoying ourselves?
If anything, I would ask public television or radio stations to limit the amount of bad taste being presented. Generally. Not limited to Miley Cyrus.
So after all this and all that now back to the initial question: I would argue that Miley Cyrus' song, that she presented on that German television show, was not so great to begin with. So I would not have seen any necessity for anyone at all to lip-sync this in the first place. Why would we listen to "We Can't Stop" to begin with if instead we can not listen to it.
Secondly, I see no need to waste any good electricity to illuminate and then blow smoke into some "Snow-White and whoever" type stage play at all, particularly seeing as if any proper focus of such a fairy tale warmup (remember "Snow-White" and what it was about?) might have been on narcissism as the main issue.
But whatever company Ms Cyrus likes to keep, provided they are all fine with any prior decision making, that is certainly entirely fine with me.
There are always people and hopefully will be, that turn pop goo into good music.
Dirty Loops is a great example. Instead of worrying what Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus or other novelty cravers' idols come up with in their attempt to raise their idea of hell once again, why not wait until the really good cover versions are released?
After all, a first performance by one artists never precludes a far greater interpretation later or does it. And all of a sudden, there is no discrimination, no tongues sticking out, no confusing simulacra at all - just very enjoyable creative music. And that was what it could have been all about, also on German television.
Lady Gaga "Just Dance" cover:
Justin Bieber "Baby" cover:
Justin Timberlake "Sexyback" cover:
And that may just happen with songs that are currently presented by Miley Cyrus. MC does not make a song bad as such. Here is an exquisitely artistic rendition of "Wrecking Ball":