Tuesday, August 27, 2013

oh my achy breaky heart

Get widget
"Remember who you are." – Mufasa (quoting Ray and Mary Carver)
My parents were saying this way before the Disney machine churned out The Lion King. These were the words they sent me off with on a regular basis. Whether I was going on a date, to a friend's house, or away on an extended trip, their exhortation was always the same: "Remember who you are."

It was a simple phrase. Four no-brainer words, as if I could forget my name or address or relations.

But even while I was saying "Well, duh!", I knew what it really meant. Like Mufasa with Simba, they had taught me certain things, raised me a certain way, had certain expectations of me. They and I both knew:

That I had manners and style and morals.

That I had a conscience, knew the difference between right and wrong.

That I was savvy enough to avoid trouble, and smart enough to make my way to safety if trouble found me.

That it mattered what I did and what I said and how I treated others.

And that my character (or lack thereof) reflected on them.

I knew that, as much as I might disagree with them, my parents had my best interests at heart. As opposed to some of the people "out there" who were interested only in themselves and how they could exploit and take from others. Especially naïve girls like me.

Still, I had a season where I chose not to remember who my parents had taught me to be. I had to figure out who I really was, what I really wanted. I had to find my own way, make my own mistakes, figure out what was so scary about the world they had always sheltered me from. I had to take my hard knocks and dig my way back out of the rubble I'd created. I had to learn the hard way that there are plenty of people who will pretend to care about you and be your friend and "help" you while they are exploiting you and ripping out pieces of your soul.

Fortunately, my season of self-destruction, recovery and rediscovery had a small, private audience. Some of it is known only by me. I didn't have to go through it on a world stage where every bad decision and mistake and gyration was pinged and YouTubed and exploited by international websites to increase their analytics and profit potential.

Unlike Simba. And unlike another real Disney creation, Miley Cyrus, who is now more famous for her icky performance on the VMAs than she is for being sweet little Hannah Montana, a terrible actor, or having a marketable-but-pedestrian voice.

Now, we've seen lots of icky performances on the VMAs. They're basically why shows like the VMAs exist. They get press. They satisfy our base urge to witness the train wreck. They sell TV time and thus advertising. They make money.

But it's especially hard when it's someone like Miley. We all watched her grow up. She's Billy Ray's little girl. She's from Tennessee, country come to town. She got her name from being a smiley, happy child. For heaven's sake, she even wrote a song about missing her grandpa, whose name she added to hers. It's hard not to like a kid like that.

Until she tries über-hard to be the antithesis of Hannah Montana, dancing around half-naked in ugly shoes with perverted-looking stuffed animals and grinding her behind into the crotch of a 36 year old Beetlejuice-lookalike while stroking a foam finger and trying to lick something off the side of her own face. 

At that point, everyone comes out of the woodwork to talk about how much they don't like her. They talk about how ridiculous she's become. They pretend to be shocked. They compare her to unattractive characters in cartoons and the rear end of plucked turkeys. They insert her gif into classic art for a laugh. They use words like "icky." 

And they blog about her.

I would feel guilty about that last one, except I am not here to roast Miley. I am here as someone who survived my rebellious phase and lived to (not) tell. I am here as a parent of grown children who went through the same phases as Miley on a much smaller scale. I'm here because my parent's heart is achy and breaky for her. I'm here as someone who hopes she will eventually stop listening to bad advice and remember who she is. 

Miley is a girl who has grown up in the machine. So much of who we thought she was has been spun by the best image makers around. She isn’t totally without talent and while she may have her own creative ideas, she's also listening to a lot of people around her who might not have her best interests at heart. People who are interested in her only as a source of profit. To them, she's a commodity. If she's successful, they'll be happy to line their pockets. If she fails and disintegrates, they'll take their loss and move on to the next person in a non-ending line of starry-eyed hopefuls waiting to be exploited. 

On a personal level, she's trying to escape from her upbringing, to do her own thing, and to differentiate from her Disney image. Like every kid her age, she wants to be popular, to be beautiful, to be successful. She wants to be seen and treated like an adult. So much so that every action and decision and song scream "YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! IT'S MY LIFE! I'M AN ADULT! I CAN DO WHAT I WANT TO!"

Yeah. I remember when I did that, too. When Simba did it, he had a dead father and a weird coconut-wielding baboon to help him out. I had real parents who said, "If you have to tell us you're an adult, then you aren't one. When you act like an adult, we'll treat you like one." I wonder who tells Miley what she needs to hear.

It seemed so unfair at the time. But my parents were right. Being 18 or 21 doesn't make you an adult. Having your own car or your own apartment doesn't make you an adult. Making millions of dollars a year doesn't make you an adult. Singing about doing drugs, wearing skanky clothes, and grinding against everything vertical to prove you know all about sex doesn't make you an adult. It just makes you seem childish and desperate. Because you are. 

This is a season in Miley's life. Not a pleasant one, but hopefully just a phase she is going through as she makes her way to true adulthood. I made it through and so did you. The only difference is, our crap wasn't recorded and posted in a million places for posterity.

To paraphrase Pumbaa from The Lion King  we are able to put our behind in our past. Poor Miley put her behind all over the place in front of millions of people. That's a little harder to live down.  

But hopefully she will. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

Have something to add? Let me know what you think!