OPINION: Did Miley Cyrus’s 2013 Video Music Awards twerking controversy deserve the mainstream media’s attention?

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Photo from MTV.com/Fair Use exemption

Cyrus performs “We Can’t Stop” at the 2013 Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Eli Dinkelspiel, Staff Writer

At the 2013 Video Music Awards, popular performer Miley Cyrus twerked (a provocative dance involving the shaking of the butt) in front of a national audience of millions, causing uproar over the twittersphere, Reddit, and Facebook, where users decried Cyrus’ performance (warning: sexually suggestive content) as pop culture’s new low. Respected news sites replaced coverage of Syria with photos of Cyrus’s gyrating hips.

To this I ask, who the hell cares?

Yeah, it was an unfortunate moment in music history. Cyrus — who just a few years ago was known as the popular Disney star, Hannah Montana — rubbed her butt against the much-older singer Robin Thicke. His hit single, “Blurred Lines,” (warning: sexually suggestive content) includes the lyric, “You know you want it,” and has been decried as a rapist’s fantasy. The combination of Cyrus’ dance moves and those lyrics was awkward, to say the least.

But Cyrus and Thicke are both adults, and it’s not as if weirdly sexual musical performances are anything new. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake had an equally controversial nip-slip at the 2004 Super Bowl. Hell, parents freaked out when their daughters went crazy over the Beatles singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. But every time something even slightly scandalous dominates the news, we act as if society is decaying and teenagers will soon be listening to the n-word on a loop while wearing chaps without anything underneath them.

Inevitably, once we stop running around like Chicken Little, proclaiming that “the sky is falling,” we will realize that no great change has occurred. Cyrus’ VMA performance was nothing more than a less-than-mediocre attempt to combine sexuality, music, and artistry. Yet it is all we can talk about. Because of our obsession over butts and skin, the twerking story made headlines instead of incidents that truly deserved attention, such as Kanye West’s fantastic performance of “Blood on the Leaves” (warning: explicit lyrics) at the same show, where he appeared as a black silhouette against the backdrop of a lynching tree, and the brief reunion of *NSYNC.

Cyrus didn’t lower the bar, we did. The only way her performance holds any significance is if we assign significance to it. Culture is measured by how much attention we pay to events, not by the events themselves.

In fact, it’s entirely likely that all that Cyrus wanted to do was garner attention. We’ve seen it before; a former teen star, craving lost attention, will act out with increasing regularity and severity. Just look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or more recently, Justin Bieber. They all flamed out eventually: Britney shaved all her hair off and attacked a photographer. Lindsay Lohan drifted in and out of rehab. Justin Bieber is increasingly late to concerts, and occasionally throws up on stage. But the only reason they do these things is that, for a brief second, they’re all anyone can talk about.

Maybe we care because its easier to get angry over something as trivial as Miley Cyrus shaking her butt on TV than to attempt to understand the complex geo-political situation surrounding Syria, or the twisted eldritch rituals surrounding the Dodgers’ recent success.

We have the power. We have the power to not care. Let’s stop wasting our time with irrelevant crap. Less than a month after Cyrus twerked, 68 people died in a mall in Kenya, and nobody seemed to care. So let’s stop talking about twerking. Because, in the end, who the hell really cares?