Weeks after the VMAs, I’m still bothered.
Not because of the performance of a former Disney star. Or at least, not just because of that particular performance.
I didn’t watch the VMAs. I never watch award shows. I’m not really an in-the-loop type of person. Granted, I’m doing better than my husband, who listened to Bob Seger while we were kids in the 90s and doesn’t catch half of my cultural references from our era. (Also, upon reading this he felt compelled to tell me CCR was also a big deal to him.) But I digress.
Unless it’s a college football game, I don’t usually hear about things until some point after the fact. With the advent of Facebook, sometimes it’s only about three seconds after the fact. Then my feed explodes with comments. Usually there’s a pretty wide range of opinions, but (almost) everyone seemed pretty strongly aligned on their thoughts on the whole foam finger and whatnot debacle.
After figuring out what was going on, I decided that a lot of things about the situation bother me.
The fact that a grown man with a wife and kids was part of a performance that vulgar (and had an equally vulgar music video for the same song) and he received so little negative criticism.
The fact that some tried to defend it as her just acting her age and accusing the offended of a hypocritical memory of their own youth. (This tired “but they’re young!” trend deserves a blog of its own, but for now, let’s just all agree to call it silly.)
The fact that all the comments, good and bad, just serve to reinforce the behavior. Making someone the biggest Twitter trend ever is a pretty terrible way to show disapproval. No such thing as bad press right? People are all the same: we want the good attention, but really we’ll take whatever as long as we’re not forgotten. It’s time we quit rewarding bad behavior folks. (Which is why you won’t see any names of those committing the bad behavior here.)
But what really bothers me is how much we were all shocked.
Side story time. I love The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s a rare cinematic example of excellent storytelling, and I do love my stories. I love the character development from the first scene of Batman Begins to that last subtle nod in The Dark Knight Rises. I love the look it takes at human nature. I could watch it over and over and never grow weary of the story and their journey, particularly Bruce Wayne’s, but really all of Gotham (and humanity as a whole, if I’m being melodramatic).
One of my favorite scenes is in The Dark Knight. (Spoiler alert, but really you should have seen it by now.) Rachel’s been killed. Harvey’s been disfigured. He thinks he’s lost everything when the Joker comes to pay him a visit. He reveals that there is no method to his madness and shares his love for chaos and anarchy. And he delivers the line that has continued to stick with me from the first time I heard it. (Video included, because I’m helpful like that.)
“You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
And that, my friends, is what bothers me about the VMAs.
They have a history of what I consider to be a horrifying plan. It’s a place where vanity-seeking celebrities pander to an audience that craves something, anything to talk about. It’s extreme and it’s vulgar, all in the name of making a name.
This Smith family photo went viral after the show…UNTIL it was revealed to be a reaction to a different performer. Who was also disgustingly vulgar. And was also apparently not so big into the whole clothing thing. But when we found out who it was in response to, it wasn’t a big deal.
Because we expected it from her.
Actually, we expected nothing less. Because she had never been on Disney, and she’s always so crazy that we’re used to it by now.
It’s part of the plan.
Earlier this week, the same girl that shocked everyone with her VMA performance released a video for a new song. In it, she’s nude. Not just a little nekkid, but completely out there for the world’s viewing pleasure with only a few strategically placed chains to hide the bits that aren’t allowed on television.
And what blows my mind is how quickly it’s become part of the plan. I’ve seen a few jokes here and there (the main one involves getting kicked out of Home Depot), but that’s really kind of it for our disapproval. I’ve also seen people I know, Christians I know, give their disclaimer about how they disagree with the objectionable nature of the video, but it’s still a good song.
Once our shock value wears off, we grow accustomed. We accept it. People are super adaptable, and while it’s great for survival and change, it’s heartbreaking for humanity. For Christianity.
We accept subpar standards in life in the places we expect to meet it. In our movies, in our television shows, in our music, in our books…we allow it for the sake of art or expression or fun.
It’s horrifying. That plan was never God’s plan for us. I worry that we are becoming a people who have “forgotten how to blush” (Jer. 6:15). I look at the things I’ve allowed into my life and wonder how much of the world’s plan I’ve bought into, believed, accepted “under the right conditions.”
I’m better than that. So are you. And God deserves better than that.
I hope we continue to lose our minds when we see behavior that shocks us. But I hope it shocks us for the right reason. Not just because of who does it or when, but that we’re shocked every time we see shocking behavior. That we’re cut to the heart and driven to redirect the world to the greatest Plan ever made.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” –Philippians 4:8-9