Now, what about the reigning themes of pop culture in 2013?
In 2013, American culture said goodbye to Breaking Bad, hello again to boy bands and what the hell? to the most ineffective congress in U.S. history. But the overriding theme that will probably dominate most 2013 pop culture wrap ups is something else. In 2013 mainstream pop culture was introduced to the idea of Twerking. While I have no real interest in talking at large about a dance move, I do think the juicy nugget within that topic is about the larger conversations that went on after Twerking hit the airwaves.
Once again, female sexuality and body image came front and center.
I've read a lot of articles and heard a bunch of commentary about people's reactions to the general omnipresence of mostly-naked pop stars and overt sexual imagery. Ironically, these shouts of outrage are fueling the epidemic and encouraging more of it by garnering massive attention to these displays. These objections are also not new. This whole cycle isn't new. Miley is being vilified today. Britney and Christina were vilified 10 years ago, and Madonna was vilified before that. Why the topic of female sexuality, and women's behavior in general, garner the most vehement reactions by the public is of interest to me.
I don't think there is any doubt that men and women are treated differently when it comes to sexuality and behavior.
Society at large seems to be fairly uncomfortable with the idea of young women having sex. All of the laws and conversations about birth control, HPV vaccines, abstinence and abortion tend to stem from a deep seeded belief that young women (and women in general) should not be having sex. Otherwise, the conversations would be different. It is a proven fact that teaching abstinence results in more teenage pregnancies than methods that teach safe sex measures. The HPV vaccine is targeted at curbing an epidemic of the most common STD that can result in CANCER, but some people fear that if a girl gets the vaccine it will magically result in her either having sex immediately or ultimately later having more sex or both (and the implicit connotation there is that her having sex is bad.) If those who oppose abortion truly are against the idea of a fetus being terminated, then they would support birth control because it has been proven that the number one way to cut down on abortions is to increase use of birth control. Instead, the powers (and followers) who oppose abortion tend to also be against birth control rights. Therefore, the central thread is that sex should be minimal and only for procreation. Of course, the burden of responsibility under that doctrine tends to fall much more heavily upon women than men as well.
But back to the twerking. Why are we, as a society, so preoccupied with displays of female sexuality in pop music performances?
Personally, I agree that there seems to be a general uniformity and lack of creative diversity amongst the marketing campaigns of pop music. The entertainment industry does seem a bit stuck in their ability to promote artists. Interestingly, there is actually way more music (and all other art forms) available today than ever before thanks to technology that allows aspiring artists to publish their own material and make it technically available to a large mass of people. I say 'technically' because with such a vast amount of stuff out there in internet land, people will only find it if they know where to look. So yes, I do absolutely wish that the record companies and other influential playmakers will help diversify the market and get different representations of sexuality and human behavior (other than the one-size-fits-all concept of aggressive, in-your-face nearly naked dancing) into the mainstream.
That said, I think that it is possible to recognize that there are some missing opportunities for a greater range of artistic expression without having a conniption fit every time a woman takes off her clothes. Seriously, a MTV award show performance probably should not dominate the public conversation for as long as it did. (And yes, I recognize that I am talking about it, but honestly I'm really talking about the larger issues.) Granted, maybe it was a marketing ploy. I assume that controversy still sells, and it could be a conscious choice by businessmen to keep those conversations going. Even if that is true, I would argue that we take the bait too easily. We shouldn't keep finding displays of female sexuality so shocking and we shouldn't keep feeling the need to scorn these young women. (I mean, come on. We are doing this so much that that the term "slut-shaming" now exists.) After all, we are talking about sex- not violence. As a culture, we seem way more tolerant of violence in representation than of sex. Why is that?
So long 2013, I hope 2014 brings some new ideas into the mix and leaves behind a bit of the mania.