If you have not seen the music video for Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop, you’ve at least heard of it. Or maybe you heard about her recent performance on MTV’s VMA Awards. Here’s the music video, but it’s definitely not safe for the little ears and eyes.
First off, it’s a fantastically directed video. Every image is meticulously curated, and there is a consistent form and content that hold it together. Well done.
But even with fine direction, this video should haunt us. Image after image shows us what nihilistic consumption looks like. Nothing in these images really matter. Not the people, not the objects, not even the genre of the music. All are artifice, all are up for grabs (I mean, c’mon, Miley Cyrus trying to pull of Rihanna?) Everyone in this video is objectified, but most especially the black women who are there only for our twerking amusement. Writhing over a pile of white bread (Health? Why care about that?), eating a cash sandwich (We literally eat our money here), we hear the celebration of the chorus:
This is our house
This is our rules
And we can’t stop
If everything and everyone is objectified, we can do whatever we want. Nothing matters so what’s holding us back? Then we wake up the next morning and ask, “Well, why do anything at all?”
If everything is objectified that means we are too. This is all the more apparent with Miley just being another object to look at. In objectifying her world, she, too, has become an object, nothing more than one of those big teddy bears.
This is not a new song. The Old Testament brings this problem up often. Some may celebrate it, some may lament. But does the world offer anything more than offended sentiment? I’ve found the general reactions to the offense as empty and vacuous as this music video.
We Can’t Stop is as much a celebration as it is a curse. We can’t stop. We want to, but we simply can’t. We’re content to skitter along the surface, dance in the pool, but dare not look into the deep end, let alone swim there. We need someone to stop us.
We find ourselves identifying with Miley (yes, I’m not too happy with that, either). We are her. We buy whatever and consume whatever and drink whatever and eat whatever and sleep with whatever and we become another whatever. Our smile turns to a grimace and we cry out, “We can’t stop!”
If we were created for something, if meaning really does exist in this word, then We Can’t Stop becomes a lament. If there isn’t meaning, We Can’t Stop is, and should be, a celebration. I believe there is meaning in our world. We are in need of someone out there to stop us. We need Flannery O’Connor’s bull. He looks at us and gores us, stopping us dead in our tracks. He does mean to kill us, but not merely to kill us.