Ghost Of Guccione: Bob Would Have Liked Miley Cyrus And Twerking
Bob Guccione would have been a fan of Miley Cyrus and twerking as a feature for Penthouse.
Sunday afternoon was beautiful in my Brooklyn neighborhood, so I spent the day at a table under an umbrella outside my local, wolfing down multiple orders of chili cheese fries and washing them down with multiple pints of Stella and multiple fingers of Maker’s Mark and watched the ever-gentrifying world go by. Needless to say, I felt more than a little fuzzy on the bus coming out to the Archive, and the bumps along the way shifted my gaseous bloat in a way that once again compromised my good standing in the citizenship of commuters. I thought it would be a good idea on getting to the warehouse to grab a bottle of Poland Spring, get an Alka Seltzer from the medicine cabinet, and go into a corner with some of the Guccione oils and try to get a grip. I was admiring a Modigliani-influenced portrait of a long-necked lady when I heard the soft rustle of gold chains. “Not this morning, God, please. Any morning but this one.” The rustle nevertheless continued, and then I heard the familiar rasp. “What’s ‘twerking’?” “Excuse me?” “You heard me, what’s ‘twerking’?”
I didn’t know what to say. One of the advantages, for me at least, of working at the Collection is that it gives me enough to do in the past that I don’t have to think much about the present. I’ve only just really gotten accustomed to applying the verb “tweet” to bipeds. “Twerk,” not so much. “I think it’s a dance thing, I’m not sure.” I saw the glint of the gold chains from the shadows in the corner. The specter of the Big G came closer. “Someone in the Other Realm mentioned it, said it’s something I might find diverting. Controversial. Sexual. Apparently some person formerly associated with Disney has opened the seventh seal that signals the apocalypse by performing it at some ritual or other.” I held up a finger at the ghostly presence and staggered off to get a laptop, and another Alka Seltzer. Once back I performed due diligence as best I could. Thank God my earthly boss has a good wi-fi router. “Ah, I see,” I made to explain. “Two offspring of really cheesy entertainers from the last quarter of the 20th century tried to vitiate their genetic cheesiness by performing some quasi-pornographic stunt at an MTV function.” I saw the spectral eyes of the Big G widen. “Say what?” “Well, that’s my angle, at least.
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I guess they succeeded in their aim because nobody mentions what I always think whenever I hear their names: that Robin Thicke is the son of the desperate one-time Carson wannabe Allan, whose show was ACTUALLY CALLED Thicke of the Night, and Miley Cyrus is the daughter of the Confederate meat puppet who ‘sang’ ‘Achey Breaky Heart.’ And last night they simulated coitus with him dressed as Beetlejuice and her wearing flesh toned rubber underwear.” I saw the tousled jet-black hair of my supernatural visitor shaking. “Kinky! Sounds like a potential pictorial.” “I don’t know, boss. The spectacle was quite a lot of things, but I don’t know that ‘hot’ was one of them.” I showed him a couple of clips from around the web. “Sounds like that Marvin Gaye song,” he observed. “Doesn’t it though?” “So where’s the part where she’s twerking?” “Hard to tell. It could reside in the masturbatory gestures using the foam finger. Or the doggy style thing just there. Or the actual steps? Such as they are.” The Big G shook his head. “I’ve seen a lot of things in my time,” he sighed, “and this looks like all of them, and none of them, at the same time.” I looked up “Twerking” on Wikipedia. “It’s the steps, it would seem,” I said to the Big G. “According to this entry, ‘twerking’ is dance move that involves a person shaking the hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle.’ Also, that to ‘twerk’ means to ‘dance in a sexually suggestive fashion by twisting the hips.’” “And this is a NEW thing? Feh. Tina Turner used to do that all the time. With the Ikettes, to boot.” “Well, maybe it’s easier to identify what’s unique about it if you look at just one person doing it alone rather than in the context of a weird massive production number.”
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On a whim, I went and Googled that ancient-by-Internet-standards video the photographer Terry Richardson made of model Kate Upton dancing the “Cat Daddy.” We watched that six or seven times to make sure, then concluded, as admirable a display as it was, it wasn’t really “twerking.” “We should maybe consult some cultural analysts,” I said, and soon enough we were in oddly deep waters. “If I read Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield correctly, it’s the waggling of the tongue that gives Miley’s twerking its extra oomph.” I felt the Big G over my shoulder. “I don’t think you’re reading him correctly.” “According to Jody Rosen at New York Magazine’s Vulture, for Miley Cyrus to ‘twerk” is a racist or near-racist act of cultural appropriation.” “See, what’d I tell you? Tina Turner.” “Right. Actually, what Rosen says here is: ‘For white performers, minstrelsy has always been a means to an end: a shortcut to self-actualization. The archetypal example is in ‘The Jazz Singer’ (1927), in which Al Jolson’s immigrant striver puts on the blackface mask to cast off his immigrant Jewish patrimony and remake himself as an all-American pop star.’” “Hmm. I always liked Jolson. He had class.” “Now YOU’RE not reading correctly.” “Well excuse me. Seems we’re getting a long way here from the main thrust of the action, which as I recall concerned a not-yet-21-year-old female entertainer faking twit-diddling on national television.” “Don’t be so vulgar,” I snorted, loading another page. You wanted to know why it was so controversial, not to mention what it actually was, and it seems that…” “What?” “Well you are supposed to be outraged at the twerking, but for the right reasons. If you’re outraged because of the sexual content, you’re a prig, you’re anti-feminist, you’re moralist, you’re ‘slut-shaming,’ and anyway the performance is not that much more sexually outrageous than what Madonna did at the VMAs in 1984.”
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“Ah, yes. I enjoyed that performance. Mainly because I was alive to see it!” “That would help, yes. Anyway, you can, and should, be offended by the twerking, and such, on the aforementioned cultural appropriation grounds. As Dodai Stewart writes at the feminist site Jezebel, ‘Miley and her ilk need to be reminded that the stuff they think is cool, the accoutrements they’re borrowing, have been birthed in an environment where people are underprivileged, undereducated, oppressed, underrepresented, disenfranchised, systemically discriminated against and struggling in a system set up to insure that they fail.’” The Big G took that in for a bit. I could see him start to fade back into the corner from whence he had oozed. “That’s pretty heavy,” he reflected. “By that logic, though…by that logic not only ought this Miley person not ‘twerk,’ but really nobody ever anywhere should ‘twerk’.” I shrugged. “I can see how you might arrive at that conclusion. I wasn’t considering doing it myself.” “Well that’s a relief,” The Big G said. Before fading completely into the darkness, he said, “It’s a complicated culture you live in. No wonder you drink.” I went off to get another Alka-Seltzer.
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