I come down to find that the Butcher has left me a note to put the camera in the car and my first thought is “You’re emptying an attic. What do you need a camera for?”
But, of course, my friends, he’s taking his own journey. It hadn’t occured to me that he didn’t want to take this trip with me, but that he has stuff he’s got to work out on his own, and that’s why he can only get time off during the week.
I’ve been thinking about those two Americas again, not the political two Americas, but the artistic two Americas. It’s interesting to me to think about it in terms of this whole Miley Cyrus/Annie Leibovitz thing. Because, it seems to me that both women have their feet in both worlds.
On the one hand, Leibovitz is a member of what we here in the middle of America might term the Hollywood elite, some insider hipper-than-thou. On the other hand, of course, she’s an artist and artists in general tend to have an uneasy outsider relationship to their communities.
And then, here is Miley Cyrus, who could not be any more mainstream, with her hit TV show and her hit concert tour, and a movie in the works. If ever there were a child of craptastic opulent America, she is it. And yet, now that there’s even the slightest furor about the photos, the Cyrus camp is all “We didn’t know them photos were going to look that way. We is simple country folks, taken advantage of by them city slickers.”
Yes, it’s bullshit. Her dad was at the photoshoot. She certainly saw that she was putting a sheet around herself and thus had to know that the photos would be of her in a sheet. And the photos aren’t trashy. They’re beautiful.
I mean, come on. Of course they make her look sexy, of course they make us uneasy to see her so blatently displayed as if she is sexy. But people, Leibovitz is an artist. She’s not taking photos so that you can say “Oh, that’s what Miley Cyrus looks like.” She’s taking photos that are designed to provoke you in a way that art functions to provoke.
Cyrus, let me emphasize, is already made to look sexy. That’s the whole conceit of Hanna Montana–that she’s an ordinary dorky teenage girl most of the time with a secret life as a super sexy awesome rockstar. It’s just couched in such a way that the little girls get it while the parents can overlook it (which, if you think about it, puts those little girls in a troubling position of being the ones who most clearly recognize Cyrus as sexy and who have to figure out why it’s okay for her to be sexy in some ways and not in others).
Leibovitz’s photos are designed to make you see what Disney only wants your children to see.
Disney doesn’t want you to see it because Disney doesn’t want you to think “Hmm, Disney… Haven’t they had a hand in Spears, Lohan, High-School-Musical chick, and so on? Isn’t it weird that all these girls run through the Disney mill–the mill I sit my little girl down in front of every night–come out with such fucked up ideas about themselves and their own sexuality and where their worth as people is located? Hmm, I wonder what it might be doing to Miley Cyrus, who I also let my little girl watch, and, by extention, what that might be doing to my little girl…”
So, instead, now it’s going to be framed as a naive good girl who just didn’t realize what that mean old corrupt Hollywood-type was doing to her. And now she’s so disappointed and begs her fans to forgive her and for their parents to understand how she was duped (because if there’s one thing we find titilating, it’s young women begging us not to punish them, not that we’re supposed to recognize that on a conscious level, either).
Right now, it’s a battle of which story will win out.
Because, normally, there can be only one version of the truth.
Which, frankly, sucks.
Because the best stuff happens, I think, the most creative, the most positively that America in which I want to dwell stuff happens, when multiple, sometimes contradictory narratives are left to stand.
That’s why I’m so loving reading about the Boston contingency going to Graceland. There is room for us all–the country folks and the drag kings and the Irish Rock Gods and the curious and the disbelieving–at Graceland.
Maybe it’s always the One Truth versus the many truthes. Maybe that’s always what it comes down to, and the fight we have to have with ourselves, to recognize the difference between “The Way It Is” and “You’ve got your story, I’ve got mine” and to always throw in with the side of many voices.
At least, that’s what I think.
Edited To Add: Ginger’s got a good conversation (and a copy of the image) over at her place. The only thing I see people ignoring is the Disney angle and the fact that she’s already marketed as being sexy.