Miley Cyrus has taken a lot of flack for her provocative dancing and wild tongue action at the MTV Video Music Awards two weeks ago. But if you know me, you know I’m all about giving people the freedom to do whatever they want, so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else (or slightly inconvenience me in some way). So I was in no way upset by Miley’s decision to grind against Robin Thicke. What a grown woman does with a man dressed like Beetlejuice in front of a live studio audience and a handful of live cameras is her business. And I support her right to bust a move.
What I can’t condone is the larger implication of that moment. Miley’s little dance number did something far worse than titillate a few unsupervised kids and force a few uptight conservative folks to pretend like they didn’t sort of enjoy it. Miley Cyrus taught the world what twerking is. And for that, she can’t be forgiven.
Before the incident, twerking was something talked about in loud clubs and in hipper, less-frequented corners of the Internet. Those in the know have been familiar with the dance move since as early as 2000, when the Ying Yang Twins released their hit single “Whistle While You Twurk.” After that, it was the source of many animated gifs and YouTube videos, but that was it. Mainstream America was still blissfully unaware. Until Miley came along.
Of course, Jimmy Kimmel’s twerking hoax has only made things worse. In case you missed it, Kimmel secretly released a YouTube video two months ago entitled “Worst Twerk FAIL Ever – Girl Catches Fire” and waited patiently for it to go viral. As the name suggests, the video features a woman attempting to twerk against a door while doing a handstand, only to have the door opened, causing her to tumble forward into a table full of lit candles. Her leg catches fire while her friend screams. As Kimmel recently revealed on his show, the person in the video was a professional stuntwoman and the whole thing was staged by him.
Like Miley Cyrus’ performance, the Kimmel video got a lot of mainstream attention. Many websites and television shows picked it up before they knew it was a hoax, showing it to their audiences under the mistaken belief that it was real. And, once Kimmel revealed it was all a hoax, it got even more coverage as people talked about how they or others had been duped. At this point, twerking is practically a household name.
Now, don’t go thinking I’m some type of twerking hipster. I’m not objecting to twerking becoming mainstream because I think it somehow diminishes it for anyone who knew about it before it became cool. I don’t want you to picture me in ironic sunglasses, skinny jeans and a knitted cap listening to an 8-track version of “Whistle While You Twurk” while dancing around a warehouse like a hipster Kevin Bacon. (Seriously, for the love of god, don’t picture that. It’ll do some permanent damage.)
It’s quiet the opposite, in fact. My objection to twerking becoming mainstream is that it’s now so much harder to ignore. We are now living in a world where twerking is something your grandmother might bring up during an incredibly awkward family lunch. “I heard that Billy Ray Cyrus’ girl twerked on Alan Thicke’s boy on some musical television show,” you might now hear grandma say as everyone stares at their feet while silently chewing their over-cooked, flavorless chicken. Nobody wants that. And frankly, nobody can afford all that therapy.
Our eyes have been open, America, and I fear they can never be shut again. It’s like being shaken out of your happy little existence and waking up naked and shaved bald in that weird jelly stuff in The Matrix. Before long, dads across the country will be embarrassing their teenage kids by going “Hey look, I’m twerking” while dancing out in public. Like stripper pole aerobics before it, twerking will be offered as a class to help older middle class white women stay in shape. This American Life will do a story on it.
I really wish we could all go back in time and take the blue pill, forgetting all of this ever happened. Unfortunately, that’s not how life twerks.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.