August 28, 2013
Watch the video? Or not watch?
Based on all of the comments, I feel like I could pretty much choreograph Miley’s VMA dance…even not having seen the dance. Everybody seems to have something to say about Miley Cyrus. Lots of bad comments. Some good comments…or perhaps…comments only attempting to point to a redeeming good.
But, from this Monday morning quarterback, with all of our eyes glued to Miley, we are failing to see the bigger picture. Where are the more important comments directed to Miley’s audience?
I decided not to watch. Miley. Reading all of the comments on Miley “grabbing her crotch,” multiple times…this is visual enough for me.
I didn’t watch, even though I know that I am now committing a modern American sin. I am commenting on something I did not see firsthand.
In America, we have hundreds of reasons for watching anything and everything. We’re bored. Curious. We have to be able to talk with our coworkers about it tomorrow. And if none of that pulls us in, we must watch on YouTube, the day after, just to prove that we have the right to have an opinion about a 20-year-old’s lascivious tongue-wagging, crotch-grabbing on-stage embarrassment. The modern sin is not watching.
I have not watched many things that were much-watched in America. The first time I felt somewhat apologetic about not watching was a few months after May 25, 1977. Everyone was talking about Star Wars. My blank stare outed me every time. “You mean you haven’t seen Star Wars?”
At its release, I had been busy. Work, rehabbing a house, camping under the stars and road trips to Tennessee occupied all of my time. Doing seemed so much more fun than sitting…sitting and watching someone else do all the doing. Star Wars just didn’t make it to my radar. I was not making a political statement…a cultural statement…a statement of any kind. I just figured I would get around to watching it when I had time.
In 1977, movies came…and movies went. There was no VCR, DVD or Net Flix. Eventually, Star Wars left the scene…without me…and people stopped talking about it. At that point, it just didn’t seem worth thinking about Star Wars any longer. And I didn’t.
Things were fairly quiet on the movie front…for three years…until the 2000 release of…you guessed it…Son of Star Wars. Now, I ask you, if I had not seen the first Star Wars, how could I possibly see Son of Star Wars? That would be a sequential disaster, trying to understand the “son” without knowing his “father.”
I had survived my first period of Not Watching. So the stages of reaction to my Not Watching were familiar as they repeated:
- You mean you haven’t seen Son of Star Wars?
- You mean you have to wait for the first Star Wars to be re-released?
- You’re kidding, aren’t you?
- Eventually…next year…a movie is released that I do see, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Nobody is talking about Son of Star Wars.
- Nobody remembers that I did not see Son of Star Wars.
- Nobody cares…if they ever did.
The greatest lesson about Miley at the VMA is not about Miley, or her choreographer, her dance partners, her parents, her agents, the VMA show producers…or anyone else having to do with Miley. The greatest lesson is about our own compulsion to watch.
We watch anything, anywhere, for any reason whatsoever. We carry our little portable phone watcher machines with us. And if we lose the signal in the subway, we watch multiple times at home on YouTube. Watching is a cultural disease.
Not Watching- that is an art. I didn’t see Miley because when I saw MTV for the first time…years ago…it had already degraded into a popular medium for teaching pre-teens how to lap dance. I take my Not Watching seriously enough that I cornered the gym manager to ask why children had to group-watch MTV in the lobby of the gym. We were there to create healthy bodies. What about healthy minds?
Not Watching – I no longer watch SuperBowl half-time shows. Janet Jackson convinced me that I don’t need half-time shows. Not just Janet…but the whole media complex that winks and profits from this type of cultural pollution. I don’t care who is on stage or how much money went into the production or how much hype is put into getting me to watch. There are better things to do.
This is the perfect age for Not Watchers. Cable TV offers 1000 channels. If only 20 are worth anything, that is five times more than the four channels I had as a teen…20 more than the zero channels my parents grew up with. Netflix is a virtual library of anything a watcher could watch. Even if you are picky, that is a lot of watching.
And what about the Doing? What are we missing about Doing in a culture addicted to Watching?
Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Miley…if I never watch any of them…I can have a wonderful, fulfilling life. It is one life…one chance on earth…one opportunity to feast my eyes on the beautiful, the creative, the brilliant, the honorable…the redemptive.
I can’t agree with many of the comments made by Justin Timberlake in defense of Miley. But when I agree with JT, it is a big high-five agreement. “It’s the VMAs, what did you guys expect?”
If Americans have anything to learn from this “shocking” performance of Miley’s, it is this…there is much to be gained by learning how to Not Watch.
Not Watching – You will survive. Next week, nobody will know if you watched…or not. The week after that…they won’t care. If it’s worth it, and if you have the time, five years from now you can download it.
Your eyes are the gateway to your soul. Healthy bodies, healthy minds. Try Not Watching.
You will survive!