Tag Archives: vmas

Queens in the Classroom

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Classes have started at LMU, where I teach; hence my relative silence here at Populism. Balancing writing and teaching is never easy, and my blog always seems to suffer most. I’m hoping that will change, as this is the first year when I am not trying to write a book as well as teach a full load. Instead, I’m busy publicizing that book. Teaser: Some very special activities are being planned to celebrate the publication of Queens of Noise. Watch this space for more.

I try to keep my various duties as integrated as possible. To that effect, I’m teaching a new course called Revolution Girl Style: Punk Feminism Then and Now. It’s a seminar for first-semester students, part of this year’s new Core Curriculum. Nineteen wonderful young ladies are looking to me to train them in the ways of the university (thankfully, I have a writing instructor too — go Liz!), but more importantly, to inspire them with the music and mottos of Riot Grrrl.

On Day 1, I played videos of the Runaways performing “Cherry Bomb,” Bratmobile performing the same song, and Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance two days earlier. The latter is what we educators call “a teachable moment.” The students had a lot to say — it was one of the best discussions I’ve had in a classroom. And it was refreshing to see it all from their eyes — and depressing to realize that they weren’t even born when the original Girl Night occurred (depressing because in 1991, I was already older than they are).

Their first assignment is to read Queens. No, I’m not just trying to generate some easy sales. The idea of the First Year Seminars is for professors to teach to their research interests — and the Runaways is what I’ve spent the last four years researching. Their story encapsulates the perils and power of women rockers before Riot Grrrl. They were a direct influence on Revolution Girl Style — i.e., that Bratmobile cover. And for better or worse, Joan Jett et al have inspired Cyrus’s clumsy attempts to shed her virginal Disney image. Long before the VMAs blew up in her face, Miley was the exploding Cherry Bomb, performing a Runaways/Jett medley live. Yeah, she’s no Cherie Currie or Allison Wolfe, but she doesn’t lip-sync and she means it when she says she doesn’t care.

But Cyrus is a side note. After the Runaways, we’ll talk about the explosion, and then implosion, of Riot Grrrl, and its reemergence via Pussy Riot et al. Here’s the syllabus, subject to change. Sorry: the class is full. Revolution Girl Style syllabus

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From Cherie to Miley, Sex Kills

Young white woman gets up on stage in stripper outfit.  She sees her bold, provocative performance as a declaration of sexual desire and power. Others vilify her as a whore. Everyone is shocked; everyone can’t stop talking about it. Runaways fans: Does this sound familiar?

As truly awful as Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance was last night, I still feel sorry for her. As Cherie Currie found out 37 years ago, when she took the stage at the Starwood nightclub wearing a corset and fishnet stockings, it is extremely hard for a young woman to get up in front of an audience, flaunt her flesh, and maintain control over the way her body is interpreted. The Runaways singer wore her bustier for exactly one song, “Cherry Bomb.” Still, as happened again on the radio show we were on last Friday, that outfit is still the only — or at least the primary — way people see Currie. Once our Puritan culture’s boner is tripped, it stays ready to swing into action at the slightest provocation.

Flesh offered is flesh consumed. Aroused desire quickly turns into hatred, especially if the audience feels it is being teased. The vitriol of the attacks on the former Hannah Montana — the desire for her to be dead, or disappear — are shocking and nothing new. Currie also used to wind up as a corpse on stage, during “Dead End Justice”. A headline in one of the Japanese magazines that famously featured fetishistic shots of the under-dressed, under-age singer says it all: “Fuck Me, Kill Me: The Runaways.”

Cyrus is a young woman who has to grow up in the spotlight and doesn’t know how to be herself. For too many years she was desexualized;  released, her libido rages uncontrolled. She’s the ugly, almost naked image of our entertainment culture’s pedophilic youth obsession and Madonna/whore complex, paying the price for all of our sins. MTV pimped her ride, just like Kim Fowley, Mercury Records, and the Japanese skin mags pimped Cherie. The shame belongs on them, not her. I mean really, Robin Thicke deserves far more hatred for singing his date-rape anthem than Cyrus gets for playing along.

Also, it must be said, Currie didn’t do that awful thing with her tongue. Her act was almost masculine, inspired by the drag of Rocky Horror not, I don’t know, MTV. Miley, I know you worship Joan Jett: Go back and look at her career. She never stooped to a pole dance. And she would have punched Thicke in the face.

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VMAs: Were we Punk'd?

Am I the only one who thinks that whole Kanye/Taylor/Beyonce VMAs stunt was staged? I kept expecting Ashton Kutcher to walk out. It all ended too perfectly, with both ladies in their red cocktail dresses. I know Kanye can be an idiot, but even he knows some bounds. Why was Taylor waiting backstage when Beyonce called for her? It’s like the Eminem/Insult Dog brouhaha last year.

I don’t think the Green Day stage takeover was planned though. The bouncers looked annoyed. Loved it if it wasn’t.

Fave performances: Beyonce, Pink, Muse. Yours?

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