Column: All the 'twerking' news you need

Aug. 30, 2013 @ 01:21 PM

I apologize to our readers for the failure to include coverage of what appeared to be, judging by all the commentary across the Internet, the most important story in the world the past week: Miley Cyrus’ twerking.

I realize that many of you probably were faced with a dilemma last Sunday night: You wanted to watch the NFL pre-season game that was on, or “Breaking Bad” on AMC. But, as often happens, MTV scheduled its must-see event of the year, the VMA Awards, at the same time as those other shows.

(Side note: VMA stands for “video music awards,” so the show is technically the Video Music Awards Awards, the same way that one of the forerunners of Bank of America once was North Carolina National Bank National Bank. And the fact that a show named for music videos airs on a network, MTV, Music Television, that began as a 24-hour video network but now never shows any videos, is close to the definition of irony. But anyway …)

So, faced with this conflict, you probably figured the paper would carry some mention of the VMA Awards in the next edition. Sorry. I’ll try to help make up for that here.

Actually I missed the VMA show myself. But, thanks to the Internet, I saw several minutes of Miley Cyrus’ act, which was a few minutes more than I really needed.

Those of you with children or grandchildren of the right age probably know Cyrus best as Hannah Montana, a fairly wholesome character on a children’s television show on the Disney Channel. You wouldn’t recognize her now. She is past 18, and she seems intent on proving that Hannah Montana was just a character she played.

Leaving Hannah Montana behind seems to involve showing the world that she has an unnaturally long tongue. Cyrus pushed that sucker out at all kinds of odd angles, like one of those lizards that can lick their own eyeballs.

It also involves twerking.

A joke circulating among news editors was that newspapers can’t write a story with "twerking" in it because our readership is so old that none of them would know what it is and would assume we misspelled a word. But even if you don't know the word, I think you may have seen twerking before without knowing what it was called.

Twerking is a term for a “dance” move that involves thrusting the pelvis back and forth. Imagine you are carrying something big and can’t put it down, but you suddenly have a terrible itch at the spot where the inseam of your pants meets your bottom, and you happen to be near a fallen log so you straddle the log and rub the itch against it by moving your pelvis back and forth – speed it up and that’s twerking.

In Cyrus’ case, the twerking that got the most discussion was when she bent forward with her rear up high against singer Robin Thicke – the son of actor Alan Thicke, who played the father on the TV series “Growing Pains” – and twerked as though Thicke’s zipper was on fire and only her buns could put out the flames, all while she worked that giraffe-like tongue around her face.

I missed the show when it aired, but it was hard to escape the commentary and clips online, whether on websites, Facebook or Twitter. Some commentators found it all merely bawdy. Others called it lewd, grotesque and shameful. I just thought it was silly and awkward. Whatever Cyrus thought she was doing, it wasn’t sexy. She looked like a sheltered, uncool girl with a reputation for being prudish and uptight trying to prove to the whole school that she really is cool and wild.

Clinton Yates of the Washington Post – who knew that among the matters of world importance covered by the Washington Post was Miley Cyrus’ pelvic gyrations? – wrote that people need to settle down and stop being outraged by Cyrus’ twerking because “all she's doing is precisely what we’re celebrating everyone else for: being herself.”

She is? Ew.