While I was shocked, disturbed, and disappointed with Miley Cyrus' performance on the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, the national reaction appears to be the same more than 60 years after Elvis Presley debuted his signature dance moves -- the gyrating hip thrust and leg twitch -- on television. Though Elvis is on a grander scale -- much grander I must add, the repulsive and immediate reaction by parents is nonetheless the same.
Elvis was banned from the Ed Sullivan show, prohibited from playing in Corpus Christi, and frequently threatened for his money and musical influence. "The King" carefully won over the world with his talent to become a preeminent cultural icon. The shocker with Miley is that she abruptly dropped her Disney wardrobe (no pun intended) for a complete opposite and unexpected persona -- raunchy and reckless. The public outcry and numerous comedic late night jokes were appropriate.
As a new dad and young professional, I agree with the public that Miley's "mad cow tongue" and borderline assault of Robin Thicke was way over the top. Or as my friend put it, "Watching any human molest a foam hand is disgusting. Our kids are growing up in strange times." This sentiment is very similar to views expressed in the 1950s.
The economist in me says, "You are not the consumer of this product." Enter the most troubling aspect -- Miley's influence on the next generation. Similar to Elvis, young people listen and look up to Miley Cyrus. In fact, after her VMA performance, pre-orders for her upcoming album have skyrocketed. The same phenomena happened with sold out Elvis concerts. The historical challenge for parents is managing the moral impact of celebrity influence. They have every right to be outraged and denounce the act because their toddler is now trying to "twerk." Yes -- the behavior is inappropriate, but Elvis' gyrating did not stop America from putting a man on the moon or innovating advanced technologies. Miley's moves will fail in this regard as well; however, like Elvis, she may have the opposite affect and accelerate creative economy forces.
Social media exploded moments after Miley mortified (or entertained) the masses on the VMA's. The data generated will assist enterprising organizations in marketing their products to an increasingly individualistic consumer. The hardship for parents is thwarting brain rot of the next generation which currently faces exorbitant tuition costs for college, staggering debt, and 16.3 percent unemployment rate.
America -- though outraged, this is the reality we are dealing with. The more quickly we come to terms with the next generation's infatuation with excessive expression, the more quickly we can figure out how to harness their creativity for more productive purposes. Though "The King" has left the building, the cycle of resistance, repudiation, and eventual acceptance remains.