I read an article that made me think today. I am fortunate to not have seen the performance at the VMA awards that involved Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. But, the father who wrote the article watched the awards on TV with his 17 year old son. It was meant to be a togetherness time. As he was reflecting on the performance afterward, he writes the following insightful comments:
I’ve spent a lot of time around teens and young adults in my life. And many of them make crazy mistakes along the way. They say ignorant things. They do things that they’ll regret. But, as best as I can tell, they usually turn out fine. …
As a dad, I can only hope she finds her way through her own blurred lines and gets to the other side healthy. And a little wiser.
But I do believe there are other places in life where the lines are black and white. Just like the stripes on Mr. Thicke’s fun costume the other night. And, truthfully, I think he’s the one that crossed a line. A big thick one. …
But I do care that Mr. Thicke (who I also think is an awesome artist) seems to have abdicated his responsibility (as a man — not a celebrity) to model respectable behavior towards women. He’s 36. He’s a dad. And I’m guessing he’s a pretty dandy dad and husband. I mean, come on, his own father was Jason Seaver of "Growing Pains"! I’m not an MTV producer, but I’m pretty confident Mr. Thicke knew exactly how that performance was going to go down. Foam fingers, package grabbing, twerking, Miley backing herself into his hips like he was an open garage door, and the rest of the mess.
He’s a man. He’s a dad. Just like the rest of us. And we all owe it to our kids to act and show them where the blurred lines go away.
And a special note to my 17-year-old son: I know we both rolled our eyes the other night when we watched Miley. It was pretty awkward to see her act that way. We all do dumb things and I hope you know I’ll always give you plenty of room to make mistakes and find your way to adulthood. As you can guess, I’d appreciate it if you kept from anything involving twerking on national television. And please limit your use of foam fingers to sporting events.
But if I ever see or hear of you crossing that very real line about how to treat a woman — or any human being for that matter — don’t expect such open-mindedness from me. There’s no such thing as a blurred line when it comes to respect. As your dad, I take that one very seriously.
Now be honest. How many of you have even given a thought to Robin Thicke’s responsibility? I know that I did not. Like most people, I thought about Miley Cyrus’ performance and what a mistake she had made. But, I did not think about Robin Thicke. Yet, this father goes to the core in a way that the news media (and I) did not really think about.
Ultimately, Miley Cyrus is just 20 years old and still in the do-dumb-things years. Mr. Thicke is middle-aged and a father. He is the one who is supposed to show the better judgment of the two. And, yet, he has escaped with no opprobrium while Miley has been excoriated. Conceivably, Mr. Thicke could have refused to do the performance. Conceivably, he could have tried to speak as a father to Miley to try and talk her out of it. Instead, he facilitated her performance and fully participated in it. The best part for him is that he got all the publicity with none of the blame.
And, I think part of the reason that he got away with it lies within our cultural biases. We love the story of the “bad girl,” the Lolita who seduces the older man. Despite what we may say out loud, we actually have no problem in blaming the “bad girl.” In fact, there was an egregious case of that this past week. You may have seen the case in the news. Just this past week, the convicted rapist of a 14 year old girl, who three-years later committed suicide, was given just 30 days. (The judge imposed a 15 year sentence, and then suspended all but 30 days of it.) The judge then made the remark that the victim was, “older than her chronological age,” and “as much in control of the situation” as the man.
The story about Miley Cyrus should have been equally about Robin Thicke. The disgust that many expressed about Miley should have been even more strongly expressed about Mr. Thicke. But, it is a mirror of our cultural biases that it is the bad girl we jump on while the equally guilty man gets away clean.