At last week’s MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus continued her journey to adulthood, aided by proximity to popping black female asses. The former Hannah Montana star sparked a national dialogue about rich white girls borrowing empowerment from "low" black culture. The conversation we need to have about cultural appropriation is thorny and complicated—and necessary. But in the heat of a pop-culture moment, the significance is trivialized, reduced to the mere shock of a wiggling, latex-clad derriere pressed against Robin Thicke’s manhood. And ideas that support useful dialogue get lost in the scrum. It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion about cultural appropriation without first understanding the difference between inspiration and minstrelsy, the diversity of American racial experiences, and what we have a right to expect from white artists influenced by other cultures.
I have to say that I really thought the Republican convention was going to have more hippie-bashing. After all, there's nothing a Republican loves more than telling a stupid hippie where to get off. But perhaps because the party decided that the culture war isn't going their way, they decided to leave that stuff behind and just focus on how much Democrats hate capitalism.
So to honor what was missing from the RNC, this week's music break is "Listen to the Flower People," from This Is Spinal Tap, the funniest movie ever made.
Portlandia, or as it’s known around my place, “Stuff White People Like: The TV Show” aired its season finale on March 9, having successfully bested Mad Men as the show whose impact on the cultural discourse furthest outstrips its ratings. The kind of people who pen magazine articles defining the culture’s official watercooler topics spring directly from the educated, anxiously hip urban middle class that Portlandia captures so perfectly, giving it a massive edge in this contest. Beyond just being an entertaining black hole of self-referential humor, however, Portlandia signals an important shift in the zeitgeist.