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Thursday, October 3, 2013

In 2008, I got a pair of white wedge gladiator sandals by Jil Sander, inspired by my fond memories of the flat white gladiators I wore in 1985. I searched for photos of the original sandals but didn’t find any … until now! Here are the sandals sitting next to me on the beach.


Probably taken in Montauk, N.Y., in 1985, when I was 17.

I don’t know if I accidentally turned away from the camera or if I was deliberately trying to avoid my father’s paparazzi-like ways. The pose does give you a look at the same tri-color gold snake chain that I wrote about in last Thursday’s throwback post. I had a very serious relationship with that chain!

While I’m feeling so nostalgic for the accessories of yesteryear, allow me to remind you of my recent posts — one on the Huffington Post and one here — about the effects of nostalgia on memory. The posts were inspired by Miley Cyrus’s controversial twerking routine on MTV’s Video Music Awards.  After reading endless commentary declaring Miley’s career to be over, I interviewed some experts and wrote:

“For those of you thinking that Miley Cyrus should feel chastened over negative reaction to her hip-thrusting, tongue-jutting performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards August 25, I’ve got surprising news: You’re more likely to change your mind about her antics than Miley is, thanks to a psychological phenomenon known as ‘fading affect bias.'”

I provided examples of how initial reactions to memorable appearances by Madonna and Elvis Presley were every bit as negative as the response to Miley — one 1956 column even cited Elvis’s “movements of the tongue.” But, over time, the culture has redefined those performances as iconic.

The redefining process for Miley has started already. Success always helps with that kind of thing and, from a sales perspective, it’s obvious that Miley’s VMA moment was successful.  Her single “Wrecking Ball” — with a video that garnered yet more criticism for nudity as well as over 180 million YouTube views — is a No. 1 hit. No one is going to shun those results! Miley is all over the media, often being praised for her smarts: in a new MTV documentary, Miley: The Movement; in a cover story for music magazine Rolling Stone; and in another cover story for fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.  Today, she’s on the front page of the New York Times Thursday Styles section in an article by Jacob Bernstein called “The Pro-Miley Backlash.” The story includes supportive quotes from Joanna Coles, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who also gave Miley a cover and escorted the pop star around New York Fashion Week. Coles, praising Miley as an entertainer and provocateur, said:

“Old people have always criticized young people for exploring their sexuality and owning it and enjoying it. ‘Twas ever thus.”

But I was most excited by the New York Times’s conversation with Liz Rosenberg, Madonna’s spokeswoman of many years, about Madonna’s 1984 VMA performance. That’s the “Like a Virgin,” rolling-around-in-a-wedding-dress act that so many people held up in contrast to Miley’s immediately after this year’s VMAs. The consensus was, “Yeah, Madonna did naughty things too, but hers were good and Miley’s were bad.” But, as I pointed out on the Huffington Post, Madonna told Jay Leno last year that her manager’s initial reaction to the ’84 VMAs was, “That’s it, you’ve ruined your career.” In the Times today, Rosenberg says that her boyfriend at the time said the same, and that it was “months before anyone really realized that the performances was, in fact, a coup.”

I’d say it’s now undeniable that Miley’s VMA performance was, like Madonna’s, a career coup. Hate on her tiny outfits and wild dancing all you want (God, MOM! You’re so uptight!), but Miley is laughing all the way to the bank.


Click to read about the “You mad bro?” Internet meme.

If you’re hating on Miley’s talent as well, you might want to check out this clip of her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” (Who first sent this to me? Identify yourself in the comments for credit!)

I’ve seen this clip shared around teh Internets lately with a lot of people commenting along the lines of “I didn’t know she could do things like this! She should go back to this.” That makes me laugh because Miley’s reason for pushing the envelope is right there in that comment! No one knew about “Jolene” Miley. Everyone knows “Wrecking Ball” Miley. Her current cultural domination means that if she does abruptly choose to return to that post-Hannah Montana, pre-twerking, good-girl Miley persona, it will be as newsworthy as her grinding up on Robin Thicke. Miley’s got strategy like Sun Tzu, bitches!

UPDATED TO ADD: Speaking of revisionist history, I see Sinead O’Connor getting a lot of support for her open letter to Miley warning her about the music business (a business that Miley is certainly not a newcomer to). This is the same Sinead O’Connor whose career was destroyed by the outraged reaction to her tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in 1992 –21 years ago to the day. It was a protest against sexual abuse within the Catholic church and, in the years since then, it was proven that Sinead was completely correct: the church was protecting child molesters. To the best of my knowledge, the world hasn’t apologized to Sinead for booing her offstage at a Dylan concert and otherwise persecuting her for her prescient protest. But now that she wants to scold Miley, finally people are on Sinead’s side. SMH.

UPDATED AGAIN TO ADD: How could I forget to mention that Miley is the host and the musical guest for Saturday Night Live this weekend? Here are some cute promos, including one that “explains” those Elvis-like “movements of the tongue.”

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2 Responses to “Throwback Thursday Gladiators, Plus More Miley & Madonna”

  1. stacy says:

    my gladiators were brown. probably got them in ’86. i thought they were the coolest things on the planet and i was very proud of myself for having found them somewhere in my small town of one mall (with bad stores!).

    miley is gonna be just fine… i have no doubt. and it’s too bad sinead fell off the map after that whole debacle.

    • WendyB says:

      Yeah, it wasn’t fair to Sinead. I wonder if her later behavior would have been so erratic without that trauma … or maybe she was just going to go crazy regardless!