Welcome to the conversation!


Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Implicit racism in Miley Cyrus' VMA performance?

"When I teach theater history to undergraduates I meet very few students who have heard of minstrelsy before I tell them about it. Even when I teach graduate students, I find that many of them think American theater history began with Eugene O'Neill. They are completely unaware that the first nationally popular American play was Uncle Tom's Cabin, transformed onstage from an anti-slavery text into a racist spectacle whose influence survives till today."
- Holly L. Derr, The Atlantic 

Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (August 25, 2013) has been a hot topic in the news, criticized by many for being overly sexual and an over-the-top spectacle. But several are now critiquing Cyrus from a different angle - her performance as a "minstrel show." 

The Atlantic (a periodical for which Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote frequently) recently featured "The Pervading Influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Pop Culture," an article by Holly L. Derr which connects Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin to pop culture, specifically Cyrus' performance. She calls attention to  "Cyrus, surrounded by black women half-dressed as animals, attempted and perverted a form of black dancing called twerking," and elements of the performance which recall "Tom shows" and racist 19th-20th century plays. 

Other journalists agree. Jody Rosen, author of "The 2013 VMAs Were Dominated by Miley’s Minstrel Show" for Vulture, wrote
"Cyrus has spent a lot of time recently toying with racial imagery. We’ve seen Cyrus twerking her way through the video for her big hit “We Can’t Stop,” professing her love for “hood music,” and claiming spiritual affinity with Lil’ Kim. Last night...her act tipped over into what we may as well just call racism: a minstrel show...."
Some took opposition, though, to Derr and Rosen, claiming they were reading too far into the performance, that Cyrus was not being racist. Conversing with many followers via Twitter, Rosen retorted (@jodyrosen) "Specifically, she's drawing on a long tradition of hyper-sexualized depicitions of African-American women" and "You might say, as some critics of my piece have, that I'm seeing ghosts. And you'd be right. I'm seeing history." 



Little Eva at center with Topsy and Uncle Tom at right, by Edwin Longsden Long. (Wikimedia)

Miley Cyrus and backup dancers at the 2013 MTV VMAs (ABC News)

"Cyrus wasn't wearing literal blackface in her performance, but the tradition of a little white girl at the center of a minstrel performance is as old as minstrelsy itself. One of the most popular characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin was Little Eva: the blonde, lily-white daughter of conscientious slave owners who is adored by white and black people alike. The uncivilized slave Topsy, who says that she cannot love anyone because no one has ever loved her, is nevertheless moved to tears by Eva's death and vows thereafter to be good."
- Holly L. Derr, The Atlantic 


What was your response to Miley Cyrus' performance? Do you agree that it hearkened back to minstrel shows and racism popularized by "Tom show" performances of Uncle Tom's Cabin? Share your reactions by clicking "Post a Comment" below. 






To learn more about Uncle Tom's Cabin and it's evolution on the stage, be sure to read John W. Frick's new book Uncle Tom's Cabin on the American Stage and Screen, available in the Stowe Center Museum Shop and online. 




71 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not convinced that Miley Cyrus has the intelligence to intentionally pull off what she is being of accused of here. Is the performance in poor taste? Sure. Is it base and ignorant? Yes. Is it intentionally racist by drawing on a historical mode of performance that has parallels to Eva from Uncle Tom's Cabin? Not likely. I think she just did some stuff that people would watch, partied and the went to sleep.

Manny Caraballo said...

Michael C. Says
I truly can't believe that such a thing could still be going on in our society. You would think by now people would have common decency to understand that this nothing to laugh at. We as Americans have been letting history repeat itself for far to long and it's time to bring that to an end. What's displayed here is no laughing matter. For it is a modern minstrel play at its worse example.

Luke B C said...

I believe that Miley Cyrus intentionally included actions that could be seen as racist into her performance. I do not think that it was done to offend people but so that people would talk about her. I do not believe that the performance was modeled off of the painting of Little Eva by Edwin Longsden, but I believe it is entirely possible that the performance was influenced by minstrel shows. I think this because she had only black back-up-dancers, as to say that she was better because she is white.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that Miley's inappropriate actions resemble a minstrel show. These actions can be very offensive and there is a reason why minstrel shows are not supposed to be allowed. The public display of racism either implicit or explicit should not be allowed due to its offensiveness to many viewers of all races. - Jason G B

Whitney B. said...

I don't think that Miley Cyrus's intention was to ever seem racist in any way, but I can see how it would seem that way. I think it's just her way of trying to get out of the 'Disney spotlight.' Also I think she just wants attention, but she's going for the wrong type of attention. I don't believe that she's intelligent enough to even realize what she might have been doing.

Benjamin Q said...

I believe that Miley Cyrus was not representing a Tom show, as I could not see it as being told as a story; or depicting events that happened in the past like the Tom shows did. However, I do see similarities in the way that her dance was very disrespectful to people who dance, mocking them, and she did not care for any self-respect, for her or others. This is similar to how the black actors who played in the Tom shows in the late 1800s to early 1900s, did so to make money, mocking their own race, implying they had no respect for themselves or what they stood for. I think both, the Tom shows and Miley Cyrus's performance, is disheartening and show not be accepted by anybody, as it will only throw more gas into the fire that this is alright.

James Green R. said...

I think that Miley Cyrus is way to dumb and ignorant to history and her performance to care. She is probably not even aware of what she did.

Caroline R. O. said...

I also think that Miley probably didn't think specifically about parallels to Uncle Tom's Cabin while planning her performance, but when you really look at what is going in her dancing it is hard to deny that her displays are not only very provocative but racially controversial too. Every background dancer that I see in the video appears African American, and at some point Miley is slapping that butt of one of these dancers. It does seem reminiscent of Uncle Tom's cabin where there is a white girl surrounded by people of other races. Although Miley may have done so inadvertently, she displayed how unfortunately themes from the past are still appearing today.

Caroline R. O. said...

Miley may not have been aware of the racial undertones of her performance, but they are definitely present. Her imitation of twerking and the way she obnoxiously dances around the stage kind of makes the whole thing seem like mockery. The fact that she is in the center of several women who appear to all be African American may not be a specific reference or parallel to Uncle Tom's Cabin from Miley's point of view, but it is definitely demeaning and has racial undertones. Her performance shows how unfortunately themes from the past are still present today even in pop culture.

Deanna B R said...

Miley Cyrus's performance at the VMAs was deemed very provocative because of her inappropriate dancing. However, I do not believe that she intentionally would make her act racist. I think this article is over-analyzing her performance. Just because Miley Cyrus has a love for "hood music" and twerking does not mean she is racist or would try to intertwine racial imagery displayed in Uncle Tom's Cabin. While I do not defend some of Miley Cyrus's actions, I believe that if it were anyone else who made this appearance, people would not be so critical. Overall, comparing Miley Cyrus's performance to a minstrel show is taking the criticism of her performance too far though I do understand how some people could view it as racist.

D. Brown said...

Miley Cyrus' performance is a minstrel show.I like many other people believe that she did not intentionally mean for it to be taken that way, nor does she have the intelligence to know any better. Although she went about it the wrong way, I think her intentions were to seperate herself more from her character on disney and to assert herself more firmly as an adult with a career in music, trying to stay on top. Her performance reminds us as Americans that slavery did happen and that we are still having issues with it today. We can't become numb to it like the violence on yesterday's news. We have to become educated about racism and any other issue dividng us apart as a human race and take a stand against it so things like Miley Cyrus' performance don't keep happening.

Cody S. said...

I think that Miley Cyrus was just unaware to what she had done. The people who think this is a minstrel show are just over thinking her whole situation. I believe that she had all African American back up dancers just for the purpose of all the dancers being unified. I wouldn't be surprised if Miley didn't even know what a minstrel show was, much less put the effort into creating one.

Victoria Sansevero said...

I believe Miley Cyrus did not realize her performance was similar to Minstrel shows. She has probably never even heard of these kinds of shows before, like many other people have. Minstrel shows are so much a part of our history in the movies we see and performances like Miley Cyrus's people do not always notice there is a racial side to what they are doing. This being unaware is what causes controversial issues where people don not really know what is going on. I feel that more people should be educated about our own history like Minstrel shows so we understand why our society is the way it is.

Molly Blue said...

I do not think Miley Cyrus has the intellectual capability to draw from the parallels between her performance and the scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin. However, I would agree that her performance is provocative and in very bad taste. I understand how some people would connect her performance to the Minstrel shows that were well known during the Civil War. Twerking is not solely performed by African Americans. Because of that, Miley Cyrus can not be compared to the commonly known Stock characters.

RobBM said...

Miley's whole Katy Perry fu-fu get up, the overdramatized fire cannons and all those weird Hollywood light flashes just strike me as wacked out. So I feel confident in saying that I think Miley Cyrus is super weird. I don't think she purposefully made this show to evoke thoughts from minstrel shows, because she does not seem to demonstrate an immense background of historical knowledge. I just think she is trying to do a publicity stunt and be a "trendsetter" ( by the way, not working). She has a history of stunts which include cutting her hair short, dying her hair white, and becoming something of a punk after Disney. This show is just another installment in the Miley Cyrus circus show. Besides, minstrel shows are not common knowledge and even people who study theater art don't always know about it. I think Miley's love of "hood music" and being bizarre combined into a show that some people could misinterpret as racist by over analysis. She looks like a fu-fu and bubblegum girl like Katy Perry, not a racist with a background in historical knowledge. No offense to Miley, but I haven't ever seen her on "Jeopardy", let alone "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader". So this is my lengthy response to say that Miley Cyrus did not try to be racist on purpose and refer to minstrel shows but that her love of the bizarre mixed in some way this time to make a performance questionable by critics for being racist.

Quinn G M said...

I do not think Miley Cyrus' performance was intended to relate to minstrel shows. It is very unlikely that Miley would even knows what minstrel shows are, let alone try to imitate Uncle Tom's cabin in one of her performances. I understand how people could make the connections, as they seem obvious, but they are most likely just coincidences. Although I don't think her performance was racist, I do agree that it was inappropriate and provocative.

Stowe Center said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your perspectives - we appreciate your taking the time to use this blog as a platform for discussion on important issues...keep the energy coming!

We hope you will read some of our other daily posts and leave your responses and thoughts. Harriet Beecher Stowe would be proud to see that the conversations continue!

t damboisegreen!! said...

TatianaG: I think this opinion is really stretched out. What celebrity would take their time to look up about uncle Tom's canbin and copy it? They're busy enough. Whoever said this is wrong. Over all I think miley cyrus was just having fun.

Andrew G. L. said...

I think her critics over analyzed The situation.In my opinion I don't feel she would go out of her way to send some racist subliminal message.

Brittany G F said...

Miley Cyrus is a talented artist. If I were in the spotlight like her I would want the best dancers around me. She wasn't being racist the critics are looking to far into this. She is one of the lucky girls who has a talent and just because the performance was inappropriate doesn't mean they can take every little thing and blow it up to something it's not. I also don't believe she knew about the picture of uncle toms cabin and purposely made all the dancers go in routine if they knew she was making it this way. Also she probably had a choreographer to help design this dance. I believe the critics are totally over looking this performance.

Laura G. R. said...

I don't believe that Miley Cyrus meant to mimic a minstrel show in her preformance but I can see how it may look that way. After watching her preformance I can say I have lost all respect for that girl (I dare not call her a woman). I think her behavior shows a lack of respect for herself more than anything racially motivated.

Tyler G L said...

I don't believe Miley Cyrus was attempting to be racist. I believe that the media is looking for a story and another reason to trash on Miley Cyrus

Kate B. A. said...

Miley Cyrus's performance may have appeared racist, but I think the performance's similarity to Uncle Tom's Cabin and blackface minstrel shows of the early 1900s stemmed from ignorance instead from blatant racism. Her choice to have black back-up dancers was racially insensitive, especially in light of its historical parallel to ministrel's shows, but I doubt it was an intentional parallel. More than anything, this incident shows how important it is that people are educated about America's social history, so that controversy isn't created over apparent ignorance.

Alexis R. A. said...

I do not believe that Miley Cyrus knew that her performance had many similarities to a minstrel show. I think she just chose to be dressed like that and had black back-up dancers to make people talk about her performance, not to call it a minstrel show.

Tom Hendrickson said...

I think that she wanted to have a great performance. She may have made it seem that she was being racist to the people who look for the connections with every little detail. There could have been thousands of connections to past racial stereotypes, and miley seemed to be the first popular person to do it within recent times. Just let her do her thing and keep getting money.keep to yourself unless you are hurt by what happened

Bryan B D said...

Yes, Miley Cyrus' performance was racist, but I do not believe that it was an intentional reference to the minstrel shows of the early 1800s. Personally, I believe that this was a simple publicity stunt to make us stunned and make Miley the center of attention. I'm not entirely sure if she realized the full extent of what she was doing and what it would cause people to imply. However, if I am to believe anything, it is that she was caught up in the society of celebrities. She has been manipulated by ignorance to seek out some very racist performances and behaviors.

Joe Swetz said...

I think Miley Cyrus lacks the thought process to know what she was doing and how it could be seen as a minstrel show. I would be surprised if she even knew what that was. I think this is another case of people over analyzing something in the news. I don't think Miley's actions were intentional (as far as the minstrel show goes)

Julia R K said...

I do not think that Miley Cyrus would know exactly what a minstrel show is. Her performance was completely racist, though, since she was the only white person amongst a crowd of African American dancers dressed as animals. It is obvious that Miley's performance was a form of rebellion based on her erratic and overly sexual actions. I think that Miley was trying to be "bad" and she though that if she surrounded herself with African Americans she would look "bad". I don't think that she was trying to be the innocent little white girl in the middle of a minstrel show, but the white girl turned bad by her African American friends. This of course is completely inappropriate, incredibly racist, and offensive. I think that Miley's performance truly showed her ignorance and support of stereotypes.

Nate R.G said...

I doubt that Miley Cyrus has the historical knowledge to pull off such an idiotic performance. If her goal was to mock a Minstrel Show, (which I don't think she has any clue about), she succeeded. But I still think Miley's actions are being over ridiculed because she was once a Disney golden girl. If she had the confidence to publicly mock Minstrel Shows, then there is a major problem.

Jacob Moreau said...

I think that the whole reason Miley did what she did was to get attention from fans and others around the world. She knew there would be plenty of people watching so if she was to do somthing on the edge she may get attention. We are giving her attention now talking about it. She's getting what she wants. They only one who knows if it was racy is Miley herself.
Jacob Moreau

Taylor M. said...

I do not believe Miley Cyrus was trying to portray a Minstrel Show in her performance at the VMAs. I think that many spectators over analyzed it and thought that she was making fun of early African Americans in the 1900s. I do not think that Miley specifically tried to connect her show with Tom's Cabin. I think she just chose to include black background dancers without meaning to demonstrate a minstrel show. Her performance may have looked as if she intended on making it racist, but that is just an opinion. I doubt she really intended on making it look like one. Even though some of her actions and moves were some what inappropriate, that does not make it racist.

Maddy B T said...

Everyone keeps saying that Miley did not intend to be racist. I don't think the article was even accusing her of intentional racism. What I see in this performance is a young woman spiraling out of control; she is virtually hyper - sexualizing herself. Thus, the most interesting aspect of this issue is WHY Miley turned to African - American culture in her time of rebellion. Maybe she was trying to be like this image she had in her head of black women as mindless sex objects who spend all their time at the club. Maybe it was all entirely subconscious. She was raised in the South, where minstrel shows first became huge, and she dominates a modern pop culture in which racism obviously still thrives. She must have some very deep, subconscious ideas about African - American people.
It's easy to look at this whole situation objectively; we can all judge Miley and blame her parents or the culture in which she was raised for this minstrel performance. But it wasn't just Miley's upbringing, it was OURS. Our generation grew up with Miley Cyrus. We always think that racism couldn't happen here, but it absolutely could.

BerilBT said...

Miley Cyrus has been under the spotlight for quite some time now for her questionable behavior, and her recent performance at the VMA’s just adds to the controversy. Many people including myself feel that Miley Cyrus’ performance was racially insensitive and provocative. Her choice of having all black backup dancers could have been to clearly distinguish herself from the others, which is demeaning. However, I do not believe that she intentionally planned the performance to be a Minstrel show or to represent a scene from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I think Miley Cyrus does not have the historical knowledge to realize the connection between her show and the past struggles of society. Even if Miley did not intend the performance to be racist, it is still offensive. Regardless, the show she put on serves as a reminder of the world’s issues with racism today, which we can be completely unaware of.

Eric M. said...

I do not think that Miley Cyrus was trying to create a minstrel show. I do not think that she was aware that by picking all black backup dancers she was portraying herself as better thatn them because she is the main performer. However it is offensive even though she may not have known what she was doing at the time or how people would react.

JennaBT said...

I believe that Miley did not intentionally display a racist performance. In the article, Holly L. Derr even states, "When I teach theater history to undergraduates I meet very few students who have heard of minstrelsy before I tell them about it." I believe that Miley doesn't even know what a minstrel show is. It is ridiculous of how often people can turn something into a racism issue when it is just an innocent action or statement. She was trying to have fun and perform, not trying to put on a minstrel show. The people who come to these conclusions are just trying to ruin her career. It's a false accusation. Racism is terrible and it has been around forever, but people have to understand that not everyone is racist anymore. In her music video for that specific song, she is dancing with both white and black people, so she clearly is not trying to portray some kind of minstrel show with her performance. No one actually knows why she chose those dancers specifically so people should stop accusing her of this type of racism.

Danielle G C said...

I don't believe that Miley Cyrus was trying to portray a minstrel show.I think she just wants to come out of the Disney spotlight. She may be handling it in a inappropriate way. I don't think she is smart enough to even know that she could come across as racism.

Marissa B. G. said...

After watching Miley Cyrus's VMA performance, it was evident that she was just looking to create an exciting and unforgettable night, and that is exactly what she did. Yes, her performance was very inappropriate and included seductive actions, and now it is also being considered racist by many viewers. It is clear why people are seeing this performance as racist, because she is the only white girl dancing among a group of African Americans. She is also seen twerking, which people think is an African American dance move, which I totally disagree with. I can agree with some reasons of why people are considering the performance racist, but I do not agree with people who are saying she was purposely mimicking a minstrel show and intentionally being racist. I don't believe she was doing either of these things. Most performers these days are not saying or thinking, "Oh! This is exactly like a minstrel show". No, of course they don't say or think that. A majority of them aren't even familiar with what a minstrel show is, including Miley. And if they were, I am sure they would not have performances like the one Miley had at the VMAs. I'm sure if Miley was aware of the racist aspect that was emitted during her performance, and the fact that it resembled a minstrel show, she would not have done her performance like she did. Miley was in no way purposely trying to recreate a minstrel show, a scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin, or intentionally be racist. Miley was just expressing her new, wild, and provocative style. She was just looking to have a little fun, and create one, unforgettable performance. And that is definitely what she did.

Trevor B. C. said...

As stated before, I too agree that Miley Cyrus' performance at the Video Music Awards was racist. Miley's show consisted of her in the center of the stage getting all of the attention while black back-up dancers moved around her. Miley's performance is very similar to blackface minstrel shows, in particular, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which depicts a young white girl in the middle surrounded by African-Americans, thus giving the audience the impression that Miley is racist. However, I do not believe that Miley set up her performance to be racist. I also think that the whole situation could have been easily avoided if Miley spent more of her time learning about African-American history than thinking of provocative dance moves for concerts. Hopefully, Miley has learned from her mistake and make a point to not repeat it.

Barbara Dias said...

I would have to disagree with anyone who says that Miley Cyrus' performance reflected back to minstrel shows. I feel like Miley Cyrus doesn't have the knowledge to pull off a minstrel show and she probably doesn't even know what a minstrel show is. Also these days dancers of the African American decent are highly respected and whether it be Miley's performance or some other Caucasian performer it is likely you will see African American back up dancers. As well as that, Miley had done her performance along side multiple other African American artists.

Jenna B. E. said...

Miley Cyrus most likely did not intend for her performance on the VMA's to be racist. Judging by her past, it would be safe to say that she is not aware of the history behind minstrel shows. Someone with an attitude as glaring as Miley's would care very little about what a performance like hers says about both what she stands for and how she sees herself. People like Miley only want attention, and apparently she's doing anything and everything she can to be the center of conversation. I think her performance was demeaning to herself as well as everyone watching. Miley isn't the only problem in this situation. People just want someone to bash or something to be angry about, as if their opinion will be heard or matter. People will go to great lengths to find deeper meaning, as in this article. I don't believe Miley's performance could be called a minstrel show, even thought there are similarities. What it all comes down to is that Miley just doesn't have the mental capacity or capability to bring about a deeper meaning in what she does. She does what she does to rebel and turn heads so she's the center of everything. End of story.

Joe M. said...

I don't believe that Miley intentionally put any racist concepts or hints into her performance. The people who assisted in planning the choreography of her performance may have seen the racism in it and chose to keep it int but I very much doubt that Miley even knows or had heard of what a minstrel show is before this happened. I think that Miley saw that surrounding herself with dancers of the opposite race would make her stand out more so that she could get more attention, not as a mocking to minstrel shows.

Dan B. K. said...

I highly doubt Miley Cyrus' performance was intented to parallel minstrel shows or connect to something from Uncle Tom's Cabin. The blog starts off with Holly L. Derr stating that most theater students are unaware of minstrel shows, so it would be very surprising if Miley Cyrus was aware of it. I believe her intention was to try to get attention, and if this was her intention she was very successful. This is not the first time she has appeared on stage wearing provocative clothing or acting sexually; her new video "Wrecking Ball" is a perfect example of this. I think the fact that she used African American dancers dressed like animals is definitely racist, although I doubt she decided to do this with racism in mind-there is a chance that she wasn't the one to decide on the costumes and choreography anyways. People are criticizing her for the wrong reasons in my opinion. However, this is not to say that she is a good person or someone who does not deserve to be criticized, because she is asking for it by performing like she does. Miley Cyrus is just another celebrity who is willing to do whatever it takes to get everyone's attention.

Marissa B. G said...

After watching Miley Cyrus's VMA performance, it was evident that she was just looking to create an exciting and unforgettable night, and that is exactly what she did. Yes, her performance was very inappropriate and included seductive actions, and now it is also being considered racist by many viewers. It is clear why people are seeing this performance as racist, because she is the only white girl dancing among a group of African Americans. She is also seen "twerking", which people think is an African American dance move, which I totally disagree with. I can agree with some reasons of why people are considering the performance racist, but I do not agree with people who are saying she was purposely mimicking a minstrel show and intentionally being racist. I don't believe she was doing either of these things. Most performers these days are not saying or thinking, "Oh! This is exactly like a minstrel show". No, of course they don't say or think that. A majority of them aren't even familiar with what a minstrel show is, including Miley. And if they were, I am sure they would not have performances like the one Miley had at the VMAs. I'm sure if Miley was aware of the racist aspect that was emitted during her performance, and the fact that it resembled a minstrel show, she would not have done her performance like she did. Miley was in no way purposely trying to recreate a minstrel show, a scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin, or intentionally be racist. Miley was just expressing her new, wild, and provocative style. She was just looking to have a little fun, and create one, unforgettable performance. And that is definitely what she did.

Taylor B O said...

Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV VMA's was definitely a shock to its audience, but I do not believe it was intended or planned to be a minstrel show or appear to be racist. Personally, being a fan of Miley Cyrus since she began as an artist and a fan of the song she performed, We Can't Stop, I do not believe that she would want to show racial imagery in her performance. Although her dancing and "twerking" was shocking to the public and highly inappropriate for an award show, she is expressing herself as any artist wants to do to stand out in the eyes of the music industry and their fans. I do not agree with the way that she chose only African Americans for her backup dancers because she became the center of attention being a white girl. But just because she appreciates and loves "hood music" does not mean that she was purposely making references to a minstrel show, or specifically Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Ben R P said...

I don't think Miley Cyrus had any clue that her performance came across as racist or may have resembled a minstrel show such as Uncle Tom's Cabin. She does not have the historical knowledge to know about this, especially if students studying theater do not know about minstrelsy. Miley's performance is being overanalyzed.

Ian G M said...

I do not believe Miley Cyrus meant any thing by her performance.I think she just wanted to have a good show and it happened to seem racist. Her back up dancers were black because they just happened to be the best to dance with her. People are just reading into her performance too much and she probably did not mean any harm or even think it would be seen as racist.

Jeremy B. M said...

Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMA's was purely for the sake of attention. Recently there hasn't been much talk about the childhood star much, this opportunity her chance arose to gather publicity of teen viewers and to spark talk of her performance. There are many other dancers and stars that have performed similar acts to Cyrus', therefore to assume that someone dancing half naked on a stage has the intelligence to implement a racist notion into their act is highly unlikely. Besides, Cyrus' is an actress, she is most likely being told what to do by her employers. The intent of the show was to get people talking about it, and it's serving its purpose very well.

Megan R F said...

I do not believe that Miley Cyrus's act was a direct demonstration on a Minstrel Show, but it does demonstrate a form of racism. Miley Cyrus is most likey unaware at what a Mintrel show even is. Yes the performace that she did was in poor judgment and lacked in common sense, but the judgements people are making about the performance is only going to encourage her more and give her teh obvious attention she was tring to get in the first place. Yes Miley was the only white girl on the stage, dancing in the cneter of many African American girls dancing, but I think that Miley's act was more of a rebellious act than anything. The media for the most part, and her father put pressure on her to continue on in the music industry, when she should have just stopped. The act that Miley did at the 2013 VMAs was just for her to get attention. Other performers have done things and worn less clothes than Miley did to that, the only difference was, some people were not expecting it from her because they are trying to rememeber the sweet "Hannah Montana". I dont believe that the act Miley did was a direct demonstration of a Minstrel Show, just slight racism that got too carried out of hand by actions that she did. If this act was done by somebody different it could have a totally different reaction to it altogether. People a starting to judge Miley more as a person about the perofrmance than the actual performance itself.

Aidan R. said...

Miley Cyrus' performance during the 2013 VMA's, did not mock African Americans and cannot be considered racist in any way. Some people contend that Miley Cyrus' performance resembled a Minstrel show, an entertainment consisting of exaggerated dancing ,music,and variety acts preformed with painted black faces. First, I don't think Miley Cyrus is clever or intelligent enough to come up with such an act to have an historical meaning inside of her performance. Second, there was no exaggeration during her show. In a minstrel show, both white and black people would dress up color their faces to impersonate black slaves. However, they would usually over exaggerate our stretch the truth to make their skit more enjoyable. Miley Cyrus was trying to make herself stand out by being the only white person on stage, and did not intend on rewriting history and becoming the first woman in years to preform a minstrel show.

Lexi B. N. said...

When I first watched Miley's performance, I did notice her choice of all African Americal background dancers. I hadn't known about the minstrel shows, or any history about black theatre and I was still skeptical about that choice. Though it was a significant detail in her performance, I don't think she was trying to immitate minstrel shows. In this day and age, famous people like Miley can pull off anything they want when performing. I think she is still trying to take advantage of her youth and have as much "fun" with her performances as possible, whatever that may mean to her. She doesn't care about the controversy or the judgmental audience, which I like about her, but there is a point where bringing in an all African American backup crew can push the limit.

Michael G. G. said...

Mileys relation to the past in this producing, s very similar to the action of uncle toms cabin, but not realizing she basically copied and did the same thing, although I believe this wasn't done un-intentionlly it still shows how this comes back into play in our society, and how the dance did exactly how uncle toms cabin was, a white in the middle and people of multiple races in the back and on the sides.

Spencer R G. said...

Miley most likely wasn't directly trying to be racist in her show. It was probably a subconscious decision made by the producers based upon black stereotypes and their supposed 'exotic' culture. Miley was probably trying to associate herself with the 'black culture' that is popular in several genres of music today. However, given the presentation, it can certainly be interpreted as racist, or even an adaptation of the minstrel shows.

Trevor B. C. said...

As stated before, I too agree that Miley Cyrus' performance at the Video Music Awards was racist. Miley's performance consisted of her in the center of stage, getting all of the attention, while black back-up dancers moved around her. This performance is very similar to blackface minstrel shows, in particular, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which depicts a young white girl in the center surrounded by African-Americans, thus giving Miley's performance a racial impression. However, I do not believe that Miley made her act racial purposely, but as an accident. I also think that the whole situation could have been avoided if she spent more time learning about African-American history and less time thinking about provocative dance moves for her concerts. Hopefully, Miley has learned from her mistake and will make a point not to repeat what she did.

Anya Patrusheva said...

Even though Miley Cyrus's performance can be seen as racist I don't think what she did was intentional. She probably doesn't even know what a minstrel show is. The whole point of that performance was to gain more popularity from fans and get others to talk about it and bring attention to herself.

Brendon L said...

I do not think Miley Cyrus intentionally made her performance come across as racist. As many viewers thought when they saw the performance, she obviously was not thinking, neither were the people who planned the entire performance out. Everything that Miley has done recently, especially in the VMA's when she knew most of the world would be watching, is for attention. Her plan certainly worked. Her performance has been noticed by more people than who know about the problems America is facing. But Miley probably has no clue what a Minstrel Show is. If she did, she probably does not know the deep meaning behind it. I personally think people are taking it to seriously and should move on from it.

Amanda B. F. said...

I think that the entertainment world died a little the day that Miley Cyrus thought she learned how to twerk. Miley Cyrus was not the only person to twerk or dance provocatively at the VMAs. She was not even the only artist to surround herself with gyrating black women, yet her performance has headed articles around the Internet for weeks. The main controversy surrounding the routine stems from the various accusations of racism that accompanied the act. What I think many people fail to realize is that Miley Cyrus designed the performance to be controversial. She wanted to distance herself from the Hannah Montana image that has followed her into adult hood, and part of it was simply her need to grow up and mature as an artist. In that respect, her performance was a brilliant publicity stunt designed to bring attention to her rising star.
However, this in no way condones the way in which she chose to gain the attention of the press, and in some ways makes it worse. I do not believe that Cyrus intended to put on a minstrel show. I’m not even sure if she is aware of what a minstrel show is, or how closely her performance resembled one. Even if it was not intentional, Cyrus’s show objectified the black women surrounding her and made them little more than props in her show. She appropriates black culture through her twerking, and in this case, ignorance is no excuse for the disturbing similarities to the racist portrayals of black Americans exhibited by minstrel shows of the

Justin S. said...

Miley Cyrus's performance at the VMA's was quite shocking to everyone. Despite being inappropriate and unexpected. I don't think that she intentionally tried to make a racist performance. This analysis of her performance was a different aspect of this event, and i was intrigued by this point of view. Personally i believe that this was unintentional.

Tjames said...

I believe Miley Cyrus was just trying to put on a show and make some fame. Its obvious she doesn't care what people think of her after twerking all over the internet. So was this a "minstrel" performance? No, we also will never know if it was or not. Also maybe she had no control of what she was doing and was under the influence of some drugs.

Jonathan G.M said...

I think that the intent of MIley Cyrus was to cause exactly this. A long lasting conversation about over a controversial event in hopes to give her some new spotlight on her slowly disintergrating15 minutes of fame. while i do not believe it was in her thought to have her performance styeld after a minsteral i do believe she wanted it to be as weird and controversial os possible in order to make headlines.

John Fisher said...

There is no way Miley Cyrus, a 21 year old pop singer, knows how her performance can be interpreted. I believe that the whole thing has been overanalyzed, as seen above people chose ONE moment that doesn't even resemble the scene in Uncle Tom's Cabin to any extent, you expect anyone to make a big deal out of that? She performed in her usual fashion, for any kind of attention.

Dan G R said...

Personally, I don't believe that she even believes she was being racist at the time. I believe that only reason she performed in that manner was to increase her profits and gain attention. The perform is extremely over the top. It seemed like she was trying to outdo other musical performers (Lady Gaga).

Chris G.D said...

I don't think it was racist but it was a bit over the top. I think she was not intentionally trying to be racist but to sell more music.

Tony Brito said...

i think that miley cyrus's performance at the vmas were inapropiate. i think that this performance shows rascim cause it had african american men dancing behind her.

Dannielle Maycas said...

I think this is another one of these situations where people are over analyzing. I personally don't think she was trying to portray a minstrel show in her "we can't stop" performance at the VMA's. Miley Cyrus was just putting on her show to sell her song like any artist does. To be honest i don't even think she would know what that was. Yes, she was "twerking" (a dance popular in the black community) and yes it was very implicit but that has nothing to do with her being "racist". She acted just as the song says to, the song is based on partying & "turning up" i think people need to chill out and stop taking everything so negatively.
MiMi s (green)

Anonymous said...

pablo w.
I dont think she did it intentionally but it is weird how close they are in apperence.

Elysia Klezos said...

I do not believe that Miley, herself, intended for this to come off as racist. I think that miley had told who ever was to coreograph her performance to make it something that goes along with her image and will give people something to talk about. There is a chance that this is just coincidental. However, I think the coreographer did this to simply grab the audiences attention, and possibly express his or her belifs through the performance.

Jacob B D. said...

Miley Cyrus' performance took me back at first watch as I thought it was vulgar, and a little too much so for television. Whether Miley Cyrus intended to be racist and pose as Eva from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" using the Minstrel Shows as the model for her performance is something we cannot say for certain. However, we can be certain that when viewing her performance under a different light that it can and should be considered racially insensitive as Miley portrays Blacks in the background as animals with savagery in her routine. For those that say she was just trying to have a good time and people should stop overannalyzing what she did, "just wishing to have a good time" is not an excuse for racial insensitivity. Even if she does not know about Minstrel Shows and how her performance relates to them, Miley should be educated on this and understand why people are upset by the message her performance gave to some. Overall, this instance just serves as another reason supporting the fact that much of America remains ignorant to a lot of its own history, and should thus not only learn it but be sensitive to its harm that it has caused as well.

Kevin Sebestyen (2) said...

I think Miley does not have the intelligence in even knowing what a minstrel show is. Miley was just performing on stage with her friends or dancers. Apparently it just so happened that they were black, and people analyzed it as racist.

frosty bluejay said...

in the world of black danceing twerking is one of them and since miley is trying to act black, dont think she's trying to cause problems. on the other hand many people are trying to accuse miley of being racist under the accouts of uncle tom, shes trying to get to the top of the music charts with her song. "We Can't Stop" the artist doesn't even though shes making alot of money do to her sexy advertisment with a sexual appearance. like all businesses a sexual appearance is the idea to get sales. But miley is NOT being RACIST AT ALL shes just like any other teen popstar with the occasional back up dancers that help back her up if one makes a mistake.

James B V said...

Although I thought that her performance was a bit too flaunty and offensive, I do not think that it was her attention for it to be racially offensive. I think that Miley Cyrus wasn't even aware of what a minstrel show is. Although she is the only white woman on stage and is surrounded by black people there's no way that she intended for it to become racially offensive. I can see why some people took it the wrong way, but I think that it was unintentional racism and she didn't mean for it to appear as a racist act.

Anonymous said...

Singer SinĂ©ad O’Connor recently wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus about her performance...very interesting: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/03/sinead-o-connor-open-letter-miley-cyrus