Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform “Blurred Lines” at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
by Jim Higley
(CNN) — I promised myself that I wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to jump in to the whole Miley Cyrus circus. No siree. The pond was full. The seats were all taken. Social media was in overdrive. And everyone’s been far too distracted. I, for one, was not about to enter the twerkosphere.
But dang, it’s like a train wreck, isn’t it?
Candidly, I haven’t been all that bad. Honest. But I have kept up to speed on many of the conversations taking place. Shame on Miley. Shame on her parents. Shame on MTV. Shame on censors. Shame on people who are shaming people. Shame, shame, shame.
But the one person who seems to have flown under the shame radar is Miley’s partner in debauchery, Robin Thicke. As a dad and husband in this story, it seems to me he should be held as accountable — if not more — for this ridiculous national spectacle and its aftermath as a 20-year-old girl.
Let’s rewind: I actually saw the performance. Our television — which is usually on ESPN — was uncharacteristically tuned to MTV the other night so my 17-year-old son and I could watch what we heard was going to be a pretty awesome Justin Timberlake performance. Well, we enjoyed the JT treat. And, yup, we also got more of Miley than we bargained for.
Sure, from my middle-aged vantage point, it was gross, inappropriate, and downright offensive. But let’s be honest, so much of what our kids are exposed to is just that. Everywhere. And if you think otherwise, take an inventory of advertising, television shows, music lyrics, teen magazines, social media and virtually everything associated with the Internet.
I’m not condoning or supporting it. But I do accept it as a reality. I’ve also come to believe there are gray areas — or to use Miley’s performing partner, Robin Thicke’s words, blurred lines — in life. Especially when we’re tempted to pass judgment on others.
There’s especially a lot of those fuzzy areas with kids as they navigate their way to adulthood. Maybe that’s why I’m more forgiving and understanding of Miley than others. She’s 20. In my book, that still makes her a kid. I have two of my own around her age. To me, she’s just one of the gang.
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.
My kids were glued to Miley’s Hannah Montana years and I think she’s one incredibly talented person. Even some of her new stuff is fine. Is she going overboard with this apparent mission to prove she’s an adult? Seems so. But who I am to judge?
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.
It’s the line that says while we can have fun, men must know the difference between respect and disrespect when it comes to how we treat women.
I find it ironic that so many people talk about how Miley will look back on all this with embarrassment in the future. I don’t know if that will ever happen. And I don’t know that I care.
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.
Editor’s note: Jim Higley is an award-winning author, speaker, radio show host, spokesperson and cancer warrior. A fatherhood contributor for Men’s Health magazine and Huffington Post, Jim lives in Chicago with his three children. Follow him on Twitter.