It's a few days old, but NPR's music blog ran an interesting piece looking at Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop", among other recent bits of pop culture. The author looks not just at the main problems—rapey-ness and cultural appropriation, respectively—but also at what they reflect about pop as a whole.
"It's like a giant, f'd up selfie," Martel has said of the "We Can't Stop" video. But at this point, when the self become a selfie — when people start approaching themselves and others as things, to be posed, bartered or possessed, rather than as beings with rich and infinitely various inner lives —morality becomes destabilized, making it difficult to determine the difference between a playful risk and real one, or even between violation and fun.
The other crucial insight that's lost when the self becomes a selfie — when the blur of culture glosses over history and bodily experience — is that inequality is an indisputable fact. In her critique of "We Can't Stop," Racialicious blogger Sesali Bowen powerfully reminds us that the cute dances and turns of phrase that come into parlance through pop culture originated in other people's lived experiences, and that the hard stuff is what drops away when they're borrowed — poverty, racism, and other forms of marginalization. Similarly, when the connection between the language of coercion and violence against women is buried and blurred, it's possible to forget that flirtation can damage unless both parties are equally willing and vocal.
The piece changes direction a lot and poses too many unanswered questions for my taste, but it's worth a read (or at least a skim) and brings up a lot of interesting things to think about.