Miley Cyrus became a sensation as "Hannah Montana," a wholesome Disney pop star. Millions of pre-teen girls adored the show and followed Cyrus' career. She is hardly the first celebrity to attempt to shock her audience by shedding her ingenue image. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and others have plowed this ground. But Cyrus did more than cast off her innocence. She used innocence itself as a lecherous come on.
Cyrus, 20, began her vulgar dance by appearing in a teddy bear costume with dancing teddy bears as back up. She later exchanged this for a flesh-colored bra and panties and a large foam finger that she put to lewd uses.
I haven't ever seen child porn, but I would bet that a great deal of it uses images of innocence and childhood -- like teddy bears -- for the delectation of its audience. Cyrus has now taken this perversion mainstream.
Child porn, like every other kind of pornography, once relegated to a seedy underworld, is now as close as a cellphone. It's bobbing along in the twilight, close to the surface of American lives, but kept from full view by the last remaining shreds of propriety that our culture enforces.
The existence of the Internet has probably already eroded some of the shame that pedophiles once felt. Learning that hundreds of thousands of others share one's perversion must be cathartic.
But how much more liberating to see the themes of child sexual abuse portrayed approvingly at the VMA awards?
American popular culture continues to prove that there is no rock bottom, and everyone who shrugs that it's no big deal is a little bit complicit.