Looking back on 2013, you'd think America spent the whole year recovering from the vapors and waking up between fainting spells. Whether the story was Kanye making a baby with a Kardashian or Miley Cyrus and her pancake butt making a spectacle of herself at the VMA Awards, the Internet reacted to major news stories with expressions that are usually only found on Taylor Swift after walking in on her parents doing it.
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Actual picture of me watching C-Span.
Forget "selfie" -- the word of the year should have been "incredu-rage," a word I just made up to describe how we handle unexpected events now. Did you know that when the Breaking Bad finale aired, our collective gasps of disbelief turned the tide of global warming? It's true. Look it up.
If we'd just taken a few minutes to learn some history, none of these stories would have shocked us. As a reminder that history, like first grade, often repeats itself, here's why 2013's most outrage-inducing stories were old news before they ever happened.
5The Pop Star Trajectory Is as Old as Pop Stars
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In August, former Disney child star and current world dominator Miley Cyrus shocked us into a frothy lather when she used her MTV VMA performance to rub her butt against a 36-year-old man's crotch. (P.S. Let's stop calling what Miley did "twerking." Five minutes of YouTubing will reveal that Miley wouldn't know a twerk if it slapped her in the face with its popping butt cheeks. Double P.S. If you're not popping, you're not twerking.) The notorious performance couldn't have provoked us more if she'd birthed a baby onstage and then eaten it whole.
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Honestly, there could have been baby cannibalism involved and it probably wouldn't have made a difference.
Why It Was Old News:
Hey! Did you ever see that 1968 Madison Square Garden performance where a practically topless Tina Turner pretended to do fellatio on a microphone while Ike Turner made slurping noises in the background? No? Here you go!
Hey, again! Did you ever see that time Debbie Harry walked on a stage without her panties (or pants)? Here's the version of that time that I'm allowed to publish on this website:
In case you're wondering, Debbie is not a natural blonde.
If ever there was an appropriate time for the phrase "don't hate the player, hate the game," this was it. Because Miley Cyrus is playing a game. And she's winning it hard.
For good or bad, for almost as long as women have put themselves on the stage, they've used what the good Lord gave them to get your eyes on their bodies and your ears on their voices. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Debbie Harry, Janet Jackson, Britney, Cher, Tina Turner, and middle-aged Julie Andrews are all part of a long tradition of scintillating while entertaining. Oh, did you miss that part where I said Mary Poppins has performed with her bosoms unswaddled?
We forget that popular music, like beauty pageants and high school, is one part talent and 99 parts sexual spectacle, and has always been that way. Jimi Hendrix dry humped his guitar on stage just in case no one noticed the actual mind-blowing music he was making at the time. 1970s disco icon Donna Summer spent one of her most popular songs writhing in orgasmic ecstasy. Miley Cyrus' own godmother, Dolly Parton, transformed herself from a Betty White look-alike into an inflatable sex toy over her six decades in the spotlight.
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So let's make a vow to stop condescending to Miley Cyrus and all the other skankyish pop stars who come after her as victims of predatory management or even worse -- naivete. Clearly, there's some foresight and brilliant planning behind the career of Miley Cyrus. It's time to recognize Miley as a woman who is self-aware and probably on her way to stealing the pop star throne.
4The N-Word Is Still Off Limits to White People
This summer, the sugar hit the fan when we found out celebrity Southern cook Paula Deen admitted to using the N-word back in 1986. She also admitted to fantasizing about hosting a plantation-style wedding complete with small African-American children tap dancing around like in "Shirley Temple days," but that's a story for a whole other article. The important thing here is that for the first time in the history of old people saying racist, backward things, we didn't just blink in embarrassed silence before asking Grandma if she'd like some more pie or which of her friends has cancer now.
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All of them. It's a cancerpocalypse out there.
This time, when Deen fulfilled the oldest comedy cliche in the book, aka old people are racist and inappropriate, the country flipped its lid and rightfully called her out on it. And Deen responded in the only way she thought appropriate: by turning into an Oompa Loompa and begging for forgiveness as uncomfortably as possible.
Why It Was Old News:
You don't have to look back far to find white celebrities using racial slurs. Whether it's Dr. Laura, Roger Ebert, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, or Riley Cooper, every single instance draws anger and shock BECAUSE WE ALREADY WENT OVER THIS. For every white person defending their right to use the N-word, there are thousands and thousands of white people wondering where these idiots come from and how they always end up with cameras in their faces. White people see frequent N-word user Quentin Tarantino as the Michael Scott of Hollywood: clueless, embarrassing, and inappropriate, but somehow good at sales.
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But back to Paula. Those who defended Deen tried to provide context/excuses for her gaffe: she grew up in segregated schools, the city where she got her start actually named a bridge after one of Georgia's most insane white supremacists, she just couldn't know any better. Which is all bullhonkey. As early as 1904, Northerners were recognizing that racist white Southerners who still insisted on using the N-word were doing so with complete awareness of their choices, cognizant that the slur was a slur, stubbornly insisting on keeping the word going. More importantly, defending Deen's screw-up with a history lesson doesn't acknowledge the fact that there are plenty (millions, if I had to guess) of white people who grew up in her exact same context without picking up the word in the first place.
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Here are two of them reaping their Not-a-Racist Reward.
While I obviously can't explain what compels otherwise bright people to spit out verbal garbage, I do think I get why the media love covering the story. Whether it's a washed-up celebrity or a beloved folksy cook using the word 26 years ago, it's always going to be news. Not because we're totally over racism and everything's great, but because look at how dramatic it is when CNN does a hard-hitting N-word special!
More importantly, talking about other people using the N-word gives those of us who never use it a chance to pat ourselves on the back. We knew skipping it in rap songs would pay off someday!