|How what is #trending influences pop culture and creates something new
by Carla J. Hanna
The lap dance and striptease once lived in the windowless night club in the shady part of town. Today, teen performers stream their racy dance routines to the social media site downloaded on the mobile device of a curious child bored during recess in a suburban elementary schoolyard.
An argument will soon rage over who should be responsible for sexual material and distribution online. Today, networks and content distributors do not restrict content. Sexual images that used to be hidden behind closed doors are now available for viewing at any time by anyone. Later this year, the erotic sadomasochistic film Fifty Shades of Grey will target teen audiences with its R-rating for high school girls over 17-years-old. As Lauren Saccone of the Daily Lounge said, “So movie studios are hoping that Beautiful Disaster will serve as the PG-13 version of "Fifty Shades" with all the creepy love affair aspects but far less of the supremely graphic "romance" scenes. And like Fifty Shades of Grey (and its supernatural source material "Twilight"), Beautiful Disaster is looking to build a franchise. The sequel, Walking Disaster, was published earlier this year. So fans of the genre certainly won’t be lacking in selection.”
Push marketing will distribute the "Shades" and "Beautiful Disaster" trailers to social media sites everywhere, just as any child, regardless of parental controls, can see Miley twerking as they are riding the bus to school.
What is in store for the parent who wants to protect her child from sexual images or female abuse/submission themes found in both the young adult and adult erotica books-turned-film franchises?
Twerking before the VMAs
The word, “twerking,” has been around for over 20 years, first performed on live television in the Top of the Pops show by the group Haysi Fantayzee while performing their song “John Wayne Is Big Leggy” (1982). Society at the time was not impressed. Eighteen years later, popularity increased when the song "Whistle While You Twurk" (2000) by Southern hip hop duo Ying Yang Twins peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs component chart. Social media did not exist in 2000. Twerking didn’t trend. The song settled into oblivion.
Thirteen years later we see the rise of the twerk coinciding with the June 2013 Busta Rhymes/Nicki Minaj release. By July, searches on “how to twerk” increased, revealing a trend ripe for maximum exposure.
Jumping on the #twerking trend
Social trends build over time. Performers struggling to get attention look for a hook that has had increased awareness and then exploit that trend to ignite interest. The summer of 2013 provided such an opportunity.
Miley Cyrus generated controversy following her sexually provocative performances during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. What lasting influence did such a twerking dance aired on a public medium and forever archived online have on our youth?
The event was shockingly influential:
- The popularity of the “twerking” search term rose from 50 to 100 percent on the day of the 2013 VMAs.
- The popularity of the “girl twerking” term skyrocketed from 30 percent on the day of the VMAs to 100 percent in the weeks following the performance and then hovered around the 30 percent popularity index 36 weeks after the VMA event.
- The huge rise in popularity of “twerking” following the VMAs led to sustained interest in seeing or learning about “girl twerking.”
- The “twerking” keyword continued to trend with rising interest more than 10 percent 36 weeks after the VMA event.
Twerking is now a defined, recognized term for a sexually provocative dance and part of several artist’s performances to promote their music. It is here to stay. Future generations will categorize it with the striptease and lap dances that they see in the news highlights or pop-up windows of their web browsers when they go online to finish their required school homework on their classroom websites.
Carla Hanna lived in Santa Monica, CA where her children played with the children of celebrities. She mingled with plenty of nannies and a few good celebrity moms. She is the author of the popular young adult Starlet Series.