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A Ponderation on Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Subtlety, Reading & Gawker Commenters

There’s going to be a bit lot of a ramble to this post because I have a thought and a question and I’m not sure how I’m going to get to either. But I hope you’ll bear with me as I wind my way there.

Last week I saw this article over on Gawker with the headline “Oh God Dolly Parton What Are You Doing?” and I, liking Dolly, went to go look.

The post, in short, is a clip of Dolly Parton dressed in black, wearing bling and sporting a white afro wig while rapping on Queen Latifah’s new talk show. So, yeah, for a second you might ask what was Dolly doing?

As I read on, but before watching the clip, I see these lyrics to Dolly’s rap.

Hey I’m tweekin’!I’m workin’! I’m twerkin’*!Hey, Miley:I got your wreckin’ balls right heah.

At this point, I started grinning because I had a feeling I knew what this was and I was totally looking forward to seeing if I was right.

I pushed play, I watched, and I giggled and grinned and laughed and fell in love with Dolly even more than I am now and just felt so dang amused and proud of her.

Then I saw the comments.

People were nowhere near as amused as I was. They commented on how she was clearly crazy. Or too old to wear the outfit. Or mocking black people. Or that Latifah should have been horrified. They joked about the old lady rapping.

Sure, there were a few people who said she was awesome. Dolly is a treasure. How she can do no wrong. I did see one or two comments that mirrored my thoughts on what I had just witnessed, but overall it was all sorts of WTF Dolly going on in those comments.

And I just sat there stumped. I totally didn’t get it.

How could they not see how clever it was. How did they not know that this was Dolly sending a message to Miley. That Latifah was playing along. That this had a purpose and that Dolly was 100% in charge of her faculties and her messaging and that she knew exactly what she was doing?

Now, let me clear things up a second because I should mention that I have some additional info that you may not have. Dolly Parton is Miley Cyrus’ godmother and Dolly has done what she can to help support Miley as she was growing up. From being on Hannah Montana to inviting Miley to come sing Jolene with her at Dollywood. (p.s. That video is amazing and it made me realize just how talented a singer Miley can be. )

Maybe you didn’t know about the goddaughter thing, but I maintain that knowing that doesn’t influence whether or not you can see the brilliance in what Dolly did. I mean, Dolly is a queen of country. She acts, she writes music, she sings, she’s successful. She is, in many ways, what any female singer/actress might aspire to be.

So her performance was, no matter what the background, a smackdown. The kind a mom or grandma gives a child who’s gotten out of hand. One of those “let me show you just how silly you look, young lady” sorts of things. Designed to show her disapproval of Miley’s behavior in a way that only your mom or grandma would do.

But no one was understanding that. It bugged me. It’s BEEN bugging me. I’ve been trying to figure out how they didn’t know.

Then, about 20 minutes ago, I had this thought. The one that prompted this post. (BTW, if you’re still with me this far, thank you).

It’s all about the subtext.

The smackdown wasn’t obvious enough for people. The whole performance and what it meant and what it said.  The tongue in cheek kick in the ass was too subtle for most of the people watching and all they saw was Dolly Parton “rapping” and looking silly. And thinking she was trying to be a serious rapper. Because Latifah said she was a bad ass rapper.

Most people took it at face value and I, with my amusement at the underlying message and being glad that that I finally knew what Dolly thought of Miley’s shenanigans (I had been wondering since the VMA’s, what Dolly was gonna say), was in the minority.

People didn’t get the subtext. But I did.


Yep. Thank whatever deity you like, I’ve finally made it to my question.

Why did I look at the subtext instead of taking it at face value? Why do so many people take things at face value these days?

I think it’s because I was raised a reader. I was raised to look at things from other perspectives. Even when I watch TV, what I am most intrigued by is what the characters are thinking. Why they do things. Their motivations. It’s one of the reasons I’m loving The Blacklist. Because James Spader is allllll subtext.

But maybe most of the Gawker commenters I saw were born after me, into the days of cable television and VHS and DVD’s and stories being fed to them instead of being devoured by choice.

Are people, to a larger proportion, losing the ability to see the nuances and subtleties because they have no experience with accessing the thoughts behind those actions and, therefore,  can’t see anything but the face value.

Or has it always been this way? Have people aways looked at things with this face value mentality and it takes something like the internet to see the majority of them all saying it at once?

I mean, maybe I was always in the minority as a thinker and I’ll be the first to admit that maybe I think too much (gee, looking at this post, y’think?) but something feels different and….

…it makes me feel old and I’m not so sure I like that.


p.s. I found this video of Dolly on Latifah performing the song from her new album. The real one. It’s beautiful.

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