Musings, Writing

But what is shocking?


Twitter was abuzz with comments about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. I duly watched on You Tube, curiosity over the fuss taking me there. I shrugged. To me it was obvious she wanted to be ‘outrageous’, to be talked about but also I thought it was tongue-in-cheek – dancing with bears and using a foam finger to me was just silly.

Regardless of what she meant the tone to be, she has surely achieved what her goal was – publicity. She’s being talked about and in a world where pop stars seem to be everywhere, she’s made a mark. A splash even.

But it was shocking to many. Yet there are many shocking things happening around the world – murder, war, poverty etc. I’m not trying to make a political point here though. As a writer it’s interesting to think about what is regarded as shocking today. I have described my writing for teenagers as ‘edgy’ before but it’s so hard to define and perhaps edgy just means realistic. The world today can be shocking and as a writer you make a choice about how much to show of it in your writing.

Stories about future societies have become popular (see The Hunger Games, Divergent, Delirium etc) and maybe that’s because it’s easier to cope reading about shocking things when it’s not in our time or world or maybe it’s because we can recognise some of the harshness in our time or world.

I have no answers but it has made me more aware today of what can be determined as shocking and what as a writer I would define as such and what kind of shock factor I’d be comfortable with creating through my writing.

I do know however that shocking can sell. Look at Fifty Shades and let’s see Miley’s new album sales. In the end, some may be outraged but the ones who shock us often end up having the last laugh. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I don’t know.

What do you guys think?



13 thoughts on “But what is shocking?”

  1. I live by a simple rule: Nothing in and of itself is either good or evil. Only its use makes it so. When it comes to Miley Cyrus, or the VMAs, I thought it was a disorganized and boring show. Miley can’t sing and she can’t dance. The reality is that her act is the same as any stripper’s; it’s sad that they don’t get paid as much her. As for whether it’s good or bad, really, it only depends upon what people (young or old) do as a result of her nonsense. it’s not really shocking for performers who need attention to do whatever they can to get it.

    1. We shall have to disagree on her talent – I think she can sing but anyway there is obviously a deeper debate about why female pop stars are encouraged to wear as little clothing as possible to get attention and whether they should participate in that but I think from Miley’s tweets she knew exactly what she was doing and fair play to her. Let’s face it women performers are kind of dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t when it comes to being provocative (Leona Lewis is always labelled as boring for example).

  2. I agree. I’m a bit uncomfortable about the outrage. I mean, she’s an entertainer – her job is to distract us from everyday life and she’s certainly done that. No one seems to be flinging insults at Lady Gaga and she was wearing less and has definitely been more, “out there,” in her career to this point.

    1. Definitely – plus I’m sure it was meant to be jokey rather than sexy anyway. Miley tweeted this today “Miley was the one star in the room who truly understood what the MTV Video Music Awards are all about!” – Rolling Stone. I think she’ll have the last laugh with album sales anyway.

  3. That might be my problem as a writer, I don’t want to write shocking stuff–or at least not in the sense of what that means today. I want my readers to be surprised and shocked by the unexpected, but does that have to be violent and cruel?

    1. I think there’s room for all stories in the world and sometimes you just want to be entertained as a reader so I don’t think you have to shock as a writer. I mean yes EL James’ books have sold millions but so has Nicholas Sparks. Like you say, I’d rather write a good story than put in something shocking just for the sake of it. Also sometimes shocking can actually be dull, often you can tell when someone’s only writing or doing something just to be controversial. For me, there needs to be a reason for me to include anything deemed shocking – to raise awareness on an issue, for example. But you know, what one person thinks is shocking someone else doesn’t so it’s a minefield 🙂

      1. *kicks you hard* If you ever want me to look over anything, give me a shout. It’s a scary thing for sure but you have to be in it to win it so press that send button!!

  4. I can’t figure out what all the freaking fuss is about. It wasn’t that outrageous…is it because she was a child star that grew up?

    I agree with you that there are way more outrageous things happening in this world right now. I also believe it was a publicity stunt to get her out there. It worked right?

    Good for her as a business woman, regardless of how she looked on stage. Her manager had some kind of a plan obviously, controversy rarely hurts a celebrities status. Look at Charlie Sheen! It is sad but true, the more like a car crash it is, the more people want to watch.

    1. Yeah I’d guess because she used to have a “clean-cut” image. Yeah they definitely had a plan to drum up publicity. I guess there is a wider debate about why female pop stars tend to have to have a sexy image to get publicity but I actually thought Miley was being silly with it. I suspect her album all be a success, we shall see.

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