The psychology of a modern-day tongue lashing: Miley is onto something

The year is 2013 and tongue lashings are all the rage. Thanks in large part to a Ms. Miley Cyrus. You may have heard of her. She has literally been pushing her tongue to and fro and side to side. I bet she did well as a teenage girl at a slumber party trying to tie a cherry stem with her tongue. Oh wait, do girls still try that or is that too much of “Breakfast Club” thing. Yikes, I got that reference wrong. The Breakfast Club movie is where popular girl Claire puts her lipstick on perfectly using her cleavage. The infamous cherry stem tying scene was instead in cult classic Twin Peaks while Chris Isaak’s “baby did a bad thing” played in the background.  Either way, bad girls are tongue lashers.

There is a montage of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out since she was a youngin. We should have known way back then what was coming. When Cher chastised Miley for her twerking performance, she specifically noted Miley’s tongue and how inappropriate it was (mostly due to its white chalky nature).  By sticking her tongue out at the world, Miley seems to have rubbed some people the wrong way. Ms. Epitome of etiquette, Kelly Osbourne, took to television to reprimand Miley, telling her to stop sticking her f*cking tongue out. Such strong language from such a gentle being. I say this all tongue in cheek (couldn’t help myself folks), but there truly is something about sticking ones tongue out that elicits even more outlandish behaviors and responses.

Years, many years back, I stuck my tongue out at someone and it was totally called for. See, this young woman had a cheating boyfriend. He was the type that literally had one girl climbing out the window while the so-called woman of his dreams entered through the front door. Yet, the woman of this dreams took it upon herself to tell us how we mistreated him (because we expected him to clean up after himself). She was so self-righteous in her anger and dismay in our behavior towards him. I was shaking my head before shaking one’s head was all the twitter rage. I was not about to tell her about his cheating ways. That wasn’t for me to do. Plus, there was a bit of schadenfreude on my part.  I’m ok admitting it. All the effort I could muster at that moment was to stick my tongue out at her. She was aghast and never got over that response of mine. In her eyes, I had acted horribly childish and imprudent. Boy did she need to take better stock of the situation.  She never did. And I am still the girl that stuck her tongue out. How rude!  I have to tell you, though, I sure felt better after sticking my tongue out. It was a natural release of exasperation and my body felt good all over afterwards.

If I could travel back in time, I would most definitely stick my tongue out again. A tongue-lashing of sorts is totally appropriate in unreasonable situations. Today, for instance, I was in a meeting in which ludicrous expectations and demands were put on the proverbial table by someone with not one iota of a clue of what said demands would do to the mind, spirit and body of those involved in the project. It is amazing what those that cannot do, expect of those that can.  I was two seconds away from sticking my tongue out.  Instead I stuffed my mouth with bubblegum flavored gum. How meta. Looking back now, a few hours away from the meeting, I wish I would have stuck my tongue out. Unreasonable demands should not be met with heartbreaking, backbreaking efforts. Unreasonable demands should be met with mockery and rejection of the status quo.  Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had some very insightful lyrics last year in their song “Make the Money”:

Make the money, don’t let the money make you. Change the game, don’t let the game change you.

Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day noted that was surely a “tasty lick.”  Taking this all into account, now that I come to process this, that Miley is onto something.  Break the rules. Crash the status quo. Change the game.  Stick your tongue out.

I should note that in some other cultures sticking out or biting ones tongue has a different set of meaning. In Tibet, sticking ones tongue out is a sign of respect and also serves as proof that one is not an evil reincarnated king.   Of course, there is also the southern speaking in tongues phenomenon. But I won’t get into that at the moment.

As children we tend to stick our tongues out a lot. Or at least, the ones I hung out with back in the day. According to anthropologist Levi-Straus it serves as a juvenile rejection taunt that emanates from when an infant is being forced new foods and they use their tongues to push the food back out of their mouths. If something doesn’t taste good, whether it is food or indigestible heartburn inducing work projects, push it back out. Now that is a mantra to live by. Unfortunately, as we grow older we are taught that sticking ones tongue out is a bad, bad thing. We are conditioned to accept, reflect or subtly deflect but not to reject and push back out. But before Miley, there was the band KISS and they have made millions sticking their tongues out. Thus, there is a market for tongue protrusions and the like. And the workplace is as good a place as any to exchange tongue lashings.

I come to conclude that at the next business meeting you attend where you are being forced-fed lies it is ok to go back to one’s natural instincts and push back out those lies.  Literally. Just stick your tongue out and see how the trajectory changes. Hell, we can all go march on Washington and stick our collective tongues out to the lot of them with Miley as our ring leader. She’s got a good skill set. Let’s use it to send a message to the world.

6 replies »

  1. I like your comment, “Unreasonable demands should be met with mockery and rejection of the status quo.” What came instantly to mind was an autobiographical passage in Michael Meade’s, “The Water of Life.”

    During the height of the Vietnam war, Meade was drafted. One African-American guy confided that he was going to get out. “How?” Meade asked. “Just wait,” said the guy. His one and only response to anyone who gave him an order was, “F*ck you.” He kept it up despite all any threats the army could make. A few days later, he was sent home, though I imagine with a dishonorable discharge.

    Later Meade decided he could not serve and spent (I think he said 9 months) in the brig before being discharged – not as efficient a solution, but he makes clear that he was finding his way and was not as clear in his intentions as the guy he first met.

    In fact I don’t think Miley’s recent performances amount to more than “demands” for fame and fortune, but as you explain it, displays of tongue can indeed qualify as “mockery and rejection of the status quo,” though at the lower end of a sliding scale of such displays…


  2. After Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Amanda Bynes, I guess there had to be Miley Cyrus. It could have been anyone else, and it will someday. Child celebrities, particularly Disney proteges, have a rough time becoming credible as adults.

    What did Gene Simmons’ mother think of his tongue marketing? Then I thought of Steven Tyler and Sir Bad Boy Himself, Mick Jagger. Tongue displays certainly work because they’re deliberate. They don’t regret those moves.


  3. Great post. As a Miley virgin (I only became aware of her existence fairly recently) I must admit I’ve been enjoying all her shenanigans, and the attendant horror they have elicited.
    Yesterday Lainey made the case that Miley may be the true heir of Madonna. http://www.laineygossip.com/Miley-Cyruss-crying-digital-cat-at-the-AMAs/28716

    As an aside, Miley happens to have a very impressive tongue, and were I her I would likely want to use it too.


    • Good morning! Thanks for commenting. I too am new to mileys world, somewhat. Miley may very well be the true heir to Madonna. We will have to see. People for a while thought it would be lady gaga but she was / is derivative. As for miley, indeed, If you’ve got it l, flaunt it!


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