By: Madison B.
Let’s talk about Miley Cyrus.
She’s our favorite “fallen star”– gone from blonde wigs and “Nobody’s Perfect” to legendary VMA performances and gratuitous molestation of construction tools. But is her transformation really a “fall” or a brilliant marketing move? And what message are her actions– and our reactions– broadcasting?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Miley’s “downward slide” began, when the first time her scandalous actions appeared on the front page of TMZ. For many of us, we started seeing Miley as something else besides Hannah Montana with the debut of the “We Can’t Stop” music video, featuring mysteries such as a skull made of french fries (and its subsequent destruction), the word “twerk” spelled in alphabet soup, and enough tongue-shaking to put a giraffe to shame. Then, the VMAs: Miley appeared wearing a skin-colored, skin-tight outfit in the fashion of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video and abused a foam finger, as well as pressed up against Mr. Thicke in a way that would get more than just a “tut-tutting” at the homecoming dance. The release of her album “Bangerz” comes after the music video for “Wrecking Ball” premiered, with Miley getting friendly with an actual wrecking ball, sledgehammer, and a pile of rubble.
Many complained, as people are wont to do. They insisted that Miley’s actions offended them,or even that they were disappointed in her. Instead of the wholesome, “best of both worlds” farm girl, they saw a weary piece of yesterday’s news begging for attention. But the truth is, she isn’t “begging”– she’s never had to ask for anything in her whole life. Instead, it was we who begged her to put out the very material that we were so scandalized by. Ms. Cyrus is a prime example of what we in the industry call a freakin’ genius. She and her team of marketers could see something that we were blind to, and that thing was something we actually wanted– or needed.
Think about it. You hear or read or see that someone is completely outraged by this completely inappropriate performance, this disgrace on national television, or whatever critique is being thrown around. You hold onto these thoughts, get curious about them. Then, in your next study hall or when you get home, you casually google: “Miley Cyrus music video.”
Ding. Miley just made another dollar.
Those responsible for this apparent event horizon have been in the business a long time, and so has Miley. They’re using exactly what they’ve been using for decades, so don’t complain about the “decline in good music” or “newfound gratuity of television.” All of our lives, all of our parents’ lives, all of our grandparents’ lives, the media has sworn by its fail-safe formula: celebrity + scandal = sales. They know that society is “bothered” by explicit material; that’s why we search for it every day, by flipping through the tabloids, surfing channels, and browsing the internet. We function on an ages-old hypocrisy where we promote goodness but drink up evil. We claim that women must be chaste and pure but are obsessed with their sexuality. And that’s why Miley has been in the top five most popular Google searches for the entirety of 2013– because she captures exactly what we want: someone to criticize, a feminine kick that we love to oppress, and a downward slide with which we are so morbidly fascinated. Miley isn’t really what she’s projected as, but simply a fantastic actress who knows that sex sells, and that the world loves to talk about everything that is wrong while not being able to see the real twists. We vilify Miley for her VMA performance when we really should be talking about the straight-up misogynistic Robin Thicke, and how the “Blurred Lines” that he refers to is the line between consent and rape. We still talk, good or bad; we still look her up knowing that we’ll get our gratification, and therefore we still support the very thing we claim to hate. The reason that there’s a supply is because there’s a demand, and that’s on us. Miley said it herself: “It’s our song, we can sing if we want to/ It’s my mouth, I can say what I want to.” And coincidentally, she’s saying what we want her to as well. We just don’t realize it.
The way to subvert the standard doesn’t have anything to do with expressing our apparent discontent at the surface, as if she actually cares. We need to think, to ask ourselves what we feel and then why we feel that way. Is it Miley acting inappropriate that upsets us, or our own internal conflict between what we want and what we’ve been taught, the guilt that society has saddled us with (especially women, who are forced to choose between being “uptight” or “shameless” and being resented both ways and being resented both ways)? Is it how she composes herself on TV or the fact that we keep turning to the channel?
Just remember this: everyone, even celebrities, should be able to do what they want. And instead of shaming them, we should accept them, or at least ignore them if they bother us. Otherwise, what do we have to say for ourselves? It’s time for us to resist the reactions we’ve been taught to have, and therefore lessen their power over us.
Now, if you excuse me, I heard the darndest thing about Amanda Bynes that I’ve been dying to get more dirt on….
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