The importance of being Miley

Op-eds Opinions

Hypocritically, I guess, I have become indifferent to Miley Cyrus’s behaviour as I type this. But now I’ve committed myself to fuelling her publicity once again. Cyrus has made her point, and, frankly, I’m bored with it. But the discussion surrounding the principles of fame and artistry still intrigue me.

Destiny Hope Cyrus, otherwise known as Miley “Smiley” Cyrus, is merely one amongst many artists who use “sex” to sell. Cyrus is intentionally pushing the boundaries of sexual expression, but she is being far from original. To name but a few, Rihanna has given a “fan” a lap-dance on stage, Madonna has deliberately given fans a nipple slip at the age of 50-something (she also made out with Britney Spears at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) back in 2003), and this past Halloween, Lady Gaga decided she would finally strip naked at G-A-Y nightclub in London (albeit briefly, with her back to the audience, as she walked offstage with no mainstream media around her).

I personally regard these acts as plain unnecessary. Thus, I am part of a chain that admits distaste by confessing an honest opinion. This creates gossip, which ironically creates publicity, and fuels the fame of the artist. I couldn’t give a shit about what happens to the artist, or of how bigger deal people make of things; I care more about professing an opinion the once and leaving it at that. Although I’m largely indifferent, my distaste for Cyrus comes about not from her sexual artistry but from aspects of her persona, which made me perceive her artistry in a distasteful light.

My prejudice stems from an interview on Friday Night with Johnathon Ross in 2009 (up till then, I actually liked what I’d seen of her); she came across as highly arrogant, controlling, and, frankly, sounded like she needed a good slap for being so irritating. My other problem with Cyrus was when she rebuffed Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s concern about letting the music industry exploit Cyrus for her sex appeal, rather than her talent. Cyrus poked fun at O’Connor’s former mental illness. If one assumes that Twitter is a more reliable source than say, The Daily Mail, (tweets are usually direct quotes from the celebrities) then I feel confident assuming Cyrus to be self-centred and insensitive. I also saw a video interview in which Cyrus narrow-mindedly assumes people stop having sex at the age of 40, which came across as naive.

As a result, I looked upon her over-suggestive acts as vulgar and immature for the sake of it, contrasting with other artists’ sexual acts. Rihanna and Lady Gaga (not so much Madonna) at least look like they are being artistic with their provocativeness by not sexualising themselves as if intoxicated. At the VMAs, Lady Gaga wore nothing but a thong and bra; no one cared because she didn’t act crass. People didn’t react strongly because they expect that attire from her; they were not prepared for Cyrus’s so-called extremity.

Although Cyrus’s principles are similar to the aforementioned artists, her controversial performance with married singer Robin Thicke set a new standard. Breaking boundaries and setting standards seems to be a blatant requirement of those seeking headlines and, albeit temporary, superstardom. Talking points are created, nothing more. People will ultimately get bored when they think no decent music is accompanying it, or that the boundaries have been pushed so much to the extreme that there are none left to break. However, this is unless you are a marketing genius able to reinvent yourself. Admittedly, that’s what Cyrus has demonstrated a talent for.

My theory as to why Cyrus’s celebrity has risen so much is that she has released “shocking” acts back-to-back: her VMA performance was closely succeeded by her “Wrecking Ball” video, in which she appears naked and suggestively licks a sledgehammer. There is also the poor excuse that people cannot shake off Cyrus’s child-star image, whereas we have not known any significant difference in the behaviour of the other aforementioned artists. Robin Thicke’s mother, Gloria Loring, said of Cyrus’s VMA performance: ”[Cyrus is] misbegotten in this attempt of hers. And I think it was not beneficial . . . I didn’t get what her point was. It was so over-the-top as to almost be a parody of itself.”

I have to agree with Loring. Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs, her “Wrecking Ball” video, and her photoshoot by Terry Richardson last year appear to parody sexual provocativeness in today’s media. Does this make Cyrus a worthy role model? Well, I’m not sure actually. On one hand, she is relishing the freedom of expression; on the other hand, she is promoting a culture in which girls parody the prim and proper. I’m not sure this is a good idea for those kids largely exposed to the media, particularly those who potentially won’t know much different.

Cyrus’s iconic tongue is, in fact, her personal way of dealing with the awkwardness of photo shoots and being herself. Her nudity and other rude gestures, however, are mere recipes for an evolving society more at liberty with sexual expression and extravagance, of which Cyrus is one of many pioneers. Although Cyrus’s provocativeness is not new, her vulgarity or parodying of provocativeness (since that haircut) has made her a celebrity in her own right, fighting off the image of being Billy Rae Cyrus’s daughter or “that girl from Hannah Montana.” Cyrus openly refused to apologise for her VMA performance, labelling it a “strategic hot mess.”

I agree with her. Rather than being gratuitous, she’s strategic in her attention-grabbing. It’s kept fans and haters gossiping for months, and has boosted her record and ticket sales. Clearly people still want to hear about this. Her raunchy performance became the most tweeted-about event in history. Though it may not look it, the performance was carefully choreographed by Diane Martel, who also worked on the video for Robin Thicke’s notorious “Blurred Lines.” Cyrus confessed to Ellen Degeneres that the performance was meant to be a laugh and that Thicke was fully aware of what was coming and “[. . .] loving it!” in rehearsal. At the time, Martel told Grazia magazine, “Kids do this thing—if you haven’t noticed . . . kind of like making fun of trying to be pretty and prim on the photographs. That’s the culture [Miley’s] part of: she’s 20 years old.”

Hannah Montana grew up, or, as Cyrus herself bluntly put it, Montana was “murdered.” Cyrus no longer wants to be perceived as a child; she is giving her Montana fans a simple reality check, that people change over time and ought to be free to express themselves in any way they wish. In this case, are we to accept the over-stepping of old-fashioned decency as a society, with our sneaky glimpses of nipples, crotches, and “duck-faces?” At this rate, perhaps full-frontal nudity in mainstream media will be common whether we care or not. We can choose to change the channel, have a look out of curiosity, and then choose whether or not to gossip or voice an opinion. Either way, society will probably remain unchanged. Most of us question change before acknowledging it. Believe it or not, I’m not a hater of Cyrus. I may not find her tasteful, but I admire her for having the balls to sell herself so well. First and foremost, however, I will support an artist for their talents, no matter what their media personality or image is. Write some better tunes, Miley, and I’ll give you a listen—maybe even a download!