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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Miley, what are we going to do with you?

The former Disney star took us on a roller coaster ride to maturity this summer full of ups and downs. Her single “We Can’t Stop,” settled in mainstream pop music as an anthem for reckless youth. Stars, they’re just like us! – Except, we don’t usually grow up in front of a global audience.

The 20-year-old is almost there, according to us. But really, what is the bar that sets adulthood? Is it sexually thrusting a foam finger at the VMAs? Is it cutting ties with your childhood friends in favor of finding new ones? Is it dressing for attention and stocking up on American Apparel white underwear? Apparently, it’s all of these things and none of these things.

The mystery that is Miley Cyrus is scrutinized by just about everyone. On one hand, there are the kids who grew up with “Hannah Montana,” who call her a slut because she’s obviously not “the best of both worlds” anymore – that is wholesome and pretty - to a group of people who were conditioned to think of Disney stars as role models.  There are people who defend her by saying that she should be allowed to make mistakes (Are they mistakes if her whole image is carefully calculated?) and discover who she is. These people treat the Miley epidemic as a phase in the woman’s life. It may be a phase, but what if it’s not? More importantly, who cares what she does, and why is it so offensive?

Miley, as an artist, is following a formula for relevancy in the media that was done thousands of times before her. Lady Gaga is probably to blame for the need to constantly attract attention to your looks in the name of individuality. Lindsay Lohan was doing it with her actions way before. Kyle Massey (Raven’s little brother in “That’s so Raven”) took selfies with a pair of butts and flew largely under the radar.

Miley twerks, and it’s seen as one huge middle finger to everyone watching.  However, no one was prepared for the criticism that came with her latest music video “Wrecking Ball.”

Shot by the infamous Terry Richardson, Miley’s pain was exposed with the help of Richardson’s provocative brand of basic flash-usage. Richardson is known for his sexually exploitative videos, like Sky Ferreira’s “Red Lips,” or more notably Kate Upton doing the “Cat Daddy.” Many models have spoken out about Richardson’s unprofessional, teetering-on-sexual-harassment ways of working, but Cyrus didn’t seem to have a problem with Richardson. What I’m saying is, “Wrecking Ball” was probably seen as a challenging video on the artist’s part, and she entrusted her song in the hands of a seasoned fashion photographer and provocateur.

“If people can take their minds out of the obvious and go into their imagination a little bit and see kind of what the video really means and the way it's so vulnerable and actually if you look in my eyes I look more sad then my voice sounds on the record it was a lot harder to do the video then it was to record the songs," Cyrus said in a phone call with “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.”

It’s kind of hard to look past her naked on a wrecking ball to see her pain. Sure there’s the “raw” crying scene, tons of hair pulling and agonized faces given to the camera, but that almost feels weakened when she’s licking a sledgehammer in a suggestive manner.

However, this is the nature of mainstream music today. It’s about who can be the most inflammatory and get his/her name trending. Bad press is better than no press, and after all only God can judge her.

It’s all OK to me, albeit not my taste, because it’s what I’ve come to expect from the music industry today. Even if Miley were 25, without ambiguity on her adult-status, she would still be criticized because society has her down as Hannah Montana, and it refuses to see her any other way. Miley has a right to change. Grown men shouldn’t be calling her a slut while gushing over Rihanna, who has a similar brand of shock-value to her name.

As Gaga put it in a sit-down interview with Andy Cohen on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live”: “I don't understand the incessant need to constantly go on and on about hating things all the time because, what, she's 20 years old? And if anything, I give her props. You know, she's growing up in front of the entire world and maybe she's not so happy with stuff she did in her career when she was younger and she wants to be free, so let her do what she wants."

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I feel being a women’s issue blogger that I should address the elephant in the room. Miley’s nudity in “Wrecking Ball” is criticized for being slutty, distasteful and attention seeking, but what about other music videos that feature nudity in questionable ways? I’m talking about male artists who get away with female nudity because they’re in control of the situation. The women are nothing but props meant to enhance the experience of the music video. You know I’m talking about Robin Thicke’s nipple-fest in his video for “Blurred Lines.” Can we talk about how that song is more than kind of rape-y? Yet, it’s all in good fun because there are toy cars, sheep and other props akin to Miley’s sledgehammer-wrecking ball combo.

Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision” also employs the use of naked female bodies. Under the right lighting, it’s artsy. Miley’s choice to use Richardson is a look in itself, but really they’re all naked women, however Miley is the subject of her own nudity. In the video, there are no men to admire her body.

I guess if Miley were a man the video would be funny, like Blink-182’s “What’s my Age Again?” If it were a more serious song (i.e. not mainstream), she’d be Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Rós’ “Fjögur piano.”

Miley will continue making headlines because she has to expose her brand. Aside from being a person, she is a business. She’s not the first person to shine harsh light on herself, and she won’t be the last.

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