A Critical Response to the Miley Cyrus Controversy (Or Why I’m Still a Fan)

Miley Cyrus

In case the rest of the internet hasn’t been doing enough of this lately, let’s take a moment and talk about Miley. Miley is the biggest media drama of this sort since Lindsay Lohan, and I don’t believe she deserves half of the shaming she is receiving. The general public has, for some reason, decided to take it upon themselves to judge Miley according to their own values and beliefs, without taking even a moment to recognize that it really isn’t their place to decide what Miley Cyrus should be doing with her life. The spotlight has been on the former Hannah Montana star since she chopped off her hair and released “We Can’t Stop.” Now, believe me, I agree with most of what has been said about the weirdness of that music video, and I definitely don’t understand what the point of it was, other than to show that some people have bread fetishes (…?), but who am I to say that she shouldn’t do that?

Let’s rewind for a minute, to 7th grade. I was sitting in my friend Haley’s living room watching Disney Channel when a preview for Hannah Montana came on. After watching it, we looked at each other and came to the consensus that it looked really dumb. Now fast forward to winter break of 10th grade, when I got my third generation iPod nano and the very first thing I downloaded was an episode of Hannah Montana. I was obsessed. It was by far my favorite show on television (this was during the time when CMT didn’t work on my TV, so I couldn’t watch marathons of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which, let’s be honest, was a tragedy). I loved Miley as a character and was such a big fan of the show that my best friend and I learned Miley and Lilly’s handshake and used it (I’ll be honest, we still use it) as our own.

Obviously things have changed since Miley and Billy Ray graced Disney Channel with their presence. It was a sad day for all when Hannah Montana came to an end (no fears though, Netflix has four seasons of the wonderful show available for instant viewing). So  back to the point. Miley’s media controversy started with her Vanity Fair photoshoot, where she was partially naked in one of her pictures, only covering her front with a sheet while her back was exposed. This picture led to outrage because OH MY GOD nobody has ever seen someone’s back before. The argument was that Miley was supposed to be a virtuous young woman with honorable values that girls could look up to, and now she was implying nakedness and sexuality in a national magazine. I’d argue that this photo, while it does make her look oddly young and angelic, does NOT imply that she is promoting sex, which is what many people thought. I see this photograph as an astute look at what is photographic art, and not simply a photograph. This picture is aesthetically pleasing and tells a story, in addition to being reminiscent of Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

   Miley Vanity Fair  The Girl with the Pearl Earring

Moving on to the most recent criticism of Miley, which has stemmed from her performances in “We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball,” and the VMAs. While I did not watch the VMA’s, I saw Miley’s performance afterwards and was stunned by the social aftermath. I agree that the performance was odd and very sexual and probably not appropriate for the venue, but when was the last time the media was outraged at a male performer who showed off his sexuality? Furthermore, what was way more problematic than Miley’s performance is the fact that she performed with Robin Thicke, whose “Blurred Lines,” while a catchy tune, is so very much about relieving men of blame for rape. That should have been the media’s focus, not Miley putting a foam finger between her legs in a phallic manner.

(Check out Miley’s response to her VMA performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDkuc1Cbs-M)

Now to her two most recent music videos. Like I said, I definitely don’t understand the “We Can’t Stop” video, but I think it’s a catchy song and I don’t have a problem with the video at all – there are a lot of music videos that just don’t make any sense. I want to talk more about “Wrecking Ball,” which has gotten a lot of undeserving negative press. I’ll start off by saying that I love this song. I think the tune is catchy, the lyrics are beautiful and relatable (much more so than any of her Hannah Montana stuff – I mean, who can relate to living two lives, one as a popstar and one as a normal high schooler? That’s right, nobody), and the video is well-done. I understand that people have a problem with Miley being naked in the video, but she is a beautiful young woman who should be allowed to embrace her body. I was just watching the music video on YouTube and one of the comments on the page is “naked ewww such a young age” (that’s not actually exactly what it said, I corrected the grammar a little bit); SERIOUSLY? I’m sorry, she is 21 years old. She isn’t allowed to be naked? I’m sorry, did we just go back in time? Ignoring the fact that she was engaged for quite a while and therefore we can assume she was having sex, 21 is a perfectly acceptable age to be naked. Actually, any age is. It’s not like the video is explicit at all, and I’m pretty sure that unless you live in a cave, most people have seen a full-frontal naked body by the time they are 21, if not in person then on the internet.

Miley Wrecking Ball Tattoo

I believe that Miley Cyrus is still a role model for girls all over the world. She has grown up with her audience and made herself accessible to her own generation. Her nakedness in “Wrecking Ball” teaches girls to embrace their beauty and not see the human body as taboo. Her VMAs performance shows girls to embrace their sexuality and have fun performing, even if not everyone is going to approve. “We Can’t Stop” teaches people that it’s okay to do your own thing, even if people think you’re weird or don’t understand you. AND her parody to this video, “We Did Stop,” which she did on SNL in response to the government shutdown, teaches people that it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and make fun of yourself. Nobody ever takes the time to talk about the positive things that Miley stands for, like marriage equality, or only listening to the positive things people have to say about you, or friendship, or love (which can all be seen in her tattoos). Miley teaches people to fully express themselves and not be ashamed of who they are, which is a much more powerful and important statement than any of the arguments that can be made against her. And in the end, it’s her party, she can do what she wants to.


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