Monday, June 14, 2010

Miley Cyrus Can't Be Tamed

There's much Internetz buzz about Miley Cyrus's (relatively) new video for her song "Can't Be Tamed." A lot of the response (read: criticism) seems to revolve around what seems to be a sudden change to a more grown-up style of video accompanied by rebellious lyrics and how that means Miley has finally packed her bags for Slutsville, never to return.

I beg to differ.

Remember when you were 17? If it was anything like when I was, you sure as heck didn't want to be seen as a sugary innocent child anymore. You may have done questionable things on the Internet. You probably cursed when your parents couldn't hear (or in front of them-- I wouldn't have lived to 21 if I chose to). You probably tried to dress in a more adult way-- you didn't want to be "cute" anymore, but sexy instead. Maybe you drank, experimented with drugs, had a sexual relationship and/or explored your sexuality. You probably weren't watching shows akin to Hannah Montana and playing board games as your primary pastimes.

I'm not saying everyone was the definition of a "wild child," but even as someone who had some pretty darn tame teenage years, I can say I did a number of those things at Miley's age.

What's unfortunate for Miley, of course, is that she has to be watched being a teenager by a very wide audience. I'm not saying that the sometimes questionable things teenagers do are safe or right, but most of us did them in some combination-- so why should Miley be expected to be any different? It's ludicrous to expect a young woman in the pop music industry to keep wearing a blond wig and bubblegum-pink skirts while singing about ponies or something forever. That's not how our music industry works, and it's surely not what most people want, including her fans. Many of her fans have left the tween years, too, we have to remember.

I think the most upsetting part of watching young people try to navigate the entertainment industry is the obvious toll it takes on their ability to be normal. That sounds pretty obvious, but what I mean more specifically is that the manufactured growing-up process is absolutely bull. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't-- and it's especially the case for stars that start off portraying themselves as super-innocent. If Miley doesn't grow up, she denies her own desire to be a woman as she sees fit, loses part of her original audience, and is probably ridiculed for being a prude. If she does grow up, she's a ho who isn't a real artist and makes the parents of every little girl who worshipped Hannah Montana as a Wonderful Role Model go on a mission to destroy and denounce her at every turn.

Of course, it's okay for Miley to be sexy if it doesn't seem so overt-- like she knows what "sexy" is. Honestly, I find that to be the creepier side of how we treat youth in pop culture. It was okay for Miley to wear teensy tiny shorts (as is her custom) in the Party in the U.S.A. video. That was hot, because there she is, being all casual, hangin' out, just looking attractive and young, the kind of young where you don't really know your own strength when it comes to your sex appeal. But if she's clearly using it? No, that's wrong. If she clearly wants men to look at her, to desire her, it's gross and skanky and terrible.

We want to be voyeurs, to be the peeping Toms looking in her window, watching her blossom yet keep her innocence because it makes it that much more magical: the idea that you can have your cake and eat it, too, in a sense. Yes, a girl who's pure but smokin'. That's what we all want. But she can't know it or use it to her advantage.

This is what we call "slut-shaming," if I'm not mistaken.

Miley Cyrus recently made the following statements about her sexy performances and double standards to Access Hollywood:

“Girls are immediately going to say, ‘Oh, she’s trying to sell sex,’” she told Billy of her current maturation. “Well, I love Zac Efron, but what’s he selling? He’s gorgeous, he’s hot, I don’t go see his movie because I’m like, ‘He’s such a fantastic actor.’ He’s a great actor, but he’s hot.”

Miley explained that her male colleagues also have it easier in the clothing department.

“He’s just not in a leotard with his legs out. He has his shirt off. So what’s the difference?” she continued. “In ‘High School Musical’… he’s in basketball shorts and his cutoff tank top and all the girls are dying.

“It just isn’t as obvious when guys do it,” she added. “I was on tour with the Jonas Brothers my first year and boy bands get away with a lot. For girls, it’s always going to be harder."


Here is an example of what someone says when they understand the system-- because, honestly, I've never heard that much criticism of young male stars becoming too sexy. Take Daniel Radcliffe aka Harry Potter, for instance: when he decided to star in Equus, there was buzz about the fact he'd be nude, but no shock and horror and falling-out. I found this article, in fact, where the author casually says "I guess it's his way of saying he's all grown up now" and provides NSFW photographs of the young actor nude. I can't imagine such a nonchalant, oh it's artistic, response if this had been Daniel's costar Emma Watson.

But back to Miley:

What this is is my round-a-bout way of saying LEAVE MILEY ALONE! JUST LEAVE HER ALONE!

*Ahem* But really: I find it a bit awful that all of us media consumers out there expect a 17-year-old girl who grew up in the same sexified society as we did to not feel the urge to be sexy in public. Let's let go and allow kids to grow up and be a little rebellious and ridiculous. I know the instinct is to cling to youth and innocence, but guess what? Kids that age aren't completely innocent.

And I'm willing to bet our refusal to acknowledge that does more harm than good.

So what if Miley can't be tamed? Maybe she's just a normal kid. Maybe she doesn't have to be.


Miss Vintage Vixen said...

Hmmm... this is quite persuasive!
I really really really really really really really really really really really really really do not like Miley Cyrus {or Heidi Montag} but you're quite true on that!

Vanessa said...

I'm not really a fan of her music, either, but I probably implied it by referencing Chris Crocker :-P

amanda said...

I love this.

I'm not a huge fan of Miley, if only because she and her father are ubiquitously jumping the "inappropriate" line like they're playing a game of Double Dutch.

But I have to admit, I've gained more and more respect for her. She started out saying some of the stupidest nonsense (but then again, who doesn't spew verbal diarrhea when they're 15?), but she seems to know how the game is played and has no qualms about calling it like it is.

You're right -- she's a 17 year old girl acting like a 17 year old girl. The creepy part (for me at least) is that she looks like she's 14. She's trying to break that cutesy image, but she's got such a young face (lucky bitch) that she's going to catch flack no matter what she does.

Chelsea said...

I think most people's problem is that she started out as a child star whose audience for her Disney TV show was 5-10 year olds. A lot of that audience is now 9-14 years old and still too young to differentiate between what Miley, as a 17 year old does, and what they should/could be doing at age 9-14. If she had come out with "cant be tamed" as her first single and debut into the entertainment industry, it wouldn't have been much of a problem. you're right, she is 17!

Jem said...

I'm not a huge fan of Miley's work however people really do need to cut her some slack. It's hard enough being 17 let alone 17 and famous. I think it is hard for people to let go of the image they have of Miley when she first reached stardom, cute and innocent thus when she does something "grownup" her morals get questioned. I love the point you made about Daniel Radcliffe when he made his Broadway debut, if it had been Emma Watson, people would have been shocked! Although, I do remember that most articles which I read about the play touched upon the nude aspect of it, so even then he didn't get off easy, facing scrutiny aswell. :)

Elaine said...

Not a fan.. and I don't really care because in the end, it's all about business to them.

clothed much, a modest fashion blog

Zmaga said...

I didn't think about it this way, really. You are right, I agree she has to grow up, she's 17, it's normal.
What I find irritating is the song. "I can't be tamed" - are you serious? It's just fake and been-there-done-that and Dirrty Christina Aguilera AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

I love your perspective because I think it does apply to girls her age who aren't stars, as well. Because the 'slut shame' exists no matter how famous a girl is, and it takes a process to let go of that plus blossom & explore, plus deal with guys who have no problem with sexual shame or exploration.

I was actually thinking this the other day, because a neighbor took his dog out, and he was shirtless, and yet what would happen if I, a female, took my trash out topless? I've never thought that was fair, even if I do understand why.
I mean honestly, it's a big enough deal for a woman to not wear a bra in public.

Love this discussion!


Laells said...

Aw man. As much as I really dislike Ms. Cyrus I do have to agree with you to a certain extent.

I agree in the sense that it's gotta be tough for a teen to grow up in the public eye, but I don't know man. I just don't buy it from her either.

I'm all for experimenting, being sexy, more grown up, adult, discovering who you are and everything but everything the girl does is just so manufactured and seems so fake.

Do you remember the performance she did where she hopped up on the ice cream wagon and did a stripper pole dance? She was younger than seventeen. I'd say that was at least a year or so ago. Then that leads us into the whole conversation of parenting and what the hell was Billy Ray Cyrus thinking when Miley came to him and was like, "I wanna strip on stage!" And he was like, "Well I see no problem. You're at least fifteen..." Or whoever suggested the idea.

She's not legally an adult yet, so she has someone making decisions for her and approving things etc. That's what I find disturbing more than anything I guess. The fact that they're adults marketing her this way.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say really. Like I said, I agree with you in the sense that she needs to be cut a certain amount of slack because she's NOT a normal teenager but then again, if you want to be seen as a serious artist or whatever, don't pole dance on stage when you're like fifteen. To me that's just trying way too hard.

I just think she could find a lot better ways to make people see her as a serious artist or grown up or sexy.

I can think of plenty of actresses or singers that made that transition without being as nauseatingly annoying as Miley Cyrus.

But that's all. Just my two cents. :)


Evangeline Ruby said...

Very interesting post! I'm not a fan of Miley Cyrus but she really does have a point. No matter what, women always have to deal with the double standard of our society. Its not usually the men who slut-shame etc., more often than not, its other women.


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