The Vagenda

Miley, Don’t Make Me Cry

Saturdaynight. I’m babysitting. I’m also, by chance, engaging in anthropological research regarding the social implications of Miley Cyrus’s very public, orchestrated ‘breakdown’ for a pre-pubescent audience, as her music blasts out of the television. 
“What’s happened to Miley Cyrus?!” quoth ten-year-old Amelia.
“It’s all the fame,” ten-and-a-fifth-year-old Sophie sighs. “It’s got to her. First Britney, then Lindsay, and now Hannah Montana.”
Hannah Montana is a squeaky clean Disney Channel character. Miley Cyrus has grown up and metamorphosed into her alter ego in a powerful Jekyll-Hyde-esque transformation that has left young girls confused to say the least.
They know what ‘twerking’ is. They just about know that ‘humping’ is ‘sexy’. But they don’t know what sex is – and so they shouldn’t! Call me prudish if you must.
“Have you seen the video for wrecking ball?” Amelia whispers, quite horrified, “She hasn’t got any clothes on!”
These girls, whom Hannah Montana lured into her pop-princess bubblegum lair, have been duped into ‘twerking out’ what adolescence is just a tad too soon.
So. What are those in the biz gonna do about it?
Irish singer-songwriter and all-round incredibly awesome person Sinead O’Connor’s recent open letter to the young starlet had a clear-cut message: “Don’t let the music business make a prostitute of you.”
Why did O’Connor write? Well, it all started with Miley’s interview in Rolling Stone, where she confessed O’Connor’s iconic video for Nothing Compares 2 U was the inspiration for her own Wrecking Ball video. (…yeah, the one where she’s naked and is straddling a swinging wrecking ball and sucking off a sledgehammer. Teensy bit of artistic licence.)
Miley’s only 20 years old and she doesn’t even write her own songs – those ones that talk about ‘standing in line for the bathroom to get a line in the bathroom’ – yet O’Connor gives her a maternal and affectionate warning: “You will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.”

Her letter highlights a very important message about the status of women in the media. The music business enjoys disseminating the message that sexing up your looks and selling records with your body is, kerching, kerching, fan-bloody-tastic! For them. And of course it’s no wonder that the young Miley Cyrus has recently been catapulted to megastardom – she got sexy, she got promiscuous, she got naked. Miley’s so-called meltdown is a seriously stage-managed transition from cutie-pie girl-next-door to Gaga-esque derangement and she’s supposed to be revelling in the gluttonous cesspit of fame like a Lycra-clad pig in shit.

Her unforgettable performance at MTV’s latest Video Music Awards saw her cavorting with a giant foam hand on stage – putting it “down there”, Amelia says with a wide-eyed face and a telling downwards gesture.She wore a skin-coloured lycra two-piece whilst twerking and dry-humping Robin Thicke as he sang his rapey hit ‘Blurred Lines’.
An unfortunate byproduct of such a transformation is the millions of ten-year-olds like Sophie and Amelia, horrified, baffled and a little bit scared. And me. I’m kind of scared, too.
In an interview with The Sunday People, Miley protested that she never pretended to be anything like Hannah Montana.
“I think people knew I was acting,” she said. “I’ve never been able to hide anything, a bit like Justin Bieber. Others who have been on kids’ shows try to act like their characters – but I’m not like that. I never pretended I was as good as the Disney Channel writes.”
Ah, Justin Bieber. Tweenie-dream stuff of Backstreet Boy proportions. Beliebers may not be exposed to him dancing like he’s shagging the air, but the pot-pissing, weed-smoking, professional tattoo junkie is the kind of person who managed to offend the entire world – Holocaust survivors and true music lovers alike by writing in the Anne Frank Museum visitors book that he hoped Anne would have been a ‘belieber’. It was a terrible, well-meaning mistake by someone having to navigate adolescence in a spotlight controlled by shady people at the top. And I can’t help but feel the same way about Miley. After all, little Sophie is right: Britney, Lindsay and Miley were all child stars. ‘Tis a cursed fate that has stripped many a promising star of their dignity, talent and humility.
In Miley’s latest interview with Notion Magazine, before she received her own message from Sinead O’Connor, Miley shared a message with her young fans who are thinking about a career in the music business – “Don’t do it because you need to enjoy being a kid.”
She added: “People don’t realise but with so many responsibilities you hold an entire company on your back and you’re a kid so you’re supposed to [mess] up.”
There is more than a hint of knowing and sadness in that interview, like when Britney Spears sang in Lucky: “if there’s nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night?” and we all cried and bought the record and made the guys making her miserable more money.
You don’t need me to tell you that women’s available roles in mainstream music are stereotyped and boring. Who is a 20 year old girl, famous since childhood, to singlehandedly destroy all of that?

On television, Miley is singing “forget the haters, ‘cos somebody loves ya!” Sophie and Amelia are transfixed. 

“She used to have such pretty long hair.” (We’ll get to gender norms in a few years.)

“She’s really skinny.”

“Ew! Look she’s kissing a doll that looks like her!”

Naked Twitter photos, and godforsaken ‘twerking’ aside, Miley may be desperate to shed her good-girl image, but she’s just stepped into the media’s empty shoes for latex-clad naughty girl instead. 

I’m sad, but the worst thing is, I feel like she is too.

(Gabriella Swerling)

9 thoughts on “Miley, Don’t Make Me Cry

    • Thank you for sharing that link Glenna.

      “If men and women don’t have a constantly open dialogue about how we do and don’t (or should and shouldn’t) manipulate and play with each other, we all lose. We are all fragile humans with little time on this beautiful, sexually-charged, ecstatic planet. Let’s share it to the fullest extent that we can and make the playing field for all of us the size of the whole earth.”

  1. I haven’t quite come to a full understanding of where I stand on this topic – on one hand I’m naturally averse to and aware of the sexual objectification of women in the media and its noxious effect on young girls, but on the other hand I can’t help applauding Miley for her bold and ‘reckless’ behavior. She’s challenging societal norms of what’s ‘acceptable’ behavior for women. I also feel that she can actually be an *inspiration* to young girls as her message can be interpreted as “Hey, if you want to cavort around on stage half-naked while appearing to fondle yourself – do it, there’s nothing holding you back!” I whole-heartedly believe that she’s running her own show; Miley is not a mere a puppet at the mercy of the music business, and I applaud her for bringing back the wild girl innate in all of us.

    • “Miley is not a mere a puppet at the mercy of the music business, and I applaud her for bringing back the wild girl innate in all of us.”

      This strikes me as immensely naive.

  2. You say in your blog – “So.What are those in the biz gonna do about it?” and that’s what we are asking in our current campaign at Eyes Open Creative. We are writing to music execs to try and get them to take responsibility and support the development of education and resources as part of a sex and relationships programme for children and young people, as part of our campaign My Dangerous Loverboy that raises awareness of child sexual exploitation in the UK. If you are interested in being involved I would love to hear from you –
    Kind regards,


  3. The thing I found extremely irritating about the backlash from her performance with Robin Thicke, was that all we saw online was criticism towards her for being ‘slutty’ and twerking on him! I’m sorry, if people had an issue with this, do they not feel the need to mention the fact that a man almost old enough to be her father was also just as involved? Hypocritical much? I call bullshit. Miley Cyrus, in my opinion, is actually an amazing woman – she is being who she wants to be and also is a huge supporter for LGBT+ rights, and even has her own charity dedicated to helping homeless LGBT+ youth. But the media focus much less on this, and more that she wears revealing clothes. Awesome.

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