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.