Two weeks ago I had never heard of “twerking” or Robin Thicke. Perhaps I was living in a cave somewhere, but I’d like to think that I was busy traveling on a more sophisticated trail in the pop culture journey to have ever noticed. However, thanks to popette Miley Cyrus and her racy performance last weekend at the MVA’s, which have dominated the world of pop culture news over the past week, I now know what both of them are and I feel like my brain has to be washed out with soap. As Robin Thicke’s mother eloquently said “I can never unsee that.”
Over the past few days literally hundreds of articles have flooded the internet about, what was essentially, a terrible musical number of little artistic merit or clear talent. I have received dozens of e-mails and messages asking what my thoughts are on this subject. Dare I add to the pile of articles about Miley’s “twerk” that seems to be spreading like the great Pacific garbage patch? Well, I do have something to say. It’s fairly elementary, but perhaps it’ll have some merit in it, and will shed some light on just what the hell is going on with Miley Cyrus.
To me, Miley’s “twerking” incident basically comes down to that, at age twenty, the former Disney Channel star is trying to show the world that she is “all grown up now.” It is really an age old drama that every child star in entertainment goes through when they come of age. Only the very few ever grow up to be icons (Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, Jodie Foster) and even the most rich and powerful can fade away into the background (Shirley Temple, The Olsen Twins), if you don’t die young from a tragic death and become a headline in the tabloids first (Dana Plato, Annissa Jones). Let’s face it. It isn’t easy growing up in the pop culture spotlight and in today’s ultra-slick pop culture landscape, it’s even harder for a girl to grow up with the expectations that she has to be a sex symbol to be a success. With competitors like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Madonna to live up to, perhaps Miley Cyrus felt that she had to go down this shocking route to prove her womanhood. Perhaps, but I think there is a lot more going on in Miley’s fractured psyche. I think that her performance is an accumulation of factors that started by having her identity virtually raped by the Disney corporation at age fifteen, and this is just the most extreme instance of Miley Cyrus trying to gain back her own identity.
Essentially, what Miley Cyrus did at the MVA’s was kill Hannah Montana in an on screen execution with billions of people watching. Hannah Montana is dead. God bless Hannah Montana.
Now I’ll admit that I have a certain soft spot for Miley Cyrus. Her character, Hannah Montana, is possibly the first successful pop culture icon of the 21st Century to gain mass popularity in the same way that Fonzie, ET and Mr. T did to generations before her. At fifteen Miley was seduced by “the House of Mouse” where she literally gave over her soul, her likeness and her identity for their consumption. That’s enough to drive just about anybody to “twerk” But within months of the debut of Hannah Montana in 2006, Miley was the biggest teen star in the world. Miley Cyrus not only starred in the most popular pre-teen show on television but her Best of Both Worlds concerts became the biggest tour of the summer of 2007, dolls in her likeness were the “must have toy” that Christmas and her face was plastered on everything from backpacks to ice packs. Now, mind you, Miley Cyrus was never the best singer, and she was a dreadful actress. But what she did have was a certain amount of charisma and spunk. She had that presence over tweens that drew in an audience and, for the most part, she was relatively charming.
However, the unique experience that Miley faced was that the real “blurred lines” was her own reality under Disney. The point where Hannah Montana started and Miley Cyrus ended seemed to exist in some dark shade of grey. From giving her fictional character the same unique name as her, to going so far as hiring her own father to play her on-screen TV Dad was enough to confuse young viewers and thrust Miley Cyrus into a sugar coated identity crises. Forced into the role of a teen role model, the concept of reality and fiction was a bit too deep for her average fan to understand, and for all intents and purposes Miley Cyrus ceased to exist in the minds of the public, allowing Hannah Montana to take over. To a young girl trying to figure herself out, this stripping of her identity at a young age had to have been a terrible burden on her psyche. But Miley Cyrus has never been a shrinking wallflower, and the cracks of rebellion as she tried to separate herself from her public persona has been an ongoing trend in her life as far back as her early days as Hannah Montana. From her disturbing 2005 photo shoot with Annie Lebowitz, to her You Tube video of taking a toke from a bong, to her pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards and her public trash talking of Demi Lavato, Miley has been trying to show the world that she is not the clean and quirky Hannah Montana from the Disney show, and that she is as fucked up and stupid as kids all throughout North America. Miley Cyrus just wanted to be an idiot kid doing idiot things, but due to her affiliation with Disney and the fact that she became a multi-million commodity, she was never allowed to do that. Every time she acted out the parents of America would point their fingers and criticize her for not being a good example for their kids. It didn’t matter what Miley did, she would get a slap on the wrist from parent groups and the media, and then all would be forgiven and it’d be business as usual. But Miley Cyrus never asked to be a role model, and she couldn’t have “the best of both worlds.” With Hannah Montana being over for a number of years, what Miley had to do regain her own sense of self was to finally, once and for all, put a bullet in the head of her public persona and give a performance that nobody would ever forget….and that’s exactly what she did.
But where Miley failed at the MVA’s is the fact that she will never be the next Madonna, Britney or Lady Gaga. She is not as talented, interesting and definitely not a sex symbol. Let’s face it. Hannah Montana was always more interesting then Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus was only interesting under the guiding hand of Disney. Disney was the force that made her rise to fame, but as it has been proven time and time again, when Disney is through with you, you either have to learn to fly or you crash and burn. Unfortunately for Miley, she was set up for failure because Disney put more investment in her character than building her up as a performer. The highest point of Miley’s career will always be as that little country girl who sang The Climb in a scene stealing moment in The Hannah Montana Movie. But by killing her character, Miley pretty much killed her place in pop culture. The party in the USA is over. Thanks for coming.
But what I think the truly offensive thing, that nobody seems to be talking about, was just how terrible the entire production was. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke are two mediocre and boring performers of limited talent that just proved how lack luster they really are. The entire production, from the music to the dancing to the costumes to those stupid creepy bears was horrendous, but for the most part, on par with the main stream music scene as a whole. Their performance at the MVA’s was just an indication of how truly banal the mainstream music scene has become. This needs to be said – Robin Thicke is NOT a good song writer. If you have even fooled yourself by thinking he is, sit down and listen to some Neil Diamond. I suggest Solitary Man. That is what a “real” song sounds like. But, I digress. Miley’s “twerk” overshadowed just how terrible and stupid both of she and Thicke are as performers, which is the true crime here. But, then what can you expect from a music awards show put on by a channel that has little to do with music. Oh….how we’ve fallen as a society….
Was Miley’s performance tasteless? Yes. Was it vile? Yes. But does it make her bad? No. Miley is not “bad.” She’s just stupid. The only thing bad about Miley was that performance. Miley Cyrus hasn’t gone all Lindsay Lohan on us….yet. Until she is pulled over by the cops high on meth with a dead hooker in her trunk, Miley Cyrus will just be a mixed up immature young woman trying to figure herself out. We all did stupid things when we were her age. Fortunately for us, the whole world isn’t watching and talking about it the next day. Let this be a lesson to young women out there. Think before you “twerk.” Now lets move on from this. Isn’t there something going on in Syria or something?