In (Partial) Defense of Miley Cyrus

By Amy Wagner on September 1, 2013

By now, you’ve probably heard about Miley Cyrus’ recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, in which she grinded, twerked, and gyrated in a tan bikini while singing her recent hit “We Can’t Stop” before joining Robin Thicke in a duet of his song “Blurred Lines.” Time magazine spoke accurately when they said that we will be hearing about this performance for a long time. Cyrus also directed lewd gestures at stuffed animals and grinded against Robin Thicke during their duet throughout the time she was on stage.

Photo courtesy of mashable.com

There’s no doubt that this performance reeks of cultural appropriation in a multitude of ways, and I certainly do not want to seem as though I’m ignoring this blatant aspect. However, for the purposes of this article, I would like to talk about it from a different angle – its sexuality. Prior to this now-infamous performance, Miley Cyrus was best known as Hannah Montana, the main character in a TV show of the same name that aired on the Disney Channel from 2006 to 2011. After watching her at this year’s VMAs, it’s difficult to believe that only two years have passed since this now-risque artist was on a TV show marketed primarily to tweens. However, the phenomenon of an adult star vehemently attempting to shed his or her “kiddie” image has become relatively commonplace. Fellow stars, such as Justin Timberlake, have expressed their opinions that “Miley is young and…just letting everybody know she’s growing up.” If that’s the case, point taken.

There’s no doubt that this performance left many parents horrified, especially those with children who were relatively young when Cyrus was still predominantly known as Hannah Montana. It’s possible that these children saw more of the performance than they should have, leaving the parents with awkward explanations about what they had just seen. Even so, the VMAs aren’t exactly known for being squeaky clean, which is something that parents with tweens and young teens should keep in mind.

Was Miley Cyrus’ performance trashy and over the top? Absolutely. However, “Hannah Montana” has been over for more than two years, and its protagonist can’t possibly be expected to remain faithful to this wholesome image for the remainder of her career. In an age where retailers sell thongs in children’s sizes, grinding is commonplace at nearly every school dance, and sexuality dominates in the media, what can we expect? Whether one thinks that this performance was right or wrong on part of Miley Cyrus, it’s hard to shake the idea that she may just be a 20-year-old with a malleable sense of self, governed by the old adage “sex sells.” Not only is she clearly an impressionable product of a culture that nonchalantly accepts this phrase, but she is also a musician who is attempting to market herself to the public. Bottom line: there may have been a method to her madness.

Amy is a third-year student at the University of Denver majoring in Communication Studies, with concentrations in organizational and intercultural communication, as well as minoring in business and international studies. She is a Colorado native, avid reader, coffee drinker, lover of all things active, and now, thanks to Uloop, a writer.

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