So, let's talk about Miley Cyrus.
I was NOT a fan of Hannah Montana. She was fine in it, but the underlying story, to me, went something like this:
"I'm a pretty but normal girl with dark hair and a kind of odd family who nobody pays too terrible much attention to. But when I put on this blonde wig and pretend to be somebody else the WHOLE WORLD LOVES ME."
I wasn't a religious watcher of it or anything, so I'll absolutely debate that story with anyone who was, but it just seemed like the story was that, yes, you could be anything, but you were really special if you pretended to be someone else, a more sexualized and stereotypically popular version of yourself.
Flash forward a few years, and this happened:
So a lot has been said about this performance.
I think the number one thing is that that's exactly what it was. A performance.
Celebrity, the act of being a celebrity, is a performance.
Cyrus herself has brought up some good points about it, like how she didn't intend to be "sexy" - she wanted to be shocking. She also made the excellent point that everyone is judging her for her performance, but no one has said a word about Robin Thicke, who, while he didn't "twerk" (Thank God) did gyrate against Cyrus and was completely complicit in the whole thing, from the looks of it.
But, maybe most importantly, whether you liked it or not, you have to APPRECIATE it.
For several reasons.
First, from everything I've read, Cyrus seems to be really in control of her own celebrity, and incredibly conscious of how and why she does things.
Second, the whole thing was genius. It was the VMAs, which are supposed to be shocking and cutting edge. And, love it or hate it, Cyrus was the only person we're still talking about from that night. The only one. Lady Gaga (who I generally dislike and see as an example of someone being controlled by their fame rather than the other way around) didn't even shock as much as Cyrus. I couldn't even tell you, without looking it up, what she did/sang/wore.
Third, yes, it had some questionable cultural appropriation and racial issues. I don't know enough about those fields to make a really academic comment, but Cyrus has noted, time and again, that she's incredibly aware of her privilege (and, as she told Rolling Stone, a very "strategic hot mess" - girl knows what she's doing). And I can't really fault her for that.
Finally, it was just a GOOD performance. She very clearly has talent, and her handling of her fame, her image, and her music since then has been spot-on.
Basically, what this article says better than I ever could:
"What is it about Miley Cyrus that aggravates so many people, but also makes her the biggest pop star in America right now? The biggest reason is probably that she makes a lot of people feel very old.
Also her comedic work on SNL was hilarious:
Also, let's all be honest. "We Can't Stop" is a hell of a song.
I like this version the best:
And Cyrus has a hell of a voice:
*Even if you dislike the song, or the video, and the fact that Cyrus is not listed as a writer on it, damn she can sing.
Here's the thing: I dislike a lot of things I recognize as being good.
I don't like, for example, jazz music.
I recognize, however, that it's a form of music with a lot of merit.
So let's not hate on Miley Cyrus, who is clearly talented, just because we don't like her getting naked and licking a sledgehammer, or grinding on Robin Thicke, or sticking her tongue out.
Because, let's just get to the heart of it here.
Let's stop slut shaming Miley Cyrus.
(Actually, let's stop slut shaming everyone.)
She wants to be famous, in a way that previous generations can't understand - even I have a hard time with it sometimes. And yeah, there are other ways, but why should she be shamed for choosing this one? In which she isn't even, publicly, actually a "slut," but is expressing her sexuality, which, not shockingly, everyone is buying.
Let's stop saying that her sexuality is bad, just because we remember her as a fresh-faced tween on a Disney show.
In fact, let's stop saying that anyone's sexuality is bad, because, really, that's killing feminism and propping up the inequalities women face.
Sexuality is not a bad thing.
And saying that Cyrus' is, just because it's offensive or loud or not our cup of tea, is slut shaming. Even if she's not a slut (I don't know her, obvs), saying that what she's doing is immoral or wrong or slutty is wrong.
Because when you say "Miley Cyrus is so nasty!" what you're really saying is "Women who express their sexuality or show their bodies in public are wrong!"
And, y'all, fuck that.
Now, if you just don't like her, that's fine. Realize that you don't dislike her personally, just the performance of fame that she is selling, and move on.
But let's stop hating on her for doing what we all wish we had the guts, or personality, or character, or wherewithal to do.
And fall in love, all over again, with this cover of "We Can't Stop":
*I write about fame and celebrity for my actual research, but rarely about modern celebrities (I'm an early modernist), so excuse my limited knowledge of modern celebrity theory.