Lily Sieradzki | Media Junkie
Who/what is “Miley Cyrus” tho
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 08:09
I don’t know if you’ve seen the music video for “Wrecking Ball,” but I have, and I have some (a lot of) thoughts. First thought: what in the heck is going on with Miley Cyrus right now?
She’s got a new haircut, which I don’t hate, and some new smash songs — “We Can’t Stop” is a total jam of mine. But most of all, Miley has taken on a radically new image as a performer. It’s clear to me that she is trying — hard — to be a cultural phenomenon in a way that’s sexy, provocative and different. And it’s been successful, considering the large amounts of Internet buzz around her songs and videos recently.
But it’s also very confusing, especially when you look at the methods she’s employing to generate that buzz. First and foremost, this is graphic sexuality. It’s a huge departure from her girlish, Disney Channel days as Hannah Montana and her upbeat party anthems of a few years ago, like “Party in the U.S.A.”
Now, she proudly and explicitly displays her body and her sexual potential at every opportunity. She twerks at award shows, booty drops and borderline masturbates in her music videos, and she seems to constantly have her tongue out or be licking an object. If that isn’t hot, I don’t know what is. Either way, it’s definitely no longer PG or even PG-13.
So what is her deal? Is this some kind of desperate bid for attention via self-degradation and objectification? Or, is it a brilliant rebranding of her image to stay relevant and fresh in a sex-saturated popular culture?
Let’s go back to her music videos. There is a lot here to be unpacked in terms of race, gender, class and cultural appropriation. I could write a whole paper on it. But what most stood out to me is her blatant broadcast of her sex appeal, particularly in “Wrecking Ball.” It’s possible to see this as strong, sexual, empowered femininity — she’s tough, she’s assertive, she’s hot and she knows it. It’s also possible to see this as completely over-the-top, unnecessary and degrading.
I tend to lean towards the second option, mostly because of the huge incongruity between her sexuality in the video and the emotional content of the song. The song is actually quite powerful — it’s about love and its devastating effects on Cyrus. It’s deep, when you hear the song without the video. There are those moments in the video where she looks into the camera with big puppy eyes and cries, almost sincerely.
And then. Miley basically giving a sledgehammer a blowjob. Miley straddling a wrecking ball completely naked. Miley stroking herself in a see-through white outfit. And there is no WAY anyone can take her emotions seriously, because it’s clearly just about sex.
Miley also uses her sexuality to help sell products. I know this is something that many, if not most mainstream musical artists do these days (corporate sellouts, amirite?). But Miley does it in an unusually obvious way. She markets her body and her new sex-toy image while also marketing Beats by Dr. Dre speakers and EOS lip balm (see the “We Can’t Stop” music video for some really badly done product placement [thanks Prof. Sobieraj]). The video of Mike Will’s “23” featuring Miley and Wiz Khalifa is a five minute advertisement for Nike’s Air Jordans. The chorus literally repeats: “J’s on my feet” a zillion times, while Miley poses in the background wearing tiny cut outs of Michael Jordan jerseys. There’s no question about it, Miley sure can sell — both herself and her sponsors.
I have no answers about Miley and what her motivations or intentions might be. All I know is, I’m one part shocked and disgusted and another part very impressed. Because if it’s attention she’s looking for, attention she’s got.
Lily Sieradzki is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at Lily. Sieradzki@tufts.edu.