All Twerk And No Play Makes Miley A Dull Girl Featured

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Every so often there is something in the media world that will capture the attention of the internet and spew so much social commentary it’s as though the vomit scene from 'Bridesmaids' has been embodied into internet opinion. Miley Cyrus has recently hit the limelight for her new-found love to ‘twerk'; manifested prominently in her We Can’t Stop music video and recent performance at the VMA’s, in which Miley strutted around in heels and shiny underwear, shaking that. Consequently this has provoked numerous reactions from each end of the spectrum.  This commotion has found its way into my internet usage via a host of Youtube recommendations, endless tweets and Facebook statuses. Not to mention the comparison between her bum and a raw turkey. Yup.


And perhaps, so what? Miley may only be 20 but Rihanna was only 22 when she released Rude Boy. Christina Aguilera was only 22 when she released Dirrty, and Gaga has been dancing about in her bra and pants since the age of 22 as well. Pop music has focussed on sex for years, and whilst these singers have certainly received their share of judgement and criticism, Miley-twerk-gate seems to have been subject to a fiercer spate of criticism. And here’s why I agree.


Firstly, the age old ‘role model’ argument.  Musicians such as Rihanna entered the music industry with particular music rhetoric and quickly crafted a provocative image. Miley is trying to change herself from a young Disney channel teen to a sex symbol - and this is why she is different.


Yes, this might seem dull; it might even seem restrictive and unfair. Why should these young celebrities endure a life of catering to tweens rather than growing up and living their own life? Well, like it or not, Miley Cyrus has grown up intentionally building a Disney fan-base, and whilst this may be an image she no longer wants, it is one she had purposefully already created. There’s no reason to suggest why she shouldn’t grow out of this with age, to experiment with image and adapt her music style. But to go from Hannah Montana to grinding on stage in your underwear and singing about ‘trying to get a line in the bathroom’ is one way or another sending the message out to a generation of impressionable fans, that growing up and out of being a teen is about taking your clothes off and partying with no other purpose. Choosing that lifestyle is one thing. Propagating it to your wealth of young fans is another.


In a recent interview I watched between Miss Cyrus and Jimmy Kimmel, in which they discuss the We Can’t Stop video, Miley explains the significance of the model deer in sunglasses in a circle. It is “for the kids… you, know, you’re feeling judged… he’s got himself all swagged up and he’s got to remember he can’t be judged”. Here not only is Miley acknowledging her susceptible fan-base, she is doing it under the pretence that her music is sending out these positive messages of being yourself and to “remember only god can judge ya, forget the haters, cause somebody loves ya” - this essentially alongside the idea that to be yourself it also helps to be outlandish and provocative.  


I’m bored of this concept that doing whatever you want alludes to getting messed up and behaving promiscuously, and because you don’t care what other people think, there will somehow be no repercussions. After three years of university I am certainly not going to pass judgement on anyone else’s lifestyle, but I also remember being a 14 year old girl and to me it seems irresponsible and unnecessary to be in a position of influence and promote such warped ideals. What’s wrong with sending out a message that doing whatever you want might involve actually doing whatever you want? Be it partying, drinking or having a cuppa and watching the Great British Bake Off.  Why can’t you sing your next song about Mary Berry, Miley?


Furthermore an interesting article considering Miley and white privilege, there makes the argument that girls like Miley Cyrus can adopt and glamourize this attitude and pretend to live a certain lifestyle, just because essentially, they never have. The article alludes to the trial of Trayvon Martin, challenging “ask yourself if Miley Cyrus or any other 20-year-old white girl would be put on trial posthumously if someone shot her for walking around in a hoodie”.  This is, perhaps, a more extreme example, yet nonetheless an interesting and provoking idea in terms of the image that singers such as Miley aim to project.


Finally, the whole situation seems to me likely to be ultimately damaging. If a singer wants to shake her bum on stage, she can. Look no further than Queen Bey for affirmation. But to do so in such a way - to draw worldwide media attention - is to largely draw two reactions; condemnation and support. Condemnation may be criticised for offering the attention desired, and potentially blowing a 5 minute performance out of proportion. Yet at the same time to support - or be apathetic - to this kind of controversy, is to okay the transformation of Disney girl to a provocative young woman, and perhaps more worryingly, to accept the media platform of unmitigated attention on this young girl barely wearing anything. It only takes a quick look at women such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Bynes to witness the problematic nature of growing out of the ‘child star’ phase in the media eye.


And it is for that reason I hate this whole phenomenon. That ‘twerking’ has become something which needs to be publicised; that celebrities feel the need to be shocking, either to retain attention or to break an image; and that mostly, and somewhat hypocritically, it receives as much media scrutiny as it does. On the one hand, why should it even be a point of public interest? On the other, by making it so and relying on such controversial attention, celebrities like Miley may be unwittingly killing their ability to be interesting without it. If I were Miley, I’d be pretty sad that my entire worldwide performance could be reduced simply to a likeness between my behind and an uncooked festive bird.


Lizzie Scourfield

History student at the University of Leeds. I have a special sort of love for Sean Paul and puns.


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