My fingers tremble over my keyboard as I write these words, for I understand this article may generate an unpleasant response from the great American public. I watched Miley Cyrus’ “unique” performance at the Video Music Awards and, like many others, found it to be over-the-top and inappropriate. I ask the question, did we create her?
I have to admit, whilst I watched Miley’s VMA segment, although my immediate reaction was to dismiss her performance as profane nonsense, I was also rendered somewhat unsurprised as I viewed the fleshy, tongue-waggling spectacle. All the “twerking,” provocative movements and weird, salamander-like facial expressions failed to elicit much of a reaction. This left me scrambling for reasons to explain why I was so indifferent. The conclusion I came to was that I had grown up in a world where ostentatious acts and public freak shows were gradually becoming the social norm. In an age where Lady Gaga prances around in meat suits, Justin Bieber spits on his own dedicated fan-base and Britney Spears is seen siphoning the tonsils from Madonna’s aging body, I think many individuals subjected to these scenes are becoming worryingly desensitized.
Don’t get me wrong, celebrities have always been slightly kooky, it’s just that we are exposed to the media’s presence on a more intense and frequent basis, these days.
At a time when freedom of expression has never been so highly valued, an unfortunate consequence seems to be the erosion of certain social barriers and sensibilities, which at one time were simply taken for granted. Restraint and decorum is substituted for the sensationalist and the inflammatory, in a desperate bid for attention, fame, notoriety and wealth.
Why did Miley Cyrus do what she did? I personally do not see Miley getting into a state of undress and awkwardly gyrating on-stage with a giant, foam hand, in front of millions of unsuspecting Americans, just for kicks. Over the years, Miley has cleverly evolved to do almost anything, in an attempt to create a bigger celebrity profile and improve her career opportunities.
Looking at an article that one of my colleagues, Michael Smith, had created, it appears that “Miley Cyrus” and “drugs” was one of the biggest search engine terms on the Las Vegas Guardian Express website, with the subject matter occupying the top three search columns. Michael rightly concludes that Miley Cyrus and her team have managed to achieve their primary objective – get the public’s attention at all costs.
Many in the media have speculated that Miley Cyrus was on drugs at the time of her performance. It’s certainly plausible, given the unusual behavior demonstrated. However, I would tentatively speculate that Miley’s performance hinged around two factors.
Firstly, after growing up in the media and being heralded as the cutesy teenage idol of Disney’s Hannah Montana, this was her attempt to break free from, what she perceived to be, the remaining shackles of her past. This was Cyrus’ failed attempt at re-shaping her public image to one of a mature performance artist; what she achieved, however, was quite the opposite.
Secondly, she was imitating the eccentric performances of her fellow artists. Rightly or wrongly, I would argue that Cyrus has attributed the success of other singers to their lurid acts and unorthodox image, and not to their vocal talents. Lady Gaga is a prime example of this. The main difference between the two female artists, however, is that this type of flamboyant behavior is expected from Lady Gaga, a woman who had not grown up under the scrutiny of the media’s spotlight, and often manages to brush aside the controversies she creates.
And, frankly, we asked for this. Media outlets, newspapers and gossip magazines love to dish the dirt on celebrities and detail the public on their acts of lunacy in the most minute of detail. Why? Because the American public, as with most countries, laps it up. If nobody was interested, nobody would write about it. And if nobody wrote about it, these spurious acts would all but disappear (I very much appreciate the irony of my own actions, here).
And, sooner or later someone was bound to cross over the poorly differentiated line between what is and is not acceptable. Miley Cyrus seems to be that somebody.
In spite of this, however, her career will continue to endure because this unusual material captures the audience’s attention and never lets go. Such is the insidious nature of the American creation that is Miley Cyrus.
By: James Fenner