Miley Cyrus debuted the video for her song “Adore You” in which she appears almost completely naked, writhing, touching herself, holding a video camera, and sliding her fingers beneath her panties. It was followed immediately by waves of condemnation, but some considered it bold and provocative. By now, were it not for our apparent pop culture amnesia, this behavior should not be surprising at all. Miley Cyrus is following the beaten path from being a Disney kid to being a sex icon, a path blazed by stars like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears before her.
While “bold” and “provocative,” Miley’s onanistic gyrations can be seen as calculated business decisions. Condemn her or worship her, the extra frenzy of attention heaped upon the young starlet will serve her and her affiliated companies by bolstering music sales and concert attendance.
It is a little haunting to know that the next crop of potential sex icons might be starring on Disney shows today. Lolita, it would seem, wears Mickey Mouse ears.
Britney Spears is an example of pop star who helped beat the path now walked by Miley Cyrus. She went from The Mickey Mouse Club and Star Search as a kid to being a possible “sex icon” at the peak of her career. Her debut single was called “…Baby One More Time” and came out when she was just sixteen. In the video, the young Spears looks bored in class, until the bell rings and she and her classmates, all dressed in Catholic school-girl’s outfits with knotted shirts, begin to dance in the hall. She is pictured on the top of this article, delivering a 2009 performance of “…Baby One More Time,” wearing a kind of abbreviated formalwear worthy of the cartoon Mouse himself.
Christina Aguilera was a child star who also appeared on Star Search and The Mickey Mouse Club when she was a girl. She grew up to be a highly talented singer. At the age of 22 Aguilera released her fourth album, Stripped, which contained the chart-topping single “Dirrty.” In the video for “Dirrty,” she shocked audiences by wearing a bikini and chaps and getting covered in sweat or goo, all while dancing in naughty ways. The video also contains contortionists, mud wrestlers, bodybuilders, furries, cages, urinals, and other possible allusions to sexual fetishism. Aguilera’s steamy 2002 image began to overshadow her music, and she was the target of relentless spoofs.
Although she never wore the mouse ears, Miley Cyrus became famous for her starring role on Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana. In 2009, at the age of sixteen, Miley did a brief pole-dance in the video for “Party in the U.S.A.” which drew some criticism. She became increasingly provocative in the years that followed. On September 9, 2013 the 20-year-old Miley Cyrus released the video for “Wrecking Ball” in which she swings naked on a wrecking ball and occasionally licks a hammer. This month her video for “Adore You” became instantly notorious for how she writhes in her panties and lovingly caresses herself.
Miley Cyrus trods on the beaten path from Disney kid to sex icon, with the triumphs and tragedies of growing up in an early spotlight that shines brightest as she sheds her innocence, and fades as she ages.
Op-Ed by K. Elsner