Miley Cyrus can’t stop banging down boundaries in her pursuit of increased celebrity and popularity. Boldly shedding the “family friendly” Disney image she cultivated as Hannah Montana, Cyrus has embarked on an increasingly brazen and outspoken campaign to redefine herself. While issue can certainly be taken with the tactics of Cyrus and her handlers, its effectiveness cannot be questioned. She was already immensely popular as a Disney associated performer, but her success since leaving Disney has only increased. Hardly a day goes by when Miley Cyrus is not on the lips of the entertainment media or in the tweets of her social media followers. But when and how did this process begin?
It may be hard to believe, but Cyrus’ recent behavior is not a new phenomenon. In 2008, when she was only 15 years old, Cyrus participated in a racy, topless photo shoot that also included her own father. This was followed by a series of controversial tweets which included pictures of Cyrus in racially insensitive poses and various states of undress. Much of this could be attributed to the same kind of youth experimentation that many young people go through, albeit not with the kind of exposure a celebrity like Miley Cyrus commands. Maybe it was just a case of a kid being a kid. But the summer of 2010 clearly defined Cyrus’ new course and her determination to leave Disney behind.
June 2010 saw the release of Cyrus’ Can’t Be Tamed single and the associated video. In it, Cyrus is depicted as escaping from a cage. In interviews surrounding its release, she explained that she is simply trying to “be me.” Cyrus did make an effort not to totally alienate her former audience, adding that she was still the same person she was when she played Hannah Montana, but it is difficult to imagine Miss Montana hanging from stripper poles like Miley did at the Teen Choice Awards the previous year. By now, it had become clear that Miley Cyrus can’t stop banging down boundaries in the pursuit of increased celebrity and popularity.
In this context, her recent obsession with twerking and Robin Thicke’s rear end do not look quite so surprising anymore. It takes quite a bit to upstage a performer such as Lady Gaga, but Miley Cyrus’ recent VMA performance is still being talked about months later. It certainly blurred lines in terms of what is acceptable in a television performance. Foam fingers and teddy bears the world over may still be attempting to recover from the “trauma” of how Cyrus choose to use them. In fact, it may go down as the most famous (or infamous) performance in the controversial MTV show’s history, even surpassing the kiss shared between Britney Spears and Madonna in 2003.
But all this begs the question of what is done in the pursuit of fame. Would Miley Cyrus be as successful as she is today if she had remained Hannah Montana? Or if not that specific character, at least remained a “family friendly” sort of performer? Was her embrace of sex and shock necessary in order to gain the level of celebrity that she has currently achieved? Cyrus and those associated with her seemed to reach the conclusion that such a reinvention was indeed necessary, although if Cyrus herself is to be believed, it was not so much a reinvention as it was taking a wrecking ball to a character that did not represent her to begin with.
It is hard to dispute the success Cyrus has achieved with her new, raunchy persona. And the controversy she generates only serves to enhance her status even more. Every performance, picture, and statement by Cyrus generates a wide spectrum of responses from sharp condemnation to glowing acceptance. Regardless of how positive or negative they are, they all generate more attention for Cyrus. In this age of “instant media,” it can almost truly be said that there is no such thing as “bad publicity.” Every tweet, every Facebook posting, every celebrity blog article, whether they be good or bad, draws more attention to the person in question. Miley Cyrus is proving to be a master of this new reality, and that is why she can’t stop banging down boundaries in search of more celebrity and popularity.
By Christopher V. Spencer