29
Aug
2013
Modest Proposals
It's Miley's Mouth, She Can Say What She Wants To
Sarah
Modest Proposals is a recurring chance for a rotating stable of Review to Be Named writers to sound off on pop culture at large, presenting ideas, theories, or observations about areas of pop culture that might not fit comfortably into our other running features. These ideas might not always be right. You might not always agree with them. Even the writer might consider them patently absurd. But this is Modest Proposals, and these are things worth thinking about.

It took me a few days to gather my thoughts with regards to Miley's VMA performance and the surrounding hoopla. During the performance, I found her to be captivating, titillating and a bit sloppy. Immediately afterwards, I was bracing myself for the controversy that was sure to come, especially considering that in a host-less show the VMA's still found time to dress up an SNL cast member to mock her. The morning after the "television event" (you're welcome MTV), I sought out criticism of her performance (know your enemy and all that) and found it in spades, but also came across defenses of her performance, some compelling and some half-hearted. Even after all that, to paraphrase Miley, I can't stop"¦thinking about her performance.

I assume"”which makes an ass out of me, I know, but I'm going to do it anyway"”that many critics of Miley's drastic change of pace from her days as Hannah Montana have never seen an episode of the beloved Disney show. Miley as Hannah Montana was family friendly compared to Miley now, but Hannah Montana was funny and charismatic in a way that strongly suggested that Miley Cyrus was more than just a pretty face. Hannah Montana was loud and disruptive and she frequently took things too far in an attempt to discover who she really was. Which is exactly what the real life Hannah is doing now.

Miley is talented; I say this without qualification. But she hasn't quite figured out how to harness her talent. She quickly abandoned a bubble-gum pop career after realizing that couldn't last forever. She then transitioned into a John Lennon-loving, Bob Dylan-covering stage that I found very moving. But that didn't garner her the type of attention that she needed to top the charts or trending topics on Twitter. Whether or not Miley's current persona is sustainable or appropriation* are subjects for another day and another, far more informed, person. What I do know is that Miley is doing what I would have done if I were that hot, rich and famous at 20. Her messy, clumsy, all over the place demeanor seems so much more authentic to me than Taylor Swift's too-nice-to-be-mean-enough-to-be-entertaining and Selena Gomez's aggressive inoffensiveness (still love you both though, let's be BFFs).

In a culture where caring too much and trying too hard are condemned (unless you are Kanye West), I will continue to champion Miley Cyrus, who puts her whole heart into everything she does. I invite you to join me. And let me tell you, being a Miley fan means a lot of really awesome dance parties. But even if you don't like what Miley is doing, I implore you to look at her actions in context. Half of Miley's VMA performance was an imitation of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video, but everyone"”including Thicke's mother"”is trying desperately to separate Robin's decision to dance with half naked, incredibly sexualized women in his music video with Miley's almost identical performance. To those who don't want to like Miley or view her recent deportment in a larger social context, I must quote Miley("˜s song writers') again, "it's my mouth, I can say what I want to," and I will continue to do so until everyone's childish antics are mercilessly judged by the same metrics. Only then will we truly know peace.

*To me, Miley's twerking rampage paled in comparison, appropriation-wise, to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's acceptance speeches at the VMAs. Here, we had two cis-gendered, straight, able-bodied, white men accepting two awards. The first award, for Best Hip-Hop video, featured a black man who joined the duo on stage but what not given a turn at the mic. Their second winning song, in the category for Best Video with a Message, featured Mary Lambert who was not able to tell VMA viewers what the award meant to her because, once again, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did all the talking.


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