The year is 2005, and I find myself narrowly avoiding the Hannah Montana craze, my desperation evident as I stop watching Disney and all other forms of children’s media. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I was so averse to what seemed like an innocuous (albeit obnoxious) program; little did I know that I would predict the undeserved pandemonium surrounding the child of a washed-up one-hit-wonder artist. There are few sentences more perplexing than the one I just wrote.
The Miley Mania started off as something easy to swallow: A preteen girl lives life as a normal teenager by day, and is a pop star in disguise by night in a Creamy Mami-esque display. Her friends are surprised to find that their friend Miley is in fact Hannah Montana, which raises the question of whether or not anyone in this universe has proper voice or facial recognition skills. That aside, the show became a hit, ran for 4 seasons, and released 9 sort-of-successful studio albums, a concert tour, and a movie with what I feel is a well-earned Tyra Banks cameo. Miley’s girl-next-door image was perfect for Disney at the time; she was a marketable, quirky white girl with no underlying controversies that we knew of. That is, until 2010, when video emerged of the starlet smoking salvia, a (legal) hallucinogen which struck fear and misplaced concern into the hearts of many a white suburban mom.
In June of 2010, Miley released her third studio album, Can’t Be Tamed, which was ostensibly her way of stripping herself of her good-girl facade and taking on that of a troublemaking vixen; this was to be expected. Most stars who maintain an image of a pure, wholesome young waif often take a sharp right turn at age 18 towards bikini tops, smokey eyeshadow, and tracks produced by a guy who worked with Tokio Hotel. Many a controversy followed; she was harshly criticized during her hectic relationship with Liam Hemsworth, and their colossal breakup resulted in Miley’s “I Literally Just Don’t Give a Fuck” attitude. I mean, sure, it was there before, but it remains in full force to this day. Miley broke barriers (as well as many zoning and safety laws) in her video for “Wrecking Ball,” in which she posed naked with construction material, and for whatever reason, licked a hammer.
So this begs the question: what exactly is Miley trying to prove? We get it Miley, you’re a bad girl. Your obscene gestures have not gone unnoticed; we all watched you dry-hump that styrofoam finger at the 2013 VMAs. We see you sticking out your tongue. You can put it back. Please, close your mouth, it’s bad manners. The worst part is that you know you can get away with these things—your overwhelming whiteness shields you from most media criticism. You can treat black people like zoo animals, and pathetically bend over and flex your thighs and call it twerking, and people will think you’re the most innovative genius in entertainment. And black women are not happy with it. Your obsession with black culture and fashion is unbelievably transparent, and no one is fooled. You still haven’t learned that your mediocrity and the mediocrity of scores of white women to follow in your footsteps will be rewarded, while black women, whose efforts go far above and beyond your Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys, will go largely unseen. You haven’t learned just how much privilege you’ve basked in ever since your humble days as a preteen pop star. You haven’t learned a thing.
Truth be told, Miley should be grateful that Nicki only called her out on live TV; she could have become the next Dameka. We’ve seen Miley treat Nicki’s entire persona as a circus act, a costume, even going as far as to dress like her for Halloween. Miley tells us two things with her actions: 1. She wants us to know who she is, and 2. She doesn’t know who she is. Outside of pop culture—her identity as a pop star, as a wild child, as whatever the fuck she’s been in those VMA commercials—there is a very real chance that there is nothing there. And for that, I feel sorry for her. I genuinely do. I do not, however, sympathize with her homophobia, her rape apologism, her transmisogyny, or her blatant antiblackness, as a lack of identity is no excuse to be a shitty human being, no matter how confused or in crisis one may be. She’s expressed discomfort with gender roles and has been touted as a transgender nonbinary hero to many struggling teens, despite never identifying as anything but a cis woman—as if she knows what that is anyway. (Edit: It’s come to my attention that Cyrus does indeed identify as genderfluid. However, my original point still stands: her transmisogyny disallows her from being a proper role model for trans youth.)
It may be that, in her THC-induced stupor, Miley truly thinks she is making a difference or breaking ground in any way, shape, or form. Miley, there is nothing new about ripping off black people. There is nothing new about doing things, but naked. There is nothing new about smoking copious amounts of weed and going on every platform imaginable discussing the fact that you smoke copious amounts of weed. Let’s just focus on that for a second. Miley Cyrus likes to smoke weed. A lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a pair of weed socks and other ganja-themed casualwear. The thing is, millions of people smoke weed. There is nothing special about this. Why she thinks this is a revolutionary act, I (and many others) will never know. She’s notorious for toking it up onstage during concerts (I’d like to remind you: weed is still illegal in most of the country. Like…this isn’t allowed) and even released a new song titled “Doo It,” an aptly named song that properly emulates the rank stench of human waste permeating from it. In this song, literally the first line is “Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love peace / But I don’t give a fuck, I ain’t no hippy.” I wish I had time to truly expand upon Ms. Cyrus’ lyrical genius, but there are not enough minutes in a lifetime for me to give my full opinion, so I’ll put it as simply as possible: it sucks.
Miley’s transformation over the years has invoked a Beauty-to-Beast image likened to that of Lindsay Lohan—only Miley couldn’t be happier to deteriorate before the public eye. There will soon be a point from which Miley can never recover: her clichéd lewdness will be too much for the world to handle, and she will fade out and fizzle, rather than detonating into the supernova she assumes she will become. Not with a whimper but with a feeble twerk. She knows it’s coming, and she’s doing everything she can to keep it from happening.
So how about it, Miley? What’s good?
Art by TN.