Is Miley Cyrus Really “Breaking Down The Walls Of What A Woman Is Supposed To Be”?
Miley Cyrus has had one hell of a rebirth—one might say perhaps the most successful in recent memory. I’ll wager that if it hadn’t been for Cyrus making it crystal clear for us that a teen star can overcome the mind fuck of child stardom, and emerge a somewhat adjusted adult with a cohesive and mature artistic vision, it would have been much harder for Justin to make us Belieb again, or for Selena Gomez or Demi Lavato to throw their hats in the ring as a serious pop contenders.
Cyrus, in what was clearly not an accident, twerked, licked and came in like a wrecking ball until we all were no longer criticizing her for cultural appropriation or hypersexuality, but begging for more of her freshness. Now that she has seen the zenith of her reemergence, and can move forward without having to constantly highlight her own legitimacy, it seems as if she has perhaps become swallowed up in her own imagination of what she was going to become. The medium, the messiah, the message—they’re all a little garbled at this point, and the disintegration can oddly be mapped via Terry Richardson.
Back when she released her “We Can’t Stop” music video, gave her infamous opening performance at the 2013 VMAs and released the video for “Wrecking Ball,” there was an audible buzz in the air constantly vibrating her name. The urge to put a movement to, or some reason behind her new weed-smoking, titties out, Black culture stealing-and-slinging niche was everywhere. And subsequently, there was a lot of talk about whether or not any of Miley’s aesthetic inclinations or antics were genuine, because for some reason we’re all still really hung up on the illusion of authenticity in pop music. For me, the moment that made it incredibly clear that she was actually just doing exactly what she wanted to artistically, was not when she jumped out of a plane and tattooed her foot for Rolling Stone, but when she began posing for Terry Richardson.
When Richardson first shot a then 20-year-old Cyrus in late 2013 at the beginning of the Bangerz-era press frenzy, it caused all of the obvious headline uproar. But in reality it was the perfect pairing—she, in the midst of adamantly shoving her own sexuality in our faces to prove she wasn’t a kid anymore, and he, the famed pervy photographer who’d rather her show off her pu$$y than not. Don’t get me wrong, I think Terry Richardson is a disgusting crown jewel of the patriarchy who has managed to fill the void in his lack of creativity with the beauty of the female figure. But he was the perfect conduit for Miley’s message at the time—who looked in control, beautiful and just the right amount of wrong touching herself over her jeans and white tank top, his glasses affixed to her face. What was clear in those photos was that this wasn’t a schtick—somehow “Hannah Montana” went into hibernation and emerged a pansexual agitator of the status quo. You can play off an unpopular award show performance as having been the unfortunate clusterfuck of a production of that scale, but you can’t downplay the deliberateness of those photos.
But just a few weeks later, the two shot together again, heralding the beginning of the spiral from intriguing to obvious. Flaunting your sexuality as a star can be a refreshing reminder that you’re a person like everyone else. Showing your pussy over and over again is just boring, because we all have genitals and make sweet love to other humans.
In this second photo shoot Miley is ripping a leotard between her labia. She’s bare-breasted and wagging her tongue. She’s bending over. In this photo shoot, she didn’t seem in control. She seemed just like the other sad-looking, naked women that Richardson exploits. It then became clear that perhaps Miley had become drunk on this new reinvention of herself, and she and Richardson had linked up in a symbiotic relationship from hell—he, the has-been desperate for fresh fame without the tinge of his bad reputation, and she, the hot star in need of someone to be at her beck and call for headline grabbing soft-core porn shoots whenever she feels like it.
And feel like it she does. She and Richardson’s latest photo shoot, for Candy magazine, is the most noxious yet. Just in case we all had amnesia from the last few years of being inundated with her nudity, she takes it one step further. She’s topless in a cop hat, deep throating a night stick. She holds her cat in front of her face, completely nude. She bends over to suck the strap on she’s wearing. To top it off, she said in a statement about the photos, “I’m just trying to break the wall of what a woman should be.”
Now, I’m not some puritanical finger wagger who shuns exhibitionism or sexual freedom. My problem is that, due to what I can only assume is the folly of youth and fame, Miley thinks that her hunger for headlines is somehow a benevolent PSA for women. Women have been fucking, sucking dick, and being whoever the hell they want to be for some time. Hell, Madonna published her book Sex over 20 years ago, a book filled with famous people in similar positions and states of undress. So what wall exactly does Miley think she’s breaking other than the one we all had put up to shield us from her constant attention-seeking?
I know I’m being hard on Miley—and I want to be clear, I think as an artist she is incredibly talented and giving the world a show that perhaps it needed. But when you exploit the name of feminism to cover up sheer megalomania, you need to rethink your message. This most recent incarnation of Miley doesn’t seem like the reinvigorated artist we saw emerge just a couple of years ago. It seems like a young woman unfortunately coming of age in the spotlight with the constant ability to broadcast herself on an enormous scale. She’s making confusing music with her Dead Petz, letting Wayne Coyne use her for new relevance, similar to how she did for Richardson, refusing to wear real clothes to the point that it’s annoying, and announcing that she’s gender fluid as though that’s somehow revolutionary.
She’s pretty much doing what any kid does in college—self-righteously discovering concepts that have been around forever, waving flags that will soon be put down and forgotten, wearing things that would make parents cringe—but she’s doing it the name of changing the world as a celebrity. Her Happy Hippie foundation puts a little but of credibility behind her new schtick, but I long for the days where Miley was more heard and less seen.