The Miley That Never Will Be

Okay eye rolling readers, this is not another Miley Cyrus hate piece. It’s more an observation.

And I know it’s not really what this blog is about, but I feel it does have some relevance, which will be explained later. I’ll talk about Sukkot on campus once the holidays over, for now tough noogies; let’s talk about Miley.

Earlier, my friend posted a video of a directors cut of Miley Cyrus’s music video for her song “Wrecking Ball.” Following her shocking MTV performance, I was disappointed but not surprised to see the naked Miley straddling a wrecking ball and performing what can only be described crudely as fellatio on a sledge hammer. The video was hyper-sexualized and had little to do with the song. The scenes that stood out as a brief moment of sanity in an otherwise ridiculous show were the close up, vulnerable shots of Miley crying.

Imagine my lack of surprise when I discovered that the directors cut is just one long take of Miley’s face: painful, uncomfortable and beautiful all at once. It so perfectly defined what the song was about, instead of the mainstream shock value of her T&A. Of course this was the rejected video. It’s hard to compete when sex is what sells. I can’t blame her for attempting to define her maturity through sexual liberation, as it is symptomatic of similar phenomenon I find on campus.

Every weekend college students flock to bars and clubs, take selfies with solo cups, and regularly frequenting the Greek rows. We hear or witness acts of complete debauchery, often encouraged by the likes of websites like “Brobible.” Pop music has become almost entirely limited to dub-step and club music, which embraces the selfish goals of the quick pleasure. Live for tonight, who cares about the hangover tomorrow. Perhaps the extreme of this is the subtle rape culture developing with songs like “Blurred Lines,” and the harsh criticisms of Miley’s Partner in Crime Robin Thicke.

What I can gripe about is that she did not choose to take a stance and go the more mature route. I want to say that it was last year (in the waning months before the pixie cut) when Miley released a series of YouTube videos called the backyard sessions. The highlight of the sessions, stripped down folksy songs worthy of an indie spotlight, was a cover of “Jolene” Dolly Parton’s famous scorned lovers’ anthem. The cover is beautiful, as is every song. Miley can sing, and sing with a passion you rarely find nowadays. I was excited to see her mature as an artist.

Instead she chose to become a sex symbol to the bluntest degree, and it backfired. She was a childhood star hoping desperately to break free of that perception, but taking it too far makes her seem just slutty. It’s a damn shame really, but not unexpected.

I don’t mean to sound like a grandfather at twenty-two, but when did young adult culture become so ubiquitous with hedonistic behavior? Maturity, as it might be traditionally defined, does not seem to be encouraged as mainstream and it seems that the college behavior is now becoming acceptable once graduation and “real life” begins. Pop music has become a reflection of our culture, our wants, and our desires and the mirror is rather bleak.

So why do we so unabashedly despise Miley for what she has become? Maybe it’s the loss of innocence. A child star has fallen from Disney grace and instead opted to become another victim of sexualized shock entertainment. I hope we recognize the double standard we are setting for future generations of artists. Mature subjects can be broached, even sex, but it can be done so with the sophistication deserved.

Sixteen-year-old British pop star Lorde is the future of pop that could be. Her song “Royals” takes an opposite approach, embracing the humbler reality and the unrealistic expectations pop music and culture has put on those of us from lower tax brackets. I see her perform and I fear for her. Let Miley be an example, sex may sell, but it does not cement you as an artist. Hopefully we will all wake up so we are not caught in this hypocritical mess again.

About the Author
Gabriel Felder is a rising senior at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. He has also served multiple positions in the GWU Hillel and has largely focused on faith based dialogue on campus.