Miley Cyrus: Ink Blot

Miley Cyrus, former Disney child star, turned in a shockingly slutty performance a few days ago at the Video Music Awards on MTV. Talk shows and cable news responded immediately. Some people are calling for censorship. Parents are outraged. Feminists are baffled. Celebrities are laughing.

Anaïs Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” That video is like a Rorschach test for America. If you didn’t see it, here’s a glimpse of the talent.

Here’s Miley advancing her career at the recent VMA Awards.

Miley is twenty years old

Here’s another shot for the family album:

Miley 2

On the Today show, Matt Lauer and Star Jones were trying to tell Mika Brzezinski that this is what girls think they have to do to make money and have a high celebrity profile, and that’s the saddest part of the whole thing. Mika, whom I like, was too busy ranting to hear that message, wanting only to have the performance banned or censored – I am not really sure of her point, she was so upset and everybody was yelling. I mean, it’s MTV. What did she expect?

Anderson Cooper posted a smirky essay about how boring Miley’s performance was, in that there was nothing new and she’s banal. Which is true but also kind of scary. What’s a girl singer going to have to do to get attention in the future? Film at the zoo?

Some were angry that nobody’s angry at Robin Thicke, that we’re all a little too quick to criticize Miley and not him. Okay, I’ll start.

What’s with the outfit, Robin? Channeling Beetlejuice?


Some people have expressed compassion for Miley, because she apparently was raised by wolves and doesn’t know any better. I was surprised to find many erotic photos of her on the web, going back a few years. Well, very few; she’s only twenty. But anyway, you’d think she was a porn star, not a little girl who sings.

Some have mentioned there’s a feminist aspect to this. That Miley is a grown woman, and she should be able to do what she wants with her body, even if what she does sets us back a million years. But then if we’re going for equality, I say Robin Thicke should be wearing a g-string instead of assuming the power position while Miley approximates Downward Dog.

In my opinion, which matters only to me, they’re both kind of trashy, but it’s what the public pays to see. I’m trying to think of what to tell my granddaughters. “Yes it’s true that in 2013, Miley Cyrus had a net worth of $150 million. She has yachts, houses, cars, and the very best in health care, but nobody respects her, and she is really a very sad person.”

I don’t want my granddaughters to grow up thinking society only values them for their girly parts, but if they manage to overcome that in this sick culture, it’ll be a miracle of good parenting.

As an Adult American, how do you see this?  What do you think?


  1. says

    Once again we see the real power of celebrities and the messages they send. Here’s Miley sending the message that a woman is a piece of meat and all the associated harm that does, and in the post before this one, there were Ashton and Jay Z sending a very positive message. Talk about the two extremes of the spectrum. Personally, I’m still dismayed at the power of celebrity in our society.

    • says

      Yes, Martin, but celebrity just means they have a bigger megaphone. We have a lot of celebrity CEOs and politicians, too. Cross fingers they use their status for the good. Thanks for noting the positive contribution of Jay Z and Ashton.

  2. says

    I felt the same as you: what will young women have to do next to get attention? I mean, this was the same old, same old. Raunchy sex. My son can’t believe Miley doesn’t even have one person who cared enough about her to say, please don’t do this.

  3. says

    She seems to me to be very moderate in talent. It’s hard to believe she was ever the icon teen star of so many young girls. I think she might feel she has to rival Lady G in her outrageousness, in order to continue her musical career. Without the glam and the slutty stuff, she’s pretty ordinary.

  4. says

    I think that those who fought for gender equity, to remove our limitation as sexual toys and second class citizens, must be shaking their heads in dismay. But we are products of a culture that worships youth, materialism and physical beauty. I am not sure what we can do as a society to stop this decline, but we can still present a positive role model as individuals. You are doing just that Lynne and your granddaughter is fortunate to have you to look up to.

  5. Jo Ann says

    I worry about our youth, Miley included. She’s getting poor counsel from the people closest to her. That tape will follow her forever! Audiences will move on and she will regret what she did, especially when her career plummets and all she has left to do are raunchy acts. I hope someone talks some sense into her.

    As for the rest of us, as parents and grandparents, we need to learn more about what is happening to our youth and step forward to teach them a better way to live… a way to walk away from horrific behavior. Miley showed us all how depraved she (and many others are) when It comes to self respect.

    Did you know there are 127 STDs… some are not treatable? Did you know suicide among our young is on the rise? Did you know young male teens think it’s alright to rough up their girl friends?

    Miley, matter-of-factly laid it on the line. Check the facts on teen behavior with your local law enforcement, mental health and community health departments. The statistics are as shocking as Miley’s behavior. We may not be able to save the whole world but we certainly can open the eyes of the youth in our lives as to what true love really is.

    • says

      Jo Ann, it makes me wonder why things are so much more dire for the kids these days, as your comment seems to indicate. Is it that the pace of life has accelerated, or that with the Internet they’re overloaded with complex messages? Or that girls feel like they’re only as good as the last BJ they administered? And that boys feel they are the thinking half of civilization, because girls are just animals to tame (per the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s song, to which they were, uh, “dancing”?) What a jungle for them, poor things. And the old people spend their time trying to emulate the young. :(

    • adriennelacava says

      I agree, Sue; fabulous point: there are good messages getting through, too. And Glory, yes, I think if we teach our children to think critically, their generation will bring solutions and goodness to the world. But they’re still going to find their own means of expression.

  6. Glory Be says

    May all who care about their daughters (and sons) care about sexist outrageous acts performed for money and sheer exploitation.

    It’s called “critical thinking,” people. What has happened to intelligence in America?

    • says

      You’re seeing it here, Glory. We’re all using our grey matter, trying to parse it out. As I pointed out, this Miley situation has many sides to it. Some have asked why we’re even talking about it, but I think we need to do that critical thinking you’re wishing for. We’re weighing all the angles, and in the majority of opinions, coming out on the side of your first sentence. So here’s to the endless analysis of celebrities and what they have to do with anything. Because they are a reflection of us. Thanks for your comment. Stop by again.

  7. says

    Personally, I like Madonna and Lady Gaga. They have guts and above all they do have talent and a voice to keep them going when their bodies start to creak. They are business women and have chosen their career path.

    On the other hand, I haven’t followed Miley’s career, but apparently, she wants to change her child star image. Ok fine, but I didn’t see any talent. I saw a desperate little girl trying to make it in a tough industry. It doesn’t take talent to poke around with a foam finger, twerk, and wave your tongue around. I think I could do that! You’re 20 now, Miley, what else you got?

    The thing is – women like Madonna, and Lady Gaga are known for putting on a raunchy show and if Miley is trying to follow in their footsteps, she needs to sit down with a one of their managers.

    Robin Thicke and the other raunchy guys – well yeah, they get away with singing dirty words because America is still okay with that double-standard, apparently, but that’s another discussion.

    Also, the mothers who are screaming should be asking themselves why they let their kids stay up past 9PM on a school night to watch a ‘used to be’ child star. It’s MTV, folks, not the Disney Channel!

    Madonna may be raunchy, but most of us still remember her “Like a Virgin” performance 20+ years ago and she’s still a household name today, good or bad.

    If Miley has what it takes, she should go for it, but she needs to show some talent and brains.

    Thanks for letting me vent, Lynne. :)

    • says

      Vonnie, I was laughing and agreeing with everything you said. Esp. the “what else ya got, girlie?” Because half the population has a vagina. She’s a tool and doesn’t even know it. Unfortunately, she’s a fabulously rich tool. Dammit.

  8. says

    This is the best analysis of the “performance” that I’ve read, Lynne. I guess Miley Cyrus has definitively shown us that Hannah Montana is dead – not sure why she felt the need to descend to that level to make her point. I could only watch a few minutes of the video because it was so tawdry and vulgar. If it’s all about being more outrageous than the next performer, why not just cut to the chase and perform sex acts onstage? That couldn’t be much more gross than what we’re witnessing.

    And yes, more criticism should be directed toward Robin Thicke, and not just for the VMA performance. His video for “Blurred Lines” is tremendously cringe-inducing and sexist, with its nearly naked women prancing around and being kittenish, like overgrown six-year-olds. Is this all the farther that feminism has gotten us?

    • says

      Thanks, JLee. When I watched that video of Blurred Lines, I saw once again that the women were naked and the men fully dressed. The lyrics of the song are worthy of a pimp luring a new girl. This is what we’re telling our girls: you’re powerful because you have the lust of an animal; you’re powerful because you’re going to hold out for, in the immortal words of Robin Thicke: “something big enough to tear your ass in two.” And Miley’s stellar, shining achievement is to present her backside for that opportunity, reflective of her power, I guess. What a chump. Are the men laughing at us? Another generation of Kool-Aide drinkers.

  9. says

    Just the latest in a sadly long string of degrading performances by so-called stars, a string which will continue as long as people pay to see them, and society elects to pander to the same instincts as drew crowds to the Roman arena and to public executions.

  10. says

    I guess I don’t see why people care so much. They said the same things about Beyoncé at the Super Bowl. So her costume is racy. So her performance is not in the Hannah Montana realm. She is still a successful performer whose career appears to be on the rise. I say leave her alone and I think our granddaughters will be fine.

    • says

      Rosy, I don’t agree with you but other readers may. It’s probably a question of how much influence you think she has on the kids, or alternatively, how much she serves as a barometer of where we’re going as a culture. I feel unhappy about both aspects, but you’re at peace with it. Thanks for presenting the other side.

  11. Susan says

    Money is dissolving our country on many levels; look at Wall Street. Has anyone gone to jail yet? Senators are retiring to become lobbyists. By example, increasingly, leaders (are teaching everyone to be for themselves with no depth of thought behind their decisions or fear of consequences). Miley’s performance seemed like – OK- I’ll act like this, because you will pay me tons of money. It wasn’t artistic at all. If the 70’s were the “Me Decade”, then what is this decade going to be called?

    • says

      Good question, Susan. I’d like it to be the Rethinking Everything Decade, wherein we reevaluate the benefit of having chased after the almighty dollar like it was all that mattered, and then many of us lost it anyway. Our jobs went away, our kids can’t find work and have to keep living with us, leading to a return to multi-generational families. Housing tracts turned into ghost towns filled with McMansions nobody wants anymore, even if they can afford them. People are leaving the suburbs, preferring the convenience of cities where they don’t have to rely on cars to get around. Parents are foregoing career ladders in favor of simpler lives where they don’t have to feel guilty for the time it takes to nurture a kid. We’re starting to notice income inequality might actually exist, and consider the implications thereof. Old people are getting tired of being devalued, and thanks to the Internet, are talking about it. Maybe this is the “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore” Decade. *Sigh* A girl can dream, can’t she?

  12. adriennelacava says

    The music video culture is about shock value. Celebrity culture is about getting tongues wagging. And you know it’s a slow day for news, when…
    Look how easy it is for media to whip us into frenzy and outrage. That’s a discussion I’d rather be having. All in all, though, I don’t think much has changed in the decades I’ve been alive. In the seventies our nation was going to hell with the hippies.

    • says

      Adrienne, I thought about that too. What must the elders have thought when we got the pill and thought we were liberated, just cuz we could have sex with anything that moved? What a joke on us. And a joke on Miley, liberation-wise. But, of course, Miley’s pranking us, too, because our angst = more cash for her.

  13. says

    Funny post, sad topic. While Robin channeled Beetlejuice (also funny), Miley was channeling Madonna (who has been doing outrageous stuff for years that we are immune to), Lady Gaga, and unfortunately, a sleezy porn star.
    BTW, I read Dakota Blues and loved it. A poignant and well-written story. I especially loved the interweaving of history and descriptive narrative. Loved Frieda. Wise woman. And taking off in the RV alone. Nice touch. I did that years ago–drove around for two years in my VW bus in-between jobs. I wasn’t happy though and always wanted to do it again under better circumstances–like retirement? Still haven’t talked the H into it.

  14. says

    Don’t get me started. Is there an UP to the next level from this? What might that possibly be? Sex on the stage?

    My married daughter taped this, and the only reason I saw it was my granddaughter was watching it. My eyes almost popped out of my head and I asked my daughter’s opinion. She felt Miley (or her people) wanted to cause a stir and they did. I came back with but it’s all so ugly and I was informed this is entertainment.

    I didn’t raise her like that and couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m sure the granddaughter (9-1/2) didn’t understand what the fuss was about but I still wish I could have shut off the TV.

    • says

      Oh, man. I feel sorry for your granddaughter. Maybe when you’re alone with her you can talk with her about valuing herself. Yes, I’m a subversive granny. I have asked my 3-year-old granddaughter why, on the Little Einstein episodes, only Leo flies the rocket ship. “How come he always drives?” I asked her one day. She, all innocence, said, “Because he’s a boy.” (Actually, there is another boy, but he’s dark-complected. He never gets to drive either.) After that, I started corrupting her with feminism. We think little cultural influences don’t matter but they do. Fight back.

  15. says

    I agree with you. It is very sad and saddest of all she is throwing her power away for the moment of attention. Yes, she is a poor role model but worst of all it feels to me that this is an expression of deep inner pain.

    • says

      Glenda, what if our desire to see it as “deep inner pain” is more like whistling past the graveyard? It’s very compassionate of you, but imagine a world where your (and my) ethics are alien. It’s as likely to imagine Billy Ray coaching her to “not worry about it” and “use whatcha got, honey” from a very young age, and for her to absorb that message and learn to feel fine, even great, with it. I would like to think the majority of mature, adult, ethical humans think the same way you do, but it’s not that hard to imagine she’s much more comfortable in a very different moral landscape.

  16. says

    Shelley, I’m rushing so will watch that enticing video this evening. Thanks for linking to it. I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one watching it.

    I don’t see women like Miley as FCPs as much as I see them as victims of Stockholm Syndrome. And as to the embarrassment? That can only happen if she aspires to a different profession, one in which a woman isn’t a piece of meat. Or matures and gains insight, which is likely.

  17. Shelley Charlesworth says

    I agree with Anderson – it was boring. Not sexy at all – just kind of raunchy and cheesy. And I was actually embarrassed for Miley watching it.

    A few years back Ariel Levy wrote about “Female Chauvinist Pigs”.
    I did not read it but I read some reviews about it. I think the premise is if male chauvinist pigs of the past thought of women as pieces of meat “Female Chauvinist Pigs” of today are doing them one better, making sex objects of other women — and of themselves.
    She talks about how women in their 20’s are ‘imitating the imitators’. She says she thinks many young women today are so caught up in trying to fit the definition of “hotness” that these women themselves have made their bodies objects.

    As a culture we have become one big lap dance club!
    Exhibitionism is not an expression of female power.

    She gives an interesting interviews here:

  18. says

    I completely agree with you, Lynne. Miley was a child star who took a wrong turn. Why?? we ask. Well I think that is complicated. Fortunately my grandchildren don’t watch TV. Does it surprise me that the same scrutiny wasn’t placed on Robin Thicke? Absolutely. It tells me something I already know. That our society still has not evolved to the point that women are viewed equally with men. What really disturbs me is that we are so focused on this event. Why do we keep giving this kind of behavior so much exposure, when we have so many serious problems to worry about in our country. There is talk of going to war, of shutting down our government so that overpaid politicians can get their way, of schools being defunded, etc. etc….. I raised a child in Hollywood. She was never allowed to act anything other than a normal kid. She grew up to be a productive member of society. A person who looks at the events of the other night in the same way that I do. Let’s stop giving them so much press.

    • says

      I know, Laura! To your point about giving them press, you’re right, but that’s yet another conundrum, because if we discuss it we give her what amounts to actual $$$, but if we don’t, we miss an opportunity to examine the direction we’re going as individuals and as a culture. Kudos to you for how you raised your child, BTW. Had to have been tough.

  19. says

    I’m shocked at the way young people have so devalued sex. I hear of 11 year old girls going on dates, and giving boys a BJ instead of a good-night kiss. I just find it so hard to believe. They seem to have no respect for themselves or their bodies, and allow themselves to be used for entertainment purposes. I just can’t understand the whole “friends with benefits” thing. I must be getting super old!

    • says

      Nancy, I hate to say it, but I think it’s what our little girls are taught is normal behavior. Somehow we have to tell them early that it isn’t, regardless of every ad, every TV show, every magazine cover, every Montana judge, and every other bit of cultural influence to the contrary.

  20. says

    I thought the whole act was just stupid – from Robin Thicke’s ridiculous suit to Miley’s lack of one. Her twerking along with her tongue perpetually suspended from her mouth just made me think ‘huh’? It seems me that we really have ‘blurred lines’ when it comes to appropriate v. inappropriate. THough arguably in the days of Josephine Baker, Las Vegas showgirls, etc – people were probably turned off too. I personally was just as offended to see what she was doing to the teddy bears…;-)

    • says

      Mimi, that’s the question for me, too. Is it appalling just because it’s new-ish to see it in mainstream (as opposed to porno) TV? Are we appalled because we’re not used to it, or because it’s appalling? And does the existence of the second question mean somebody is losing one’s moral compass?

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