Now that both sides of the Atlantic have had the pleasure (100% correct word) of watching Miley Cyrus’s performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs, and after an entire industrial vat of vitriol has been spilled, we feel utterly compelled to come to the defence of our erstwhile Hannah Montana. There have been the obligatory gifs, calls of ‘slut-shaming’, misappropriation of a Will Smith family reaction, and even a middle-aged, clearly bat-shit US female news anchor berating a 21 year-old on national television. All in less than 24 hours.
It’s a situation that we find as odd as the charges levelled against Miley. For example, having no right to adopt the ‘twerk’ from African-American culture. It’s probably not the first time we’ll say it in this article but… bore off. Cultural exchanges have been a part of the music and dance industries, (hell, in language) since well before the Motown days; most of the entertainment we consume is a result of cross-pollination. Did anyone bat an eyelid when Nicole Scherzinger sang Jai Ho? Did anyone decry Gaga when she employed the rather noted R&B singer Beyonce for Telephone? Did anyone lambast Eminem for adopting a genre that found its roots in African-American culture?
So here’s the first party Miley can never win over: the flag-bearers of racial anthropology. Whether it’s associating herself with eminent members of the rap game – who are probably real pals of hers – or daring to recreate a dance move that is as ingrained in popular culture now as the Single Ladies dance was in 2008, Miley can do nothing to please these people save behaving like a clean-cut Disney princess. While young, white American sitcom characters can get away with snapping their fingers to emulate their idea of a sassy black woman, Miley Cyrus is crucified for a body movement. Real talk: it’s not like she’s openly yelling the N-word, people. It’s about as ridiculous as telling a black or Asian person that they can’t do the Charleston on Strictly Come Dancing.
What worries us more is that there are still people out there creating these racial divides – white people have their moves, we have our own, let’s all stick to our sides and earth will prosper. Again: bore off. From Michael Jackson to Madonna, this bleed between cultures is constantly changing the landscapes of music and dance, making it exciting and bringing new direction to the stilted. Embrace it, y’all. (Except Timbaland and Magoo’s Indian Flute. That was guff.)
The next party Miley can never win over: feminists. Of course, the brickbats were bound to be hers since she became party to their current bête noire (so to speak): the woeful tragedy that is Blurred Lines. Agreed it’s an appalling song with an equally appalling video. But for one night, Miley became one of those girls parading around Robin Thicke while he wonders what rhymes with ‘hug me’… and ends up being the only one to be talked about. Miley steamrolled over him in that performance, essentially succeeding where the naked girls in the video did not – using her own sexuality in a threatening way, giving Robin Thicke exactly those blurred lines he craves, and then powerfully striding off stage when she’s done. Miley Cyrus made Robin Thicke wilt in the face of sexist rhetoric, without so much as a care for her physical appearance. Unequivocally feminist, we’d say.
The final party Miley can never win over: everyone else, it seems. Those who think Miley’s ‘advisers’ should be telling her what (not) to do are perhaps ill-advised themselves as to how the music industry works; meanwhile former Hannah Montana fans are confused, the morality police are saying dozens of Hail Marys while claiming she has an eating disorder, and a quarter of Twitter trying to create a meme involving the girl’s father. Pretty classy stuff all round.
But we’re overlooking the most obvious fact: as a 21 year-old enjoying her life, Miley probably doesn’t care about any of the above. In fact, she might be laughing at the fact that she’s deliberately played into the environment of entertainment that we’ve created. This is Madonna snogging Britney. This is Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Superbowl. There’s a target on this girl’s back that can’t be shaken off regardless of what she does, so we’ll take this opportunity to stand with her in the face of international levels of cyber-bullying and holler: you do you, girlfriend. (And enjoy the basket of muffins Gaga sends you for taking the focus away from her half-hearted Applause.)