I want to make this clear: I do not like Miley Cyrus. Arrogant and incredibly self-satisfied, she seems to believe that she achieved fame through hard work and an inherent talent, which is so delusional as to be cringe-worthy. Cyrus is merely a successful man-made monster, a Frankenstein of cherubic features and spare, androgynous body parts, whose singing voice is only better than her speaking voice, which makes me want to kill a puppy and spare it the torture of listening to her.
Despite my strong and bitter feelings toward Ms Cyrus, this article nonetheless seeks to defend her against those who seek to restrict her freedom as an artist on the basis of some arbitrary indignation. I refer specifically to Rebecca Thomas’ recent plea to the former Disney star to “keep [her] knickers on”, published in this very newspaper one week ago. Thomas essentially parroted the views of one Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who has written innumerable ‘open letters’ to Miley which provide thoroughly public ‘motherly advice’ which brands Cyrus as a ‘prostitute’ for the pop music industry.
This vitriolic rhetoric is representative of a host of objections to Cyrus’ actions which have been misguidedly presented as feminism. Thomas, warming up in O’Connor’s corner and waiting to be tagged in, ponders whether Miley’s sexuality is empowering or repressive, and laments the negative implications of ‘girls’ appearing ‘sex-driven’. Both O’Connor and Thomas display an almost Victorian anxiety about female sexuality. While it is perfectly acceptable for both to wish to protect a young pop star from exploitation, they would do well to remember that Miley Cyrus, child-star though she once was, is now nearing her 21st birthday and should be considered an adult. If she gets her bits out, that’s her business, and if she were a man, I’m not sure we would be discussing it at all.
Apart from an her apparent desire to follow young stars around with a woolly cardigan, making sure they don’t catch a cold, Thomas’ main beef with Miley’s recent behaviour is that the pop star is desecrating a serious art form with her nakedness. Let’s get one thing straight – no pop music is serious. It makes you dance, it brightens up your commute, and, above all, it makes stacks of cash – it rarely makes you think. In 1985, Starship reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a song about a city being “built on rock ‘n’ roll”. In 1991, Vanilla Ice was nominated for a Grammy for a song that featured the line “word to your mother”. And Carl Perkins’ 1956 song, made iconic by Elvis Presley, was the first country song to cross over into the pop charts. It was a song about the artist’s love of blue suede shoes.
Many would argue, and many have, that the problem with Cyrus’ music and with her musical performances is not the absence of serious, thought-provoking content, but rather that it is no longer suitable material for her (former) target demographic, the pre-teen age group. An absence of puppies and pastel colours has rendered songs like 23 and We Can’t Stop unsuitable for such an impressionable market. You can hear the outrage of parents echoing in suburban housing estates across Europe and America. Alas, these parents seem not to have grasped that the responsibility of parenting their children does not lie with Miley and her ‘frenemies’ Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. It doesn’t lie with the One Direction boys or with the Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t even lie with Mickey Mouse or Barney, that enthusiastic purple dinosaur. Anyone who expects the world of pop culture to propagate ‘morality’ is a fool.
Having spent my pre-teen years up to my ears in songs like the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, I am somewhat puzzled at the insistence of today’s parents on setting their child’s moral compass according to whichever fresh-faced starlet has recently been brought to life by a lightning bolt in a Disney Channel laboratory.
Let’s give our sons and daughters Aung San Suu Kyi, Charles Dickens, Mo Farah and Sofia Coppola. Or Emmeline Pankhurst, if you really must. But let’s not expect Miley Cyrus to be a role model. Pop is her job, and she’s doing it pretty well so far. I suggest we leave her to it.