You certainly received a lot of attention for your VMA performance this past week, which was undoubtedly your intention. It is likely that you think of this event as a rousing success. And the backlash against the explicit sexuality of your performance is probably a bonus, from your point of view, because we are all now talking about you. Even bad publicity is good publicity, right?
It is indeed unfair that most of the discussion has centered on you rather than Mr. Thicke, highlighting the double-standard with regard to female sexuality. But that is not even remotely the most pressing problem here. It is, in fact, merely a distraction to keep you and all of us from noticing the real problem.
Here is the real issue: You had a fan base of millions of young girls who looked up to you and pretended to be you. They had your likeness on their bedroom walls. They sang your songs into their hairbrushes.
And then you became an adult and that role no longer fit you. Tired of your old image, you shaved off your hair. Good for you.
So you were standing there with your hair cropped, all eyes on you, a brand-new adult. Imagine what would have happened then had you turned to that fan base and said, ‘girls, you do not have to be pretty or sweet in order to matter in this world. Cut your hair if you want or leave it long – that’s not what’s important. Who you are is what matters most. Choose your own path, and find your own voice.’
Imagine what would have happened then.
You were, in a word, dangerous. Whole industries would suffer if these girls become empowered. Who is going to buy all this lip-gloss and mascara? Insecurity is what sells product. And more: imagine you had a real message, something deeper and more profound than the simple exhortation to ‘find yourself,’ and that you too had been encouraged to find your own voice. What would you have said then? I really wish that we knew.
Instead, your handlers convinced you that the best way to break out of your candy-coated shell is to start pole dancing, stripping, and twerking.
Let me tell you a dirty little secret: strippers and pole dancers have no power. Absolutely none. In fact, they don’t even use their real name. They are intended to be nameless, faceless, and voiceless.
You gave up your ‘Destiny’ to become ‘Miley,’ the smiley girl. You have been reduced to a smiling mouth with a suggestive tongue.
Perhaps you disagree? Perhaps you think you have been liberated, able to act like a man? Here is an exercise for you: imagine, for a moment, that you had gone out there on the VMA stage without a microphone that night. Imagine the exact same performance, but without a sound. Would you have garnered the same attention? Yes, absolutely yes. Would we be saying the very same things about you this week? Oh yes, definitely.
You know what that means? You have been effectively silenced. Your voice was not heard. You were merely there as eye candy, and not as a singer. You are now replaceable with a topless dancing girl.
In other words, it’s no accident that the most widely distributed photo of your performance has you bent over and submissive, practically naked, clearly silent as you are licking your lips, while Mr. Thicke stands over you, clearly dominant and fully clothed, holding a microphone to his lips.
Who are we listening to now?
Your God-given talent will eventually want to make itself heard. If you continue on this path, it is going to take more and more drugs to silence it. Your handlers will see to it that you get them. They will be there, ready to go, even before you ask. And then they will tip off the paparazzi regarding the publishable antics of the latest ‘hot mess.’
And when you are no longer useful as a brand, you will be unceremoniously deposited at rehab. Perhaps you might be in the same wing as fellow child-stars Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, both of whom were cut down when they discovered that their talent had its own voice. Get angry, dear, get angry.
In the meantime, I wish all the best to you. I hope that you eventually prove to be better than all of this. I suspect that you are.
Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling
Rabbi Dr. Tuling serves Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, New York where she lives with her family and two cats. In her free time, she likes to read weekly journals of cultural anthropology, such as US Magazine.
- Miley Cyrus Director Says Miley is Not for Old People (guardianlv.com)