Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s MTV VMA awards have people up in arms–not because the performance was bizarre, but people are shocked–SHOCKED–that a twenty-year-old former Disney star is trying to be sexy. The Parents Television Council is upset by the former Hannah Montana star’s “provocative” performance, releasing the following statement:
“MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials — while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable. This much is absolutely clear: MTV marketed adults-only material to children while falsely manipulating the content rating to make parents think the content was safe for their children. MTV continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ‘twerking’ in a nude-colored bikini. How is this image of former child star Miley Cyrus appropriate for 14-year-olds? How is it appropriate for children to watch Lady Gaga strip down to a bikini in the opening act? How is it appropriate for 14-year-olds to see a condom commercial and a promo for an R-rated movie during the first commercial break?”
“This content would likely not be given a forum if it were on a broadcast network,” the statement continued. “Yet MTV continues to push limits because it’s a cable network. But that does not mean MTV’s decisions have no consequences, especially for the millions of children who were targeted by MTV. We urge Congress to pass the Television Consumer Freedom Act which will give parents and consumers a real solution for future MTV VMA programs – the ability to choose and pay for cable networks that they want vs. having to pay for networks they don’t want. After MTV’s display last night, it’s time to give control back to consumers.”
While the PTC does have the right to be offended, they’re clearly using this performance to push their act, and to keep their name in the news. It’s not just them, either–many morning news programs were also horrified that the young adult wasn’t wearing a lot of clothes and dancing in a provocative way with Robin Thicke. But I don’t think the real problem is her performance–the problem is that people are used to seeing her in a particular way. They’re used to seeing her as Billy Ray Cyrus’ little girl who was the live action version of Jem for five years on the Disney Channel.
It’s kind of like with Amanda Bynes–although Cyrus isn’t showing symptoms of mental illness, people are fascinated with her scandals as they can’t get past the fact that she isn’t a tween anymore. What she’s doing isn’t really new. Many former female teen stars either have a provocative film (Disney girl Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers) magazine cover (too many to list, although Jessica “Mary Camden” Biel’s topless Gear cover shoot at age 17 comes to mind,) or performance (remember Britney Spears’ “racy” VMA performance in 2000?) to help say “I’m not a little girl anymore! Nickelodeon/Disney can’t hold me down!”
Cyrus is doing the same thing–the haircut, the dancing, the songs–she’s announcing that she’s no longer a child. Although she’s going about it in a not-so-great way (many are unhappy with her appropriation of black culture and her denial of it) she’s still a human being. She’s growing up. Not all of us make the right choices, but it’s a part of the growing up experience. Cyrus’ is just on blast for the world to see/hear. Come on, when you were in between being a teen and an adult, did you make the best decisions? I know I didn’t–5’3″ me tried to out drink a 6’3″ guy when I was 19 (he was cute, I wanted to impress him. I know, I know…) He got drunk off several beers. I vomited two double vodka/Red Bulls with a Jack Daniels chaser in my purse during the cab ride back to campus. Yeah, not my finest moment. But it was a growth experience, and I’m not the only person with a story like that. The performance also provides news outlets something to talk about, to help rile up parents. Cyrus isn’t the first starlet to go through this, and she certainly won’t be the last.
We do, however, need to slow down the talk. How about focusing less on the lack of clothes and more on how bad the actual performance was (what are her dancers wearing? Why did she need Robin Thicke and his Beetlejuice suit?) How she’s using black cultural appropriation to stay in the limelight and lashing out against her critics instead of being more aware of her privilege? About how we need to just say “Oh, her performance was weird. Let’s move on” instead of freaking out about her dance moves and wardrobe. She wants to look like an ass, let her. But don’t shame her. If people would just let her grow up, perhaps she wouldn’t have to resort to ripping off a teddy bear swimsuit thing to announce her womanhood.
What’s your take, LivLunatics? Is the press focusing on the wrong things? How do we let female tween stars grow up? Does the PTC have a case of Helen Lovejoy-itis?