Miley Cyrus’ chaotic performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards last weekend was unquestionably memorable. While many viewers are using words like “ratchet” or “trashy” to describe the 20-year-old’s performance, the word they should consider using is “successful”.
Take that word in for a moment, and think about the concept of success. It can be defined as achieving something attempted, planned or desired. The performer told MTV producers prior to her performance that she was going to make history. Although it may be difficult for some to look at stuffed bears or foam fingers the same way again, Cyrus will now have you thinking about her, and that was her plan in the first place.
The entertainment industry is a confusing one, and in today’s technologically growing world, we should all empathize with the tweeter next to us. With the ability to read celebrities’ inner thoughts on social networking sites, or follow their every move on reality television, we have created the illusion that we actually know them.
The truth is, we don’t know “the real Miley Cyrus.” All we know is that she has shaved her head and gotten engaged. She has been heartbroken more times than Kim Kardashian complained about her baby weight this year and she likes to dress up as a frog and twerk in black-and-white. That is it. We do not know what she does during her free time, we do not even know if she has any free time.
As a pop culture figure, signed to a corporation in Hollywood, this young adult is constantly under control by others. The most evident example of persuasion for a career boost, as managers and producers so often suggest, is doing something memorable on stage. Remember, any publicity is better than no publicity for some stars.
“Freshening things up” is a professional responsibility that this young pop star has to work towards every day of her life. Too many people neglect the fact that the entertainment industry is just that: an industry. It is a business, run by corporate media elites who decide what is trendy, what is trashy and what will be the next big thing. To think that the media moguls did not plan for something like this to happen, in which hip-hop collided with pop, you are sorely mistaken. As Miley Cyrus put in an interview with MTV after she recognized the impact she had made on pop culture, she asked, “How many times have we seen this play out in pop music?”
Well, Ms. Montana, quite a few times. Madonna and Britney Spears kissed on the stage of the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards just ten short years ago, during a time of conflict and division of acceptance among the American people for gay rights. Just a few months later, Janet Jackson’s breast flashed before millions of Americans during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show, when she presented many young children their first view of pornography.
And yet, we are still surprised when things like Cyrus’ performance happen. It is interesting to wonder, though, why Americans are harsher on pop singers than we are on A-List actors when it comes to their craft. If we see an actor portray a drug dealer or a “bad cop,” we do not hold it against them. When Leonardo DiCaprio played a racist big in Quentin Tarantino’s 2013 “Django,” we did not finish watching the movie and think that he was a racist in his real life. We may have had trouble watching certain parts of the film, but in our eyes, he is now deemed a great actor. In fact, many audience members believe he deserved an Oscar for his performance. An Oscar, for being an overt and abusive racist for the entire country to see.
Perhaps we look down on Cyrus while she frolics on stage half-naked because we have grown up with her. We feel that if we would not do it, she should not do it. Because who would get up on stage and stick a foam finger in between their legs and call it talent?
Someone who is getting paid to do it, someone who has been in the spotlight for seven years and someone who wants to be more successful than she already is. As most people our age go to work and sluggishly occupy a desk chair for eight hours to hopefully make a difference in the world some day, Cyrus was able to grab the attention of millions in a matter of four minutes and fifteen seconds, just by doing her job.