Several years ago, my daughters and I launched a neighborhood boycott of Miley Cyrus. The teenage star that Disney had marketed as the thoughtful, ethically upright, regular girl with the secret superstar identity had been caught on camera with her friends doing “Chinc-y eyes” to tease a buddy. My daughters, who are Asian-American and subject to almost daily forms of this type of banal racism, weren’t just upset by Cyrus’s thoughtless gesture but that she’d done it, as she later said in an apology, because, essentially, that’s what everyone else was doing.
And, as her “break-out” performance at last night’s MTV’s Video Music Awards at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center revealed, she obviously just can’t stop. Miley Cyrus, at 20, is still a copycat.
Tweet to Miley: Busting out of a racy leotard to flash a flesh-toned get-up is old enough to be your mother. Madonna, Britney, Gaga—not to mention decades of 1980s New York performance artists and 70s Studio 54 acts—have all done it. But this, from the Disney branded girl-next-door?
Actually, it makes sense. After all, the only twist Cyrus brought to Sunday night’s big reveal was a standard fare, learned-it-at-the-gym pole-dance routine, not a provocative, well-choreographed statement. And who is the girl-next-door, if not someone who falls in line with the pack, does what everyone else is doing? That’s her whole appeal. That girl, as she becomes a young woman, is never going to do anything truly dangerous or outrageous—nothing that crosses the lines of her suburban sub-division box. At most, she’ll go to the costume party dressed as a Playboy Bunny. That’s exactly what Cyrus did.
The big question now is, what are the hidden contents of Hannah Montana’s double life? Maybe her real secret identity is that she’s a follower, rather than a leader—that she’s truly the girl next door, morally and creatively banal, as to be expected.