I was on Buzzfeed’s “Trashy” feed last week — which these days seems to be “Miley Cyrus” feed: A whole lot of the posts are about everyone’s favorite train wreck.
Ever since her VMA performance this summer with Robin Thicke (a train wreck in his own right), the media have been trashing on Miley again and again. I’m not going to defend Miley: I don’t think she’s as talented as Lady Gaga or Madonna or (maybe) Britney Spears. But I also don’t agree with those who think we should all be outraged because the “hot mess” is a “dumb”, “foolish” “whore“. Whoa, hold on there. Let’s not get carried away. While Miley might not be a musical genius (and she might be asking for the media attention by putting her boobs and tongue front-and-center on the cover of Rolling Stone), she also doesn’t deserve the kind of anger she’s getting, and certainly not to be called a slut or a whore (nor does any woman, IMO, especially when men are never shamed for being sexual). The hate is palpable. Why? It’s not like it’s even the first time a star has been controversially sexual on screen (see Britney at the 2000 VMAs, Madonna in, like, pretty much any music video she’s made). A few possibilities:
1) It’s a way to keep The Man in charge. Meh…unlikely. Women — maybe even more so than men — are bashing Miley. And yes, while the conservative women who are most often slut-shaming Miley are more likely to believe in the traditional patriarchal roles of men and women, I think this is an oversimplification and generalization.
3) …it makes us feel better in comparison…People love to see power fall (i.e. DUI/drunk/divorce stories in TMZ, Perez Hilton, People, InTouch): the Hollywood press is not just a fascination with celebrity. Stories trashing celebs are always splashed across tabloid covers, because people love to see people who have more power, or money, or talent (than they could ever hope to achieve) fail. It’s the classroom bully, picking on anyone with good grades, hoping that if he can’t be as smart at least he can feel better about himself socially.
4) …and we feel righteous. Which gets to my last point. Religion and culture for centuries has called out the fallen woman. Nothing new here. Miley — the Disney girl who said she wanted to be a virgin until she got married — goes a little awol and shows off her sexual side to distance her adult self from her childhood persona, and the world turns on her. But if you’re watching Miley from the sidelines and don’t have much else going for you, it’s easy to use your belief system’s rules to judge others. Because while you might not have succeeded otherwise in life, at least you’ve kept your panties on. In the end, we’re all just playing a role in society — and the person who takes on the role of “saint” can only exist defined against the person playing the “bad girl.” But this kind of judgement is, in reality, the antithesis of the 10 commandments, and even something the new Pope has (to his credit) called out.