Miley Cyrus At The VMAs In 2013 Vs. Miley Cyrus Now: The Infamous Twerker Still Has A Lot To Learn
When Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke did what they did at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, you never would have imagined that two years later Miley Cyrus would be hosting the VMAs, but here we are. In an interview with The New York Times this week, Cyrus gave some sneak-peeks about her creative vision for the show, which airs on Sunday night. "They said, 'this is your party,'" Cyrus said. So she's bringing out all her bright, technicolor weirdness. It's promising to be a memorable show, even if you're just watching out of morbid curiosity to see how far exactly the 22-year-old will take it. But how has she changed since the foam-finger-teddy-bear-twerk incident in 2013 at the same show? It seems like Cyrus still has a lot to learn.
Though she's remained controversial, the singer hasn't reached quite the level of frenzy that the performance with Robin Thicke caused in the time since. If you remember (how could you forget?), she took the stage with Thicke for a medley of their songs "Blurred Lines" and "We Can't Stop." Their provocative dance moves with that infamous foam finger got people talking, and the performance raised questions about cultural appropriation, as Cyrus simulated sex acts on one of her black dancers. Jody Rosen at Vulture went so far as to call it a "minstrel show," while Tressie McMillan Cottom at Slate lamented Cyrus' use of black back-up dancers as props in a poignant piece about what implications that has for black women to see their bodies being used as a "joke."
But Cyrus doesn't seem to have learned much, even after the avalanche of criticism. In the Times interview, she was of course asked about the incident in lieu of her upcoming hosting gig, and she said: "Compared to what I do now, it looks like nothing. I can’t believe that was a big deal. It wasn’t shocking at all... even people around me judged me." Which makes me wonder: Has she learned anything? Her performance incited an avalanche of think-pieces about slut-shaming, racial appropriation, and the sexualization of young girls in the music industry, so for Cyrus to say that she doesn't think the incident was a "big deal" is more than a little off-putting.
The next year, at the same awards show, Cyrus chose to make a different statement when she brought a homeless youth as her date to the awards show. She brought Jesse Helt to the show to raise awareness for My Friend's Place, a charity whose focus is ending homelessness, and I was impressed with the singer for defending Helt after he unfortunately became the victim of media criticism.
Cyrus also gave a revealing interview in W Magazine in 2014 with Ronan Farrow, that made me sympathetic to her, but she still seemed lost. She still minimized the valid criticisms of her as jealousy: "Anyone who hates on you is always below you," she said.
In 2015, the "Wrecking Ball" performer is known for her psychedelic style of art. She's become good friends with Wayne Coyne, the frontman of the Flaming Lips, and the two are working on an album together of what Cyrus calls "avant-garde" music. On Jimmy Kimmel Live recently, she said that she is "aware of her power" now. I do think that Cyrus has taken a more serious turn, so it's frustrating to see her consistently, laughably miss the point.
She gave her opinion in the Times piece about the recent Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift VMAs controversy. But Cyrus chalked it up to jealousy, and unfortunately, started talking about respectability politics: "I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it," Cyrus said. It's a classic derailing argument. Race issues do not need to be discussed politely to be taking seriously. And it's Cyrus' obliviousness to point Minaj was making about race in the music industry that make me worry she hasn't learned much since 2013.
Sunday will be a telling show, and though I'm not a betting woman I'm willing to wager that Cyrus will bring in huge audiences. The VMAs have been an important stage for all the stages of Miley Cyrus, and hopefully, she doesn't make the same mistakes as she has in the past, but it's anyone's guess. No twerking, please, Miley — that's all I can ask of you.