Miley Cyrus Says Liking Her Is "Punk Rock," And She Might Actually Be Right
At this point, the cultural mania over whether or not we should continue vilifying Miley Cyrus constantly, or whether we should turn the backlash around and worship her for the PR god she is, has whipped itself into a frothy, confused mess. Half the Internet thinks she's a whore and wants to hang her out to dry, the other half can't decide if actually they're kind of into it or not, and then there's the middle ground — the three or four people in the world who totally don't care. Therefore, when Miley Cyrus gives Cosmopolitan an interview and says something like, "It's almost punk rock to like me," those of us who were slowly moving from the Miley-hating side of the fence to the more neutral, "I guess she's an adult who is capable of making her own decisions" side find ourselves running, screaming, back from whence we came, grumbling all the way about how arrogant and misguided the nation's most infamous pop star is. It comes naturally, this flash judgment and consequential damning of Miley Cyrus and everything that she promotes and holds dear.
Except... Cyrus kind of has a point. By which I mean she totally has a freaking point. If we look at the singer's transformation (and people have been doing that a lot), she started as a vanilla singer for a young audience, but has grown since then into a public figure whose notoriety is unequaled in pop culture. She dominates the tabloids, the radio stations, magazines — you name it, Cyrus' face is all over it. And people have a gut reaction to her and how she represents herself. It is immediate and intense and divisive, yet, clearly, something in her wildness, her lack of consideration for what the royal "we" thinks she should censor, appeals to the masses. Otherwise her videos wouldn't have millions of views, and her songs and albums wouldn't sell nearly as well as they have.
So how does that make her punk rock? Lest we forget, before punk rock was cool and socially accepted, before it was known best for Green Day and guyliner, it was a genre comprised of outsiders. Musicians looking to escape the soft, passionless landscape that pop music of the time embodied. John Holmstrom, one of the original movers and shakers of the punk rock movement, put it best: "Punk rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock and roll, when to me and other fans, rock and roll meant this wild and rebellious music." Anything here sound familiar?
Punk rock challenged society's views of what music could be, just as Miley Cyrus challenges us to define exactly what pop stars can and can't do. She's right in that it is controversial to like her, even if you admit that her music is pretty good, even if you admit she probably isn't as thoughtless as the media might make her out to be. When the biggest competition is Katy Perry's unimaginative "Roar," or any of Lady Gaga's new sexually explicit snoozefest singles, Cyrus' stuff is actually... better. Dammit, it's totally better. It's catchy, she has a great voice, her videos are constantly surprising, and, as far as we can tell, she doesn't lip-sync any of her appearances. So why is it so taboo to like Miley?
Because something within us is unable to deal with the unabashed sexuality Cyrus brings to the table. We don't like what her new image, and the fact that it's clearly working out very well for her, says about us. Because at the root of our Miley-shaming is a rather childish need to pretend that little girls don't grow up to have sex or drug problems, to pretend that we've never seen boobs and an ass (especially on a wrecking ball) before. It's the quintessential Whore-Madonna complex at work, the same one which damns Taylor Swift to singing about unrequited crushes for the rest of her life while Rihanna could flash her hoo-ha onstage without anyone batting an eyelash. (I mean, does no one recall Rihanna's "S&M" video, which literally had her bound and gagged saying she liked the smell of sex in the air?) Cyrus might have gotten naked, but, hey, at least she was singing about emotions versus how pain is pleasure and being bad feels oh-so-good. And, interestingly, most would expect a woman writhing on a wrecking ball naked to be singing about the latter. Cyrus is actively rebelling against everything that pop culture expects of her, with an end goal of producing music she's proud of. If you ask me, that's more punk rock than pretty much anything produced after 1990.
It's been said that we might dislike Cyrus because she used to be a child star, but I think it's more than that. We dislike her opening a dialogue on how fucked up celebrity culture has gotten. She is shoving our own hypocritical notions of fame down our throats, and gosh darn it, we're gagging on it. No one pop star can give us PG lyrics, R-rated videos, intelligent interviews, a great Twitter presence, and a really great sense of style, and it's pretty badass how steadfastly Cyrus has stuck to her guns in terms of what elements of being a pop star she chooses to embody, criticism be damned. In fact, it's not just bad-ass. It's totally punk rock.