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Crazy? …The Character of Miley in 2013

By Shannon Keane, Copy Editor (skeane3@uic.edu)

You say the words “Liam,” “wrecking ball,” or “twerk,” and automatically Miley Cyrus comes to mind. To say the least, Miley has had an explosive 2013. Forget about the erotic videos and the nakedness on pieces of construction equipment. Forget about the pornographic performance that made us all fear foam fingers. Forget about the AMAs, where a cat cried diamonds. And, if anyone paid attention, they would have seen that she cried, too. Everyone has been so quick to judge Miley by saying that she has turned into a terrible role model, an uncontrollable casualty of the Disney empire. But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe Miley’s not the crazy one. Or maybe she is, but maybe it’s for a bigger reason.

When “We Can’t Stop” came out over the summer, the country went wild over it. I mean, come on. An entire piñata filled with hot dogs? Dancing bears, Miley twerking on everything in existence. It was all pretty ridiculous. And yet, we couldn’t stop talking about it. There was some kind of magic in the idea that everyone, everywhere, had seen this video. Everyone knew about it, and if they weren’t talking about it, they were tweeting about it, texting, Facebooking, and referencing it in their own way. Think about it: How many people did you see this Halloween prancing around in Miley costumes? How many tree ornaments had Miley riding on top of them?

When asked about the “Miley mania” of 2013, the star has kept it professional. According to an article written by Jon Caramanica in late December of the New York Times, Miley just said this: “I went from people just thinking I was, like, a baby to people thinking I’m this, like, sex freak that really just pops molly and does lines all day. It’s like, “Has anyone ever heard of rock ’n’ roll?” There’s a sex scene in pretty much every single movie, and they go, “Well, that’s a character.” Well, that’s a character. I don’t really dress as a teddy bear and, like, twerk on Robin Thicke, you know?” (Times, 2013The way Miley sees it, what she is doing is playing a character. Just like the difference between Miley and Hannah, there’s a difference between the Miley onstage and the Miley at home.

But why play this character? Why create a façade that isn’t really you?

Miley, a self-identified feminist, defends herself by saying that she’s “telling women to be whoever you want to be.” (Times, 2013) Empowerment of women, empowerment of self, and having fun are just a few things Miley’s been trying to convey in her ridiculous performances. And, when one thinks about it, her performances have been successful.

But given that success is such an abstract idea, the measurement of it is a tough thing to do. In a constantly changing industry, it’s hard to determine how successful someone can be.

So we give them awards, for one thing. Money, one more. And keep them relevant, for another. But the case of Miley is unique, in that her efforts have not followed a trend or pattern, unless you count wearing less and less clothes a pattern. No, Miley has decided to take a different approach, one that people haven’t seen since the explosion of Gaga a few years back.

Miley has created a character.

She plays a character on stage just like a character in the TV show she got her fame from. She does what she wants and says what she wants to promote truth and empowerment. She swings naked on wrecking balls, she chops off all her hair, and she sings about everything from her heartbreak to Michael Jordan. Even one of these things would be a sign of craziness, and in 2013, Miley did them all.

And we haven’t stopped talking about it.

In her quest to prove that she’s not the cookie cutter teeny bopper she once was, Miley has taken the world into her tornado, engulfing us in a wind of drugs and sex, only to spit us back out, confused, shaken, a little disturbed, and not quite sure what to do. She’s taken us into her storm and created the new relevance for us, a new normal in which the biggest thing to happen this week was her being “tame” at the AMAs. Which, in my opinion, is not at all crazy.

She’s a genius in the world of pop, because she’s still following the most important rule: Stay relevant.

For more information, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/arts/music/miley-cyrus-on-her-jump-to-sexy-twerker.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0.

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