Commentary by Ramon Presson: Miley, We Thought We Knew You
By Ramon Presson, Columnist
Two weeks ago, the world was stunned and buzzing about a shocking and very disturbing image. No, I’m not referring to evidence of the heinous use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in the ongoing civil war and the looming possibility of U.S. military intervention. More than Americans were outraged by the report of hundreds of still bodies of Syrian civilians sprawled in the dirt (a large percentage being children), we were mortified by the video footage of one costumed body gyrating on a Hollywood stage.
The morning following MTV’s Video Music Awards Miley Cyrus’ bizarre and almost pornographic routine dominated Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, and water cooler conversations. Just as Dorothy scanned the landscape of Oz and said,
“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” we all scouted YouTube and exclaimed, “That’s not Montana anymore. Totally!”
And it is doubtful that any population is more confused and disturbed by the Miley Meltdown than our own Williamson County because Hanna Montana was really Hanna Tennessee. Because Miley Cyrus was our hometown girl, growing up in Thompson Station, and attending our schools. There are elementary school teachers here who knew her and former middle school classmates who hung out with her. The resounding gasp heard locally and nationally is the attempt to form the question, “WHAT HAPPENED?”
I watched the video clip of Miley’s performance with a combination of shock, embarrassment, disgust, and sadness. With the erotic romp Cyrus embarrassed herself with over-the-top antics that did not successfully compensate for marginal singing and dancing talent. MTV’s cameras quickly stopped showing reactions from fellow-entertainers in the audience because the initial peeks revealed blank faces unable to even pretend to affirm or enjoy the act. Highly sexual but hardly sexy, the stunt exposed a clumsy Miley desperately wanting to be included in the same conversation with Madonna, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga.
Origins and Obstacles
Miley Cyrus’ success came early as Disney’s Hanna Montana—a teen pop star disguising herself as a normal school kid trying to have a normal life. Turns out, it was art imitating life. It’s difficult to self-manage competing personas, especially during adolescence when one is exploring and seeking to clarify one’s identity. It’s even harder when the whole world is watching you through alternately adoring and hypercritical lenses.
For several years Cyrus, now 20, has clearly sought to distance herself from her Hanna Montana character. Many young musicians and actors are forced to rebrand themselves as they age in order to stay relevant with a changing audience. So I understand that cute isn’t eternal and that Miley Cyrus had to reinvent herself.
But during last week’s VMA show, Cyrus didn’t just turn her back on her wholesome Disney image. She gave it the middle finger. Her bumping, grinding and obscene use of a giant foam finger was clearly aimed at killing off Hanna Montana once and for all. And it was a grotesque murder scene, for sure.
What’s Next for the Cyrus Circus
But as much as Miley wishes to snuff out old Hanna, Cyrus wants to be respected by new fans and fellow entertainers as a legitimate talent—whether as an actress, singer, or dancer. If Miley is satisfied with only attention and publicity—positive or negative, as in millions of YouTube views and 306,000 Twitter tweets per minute at its peak, then she and her record company got their wish, and just weeks prior to a new album release. But if Miley wants to be taken seriously as an artist then she failed miserably. And if it’s respect as an adult she is seeking then she’ll be waiting a little longer for that prized package to arrive. Mere attention is never to be confused with respect.
One of the fears of any prominent but less than secure person is becoming irrelevant. Last week Miley Cyrus’ ability to get the globe’s attention, albeit negative, hit its zenith. Statistically it’s downhill from here. Actress Carrie Fisher once said, “Celebrity is just obscurity biding its time.” As Princess Leia, Fisher’s career soared but peaked with the Star Wars trilogy. As revealed in her memoir, Wishful Drinking, life beyond the Star Wars’ set and script was extremely dysfunctional and painful.
Like Tom Hank’s character, Chuck Noland in the final scene of Castaway, most of us adults have stood in an intersection of our lives, knowing that our next step and the direction we chose would have profound meaning and impact on the remainder of our lives. Miley Cyrus is at such a crossroads at a young age--too young for the forced choices to even be fair really, but it’s where she is.
Back here at home, Miley, we are praying that you choose wisely.
Author and therapist, Dr. Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, TN. www.LifeChangeCS.org He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 9/11/2013