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Oldies But Goldies: When Miley Cyrus Grew Up In 2009


The Miley Cyrus story is an American fable about reinvention. When the British first came to North America it was as a collection of scallywags, thieves and lower class losers on the road to invent themselves as something else and as something grand. The American dream is the reversal of the European dream, not of high birthplace but of high possibilities, not the rut of the working class but the movement of social mobility.

200 odd years later and the dream differs to entitlement of ability and is so socially inbred in can lead to hybrid and Miley Cyrus TV star i as a pop phenomenon is about going not from one to two but one to four distinct personalities. First there is Destiny Cyrus, next the Miley Cyrus, Billy Eay Cyrus, mid-level country star daughter, making a quasi-reality show and overshadowing her father.

This Miley Cyrus, not the real Miley Cyrus,, the real Miley, Destiny Hope Cyrus, we have yet to meet but Miley Cyrus got the break of a lifetime when she was cast as Miley Stewart (Billy Ray plays her dad) on “Hannah Montanna” at the age of eleven: a tween superstar overnight. Five years later she lives on her own estate with a SEPARATE home from her parents, owns a sports car, had one failed romance with a choice Jonas Brother and is dating a 23 year old model.

Compare Cyrus to Stewart who still lives at home and does the dishes, goes to public High School and when she has to become the Miley Cyrus double puts on a blonde wig the way Superman puts on a cape and becomes singing superstar Hannah Montana. Cyrus has no similarities to her audience, few to Stewart and a few more to Montana but what Cyrus is is the living embodiment of an American fable, of the American fabled, retold as a story of female empowerment. Cyrus is Brittney Spears with the sex mooted and the mouseketeers at full volume.
But the product is more specialized then even that. Disney are the Lords Of Tween demo, and they skipped a little on teens to head a little younger. Hannah is a tween girl story, Miley a teen tween hybrid. When Miley rode the pole at the teen awards ago she wasn’t going for the dirty old men, she was going for the teenage girls: she wasn’t offering sex, she was offering a how to book.

Hannah the movie can only be watched in a vacuum, it works only if you situate the recycled for the nth time comedy in a new world order: it’s only new if its new to its audience and since the audience would’ve been unaware of the Jewish comedians of the vaudeville era it was new and is new. However, even ignoring the second comedic material it should’ve been better written. A look at Disney movies from the fifties and sixties will find comedies in the ancient meaning of the term: stories with happy endings but the getting there could be very very dark. “The Love Bug” about a thinking vauxwagon went to some fairy scary places (even, ahem, bankruptcy and dismemberment, before the happy ending. There is no tension in HMM: the girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy is, even for a kidsflick lacking in any dramatic denouement. There isn’t even an “i hate that boy” beginning to the relationship. It is bland as such.
Which doesn’t exactly kill the movie, just makes for a snoozre of sorts, and the music is much better when you watch it in context. The hip hop hoedown is really a dance, it is dance music with moves to follow, “The Climb” plays off strong at the end -Miley has just revealed to the audience her secret identity, and the moment works as well as anything here. So let’s give her the movie and the TV show: a paradigm of empowerment, identity confusion and consumerism. But what next?
Miley’s latest song “Party In the USA” is dance pop, NSyncy though the names she checks are Jay-Z and Britney, and if everybody thinks I think she had a thing to do with it they’re wrong. Miley Cyrus is sixteen going on thirty and is trying to act who she is and not who she is at the same time. Saddled with a public image that will bite her hard soon enough she has the movie and one more year with Disney studios and then she has to grow up and not lose an audience she is already losing.
Which brings us back to her audience: in believing in Miley is Hannah, they are playing with their own identity. 1) the individual two 2) the larger than life girl 3) the member of a private but large society of like minded individuals. Where Miley differs from, say, the Partridge Family, is in the Hannah as superhero able to make world at large bend to her will and where the children connect in is close to the Clark Kent – Superman dichotomy. A song like “The Climb” is important because it gives (like Stewart/Montana) fragility to power: strength in insecurity. While it doesn’t work very well as music in much the same way as you wouldn’t give an eight year old caviar since their palate hasn’t been refined, you wouldn’t give them Dirty Projects. It’s not merely that HM is bland it is that it must be bland to work as a paradigm. Bland is what it does.
The kudos for all this go to Miley but only up to a point. HMM is a very sophisticated sales pitch to tweens and Jonas brothers already is one and Demi Lovato is waiting in the wings. Changing kids into consumers and kids into products in the name of the game. I’m not a moralist, I don’t care if a product is a product, I only care that I know what I am being sold. I wonder if Miley’s audience will feel the same way.

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