Disney Channel favorite ‘Hannah Montana’ died on January 16th, 2011. In 2008, her television show carried a global viewership of 200 million viewers. She was the subject of a successful line of Disney product merchandise that included clothing, jewelry, apparel, fashion dolls, singing dolls and more. The ‘Hannah Montana’ doll was one of the most popular Christmas toys in 2007.
Much has been written about her recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and there is no need to rehash the details, as anyone with eyeballs already knows what happened. What perhaps is far more interesting than the performance itself is the possible genesis of it and the wholly, unnecessary reaction it continues to receive.
Cyrus’ desire to express herself through music and find respect is evident in the titles of her first two post -‘Hannah Montana’ albums, ‘Breakout’ and ‘Can’t Be Tamed’. Both albums did well commercially, but not critically. Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert magazine Pollstar said in reference to Cyrus at the time, ‘It is really difficult when your core audience is preteen because as those kids get older, what was beyond cool to them one moment, is something they won't even admit they were fans of three years later’.
This is exactly the point. Like most teenagers, Cyrus wanted to grow up. Unlike most teenagers, Cyrus was linked in the minds of millions to a fictional character that did not exist. She was tied to a perception of herself that she had moved away from. Money was not an issue, but maybe respect was. Respect in regards to her work as a songwriter that she didn’t get. New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff called ‘Breakout’ ‘a lackluster album’ in which the ‘lyrics are half-terrible’. She may not have deserved the respect she wanted, or even earned it, but the desire surely remained. When you feel that no one respects you, you often feel unheard. Cyrus simply went with the tried and true way to be heard, as practiced by many a pop starlet before her. It doesn't get you respected, but it definitely gets you heard. Unfortunately for too many, that's enough.
No one needs to be reminded of the blatant double standard that exists in entertainment as well as in other fields, where someone like Justin Timberlake can put on a suit and perform the sexually latent ‘SexyBack’ and have his adulthood accepted, while we all remember the I-no-longer-wear-pants phase that Christina Aguilera went through when her voice was not enough to prove to the public that she was an adult. Yes, respect is earned, but it’s harder to earn when people don’t want to let go of the child you used to be.
Some will think that this article is in defense of Miss Cyrus. It is not. It is also not to bash her actions. It is simply to provide perspective. On the grand scheme of things, what happened at the VMAs is irrelevant. If you were entertained, great. If you were not, move on. It’s done. It has no effect on your life. You survived Madonna dry humping the stage in a wedding dress and bra, you will survive this. All of these open letters to Miley Cyrus from bloggers, the celebrities 'weighing in', the open disgust, the angry parents who have lost all respect for her… it's pointless. Did they really ever truly respect her? Or is it just that they thought that ‘Hannah Montana’ should put some clothes on and put her tongue back in her mouth? Because as previously stated, ‘Hannah Montana’ has passed away. In fact, she never really existed in the first place. If you are looking for something that deserves your attention, consider what’s going on in Syria.