Miley Cyrus: Simply Growing Up

Dani Hupper

When I was in elementary school, I confidently wore tie-dye sweat pants with a silver sequin belt. A couple years later I tried to go for the boho-chic look, but my confidence was wounded by Gresa H. during our Shakespeare unit when she commented that she “really liked my Friar Lawrence costume.” Even now I’m forced to wear pieces of my first-year wardrobe, as I am too lazy and too cold to shop for less tool-ish apparel.

Why am I telling you this? Particularly in our younger years, we spend a lot of time trying on different images to find the one that suits our personalities best. Whom we were at 14 years old is not the person we are at 18 years old (thank God). So if we get to explore ridiculous personas and garments, why can’t Miley Cyrus?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, let’s quickly summarize her enormous transition. “Hannah Montana,” a show about a girl who secretly lives a double life as a rock star, had 5.4 million viewers during its series premiere (an all-time high for Disney Channel). After the show ended, her behavior became far less wholesome –– at 15 years old she posed for near-nude photographs in “Vanity Fair Magazine,” pole danced at the Teen Choice Awards, smoked salvia during her 18th birthday, “twerked” with teddy bears in her “We Can’t Stop” music video, grinded with singer Robin Thicke during the Video Music Awards and most recently swung on top of a wrecking ball wearing nothing but (a really cool pair of) Doc Martin shoes.

There’s no question Miley uses scandalous behavior to attract attention. But how is this any different from most artists? Lady Gaga wore meat, Madonna smooched Britney and Amanda Bynes… Need I say more? Much worse, some artists promote violence, alcoholism and drug use. Miley’s stunts, though strange, are harmless. She’s experimenting with her image like everyone does. Miley herself would agree.

“The press seems to think that I’m trying to make this big turn and become a bad girl, and really I’m trying to be more connected with the Earth, more connected with myself. I’m not doing this for anyone else but me. My career is not my main priority, it’s not my life any more. I really just want to enjoy life and explore nature and become who I am to the fullest,” said Cyrus in 2011.

Didn’t we all say something about “[becoming] who [we] are to the fullest” at some point in our pre-teen years? Granted, her personas and wardrobe (or lack thereof) are a bit more intense than some of my aforementioned style choices. But when we were growing up and making mistakes, we didn’t have paparazzi documenting our every change. Miley’s behavior is amplified because of our generation’s fixation on social media that make her antics more permanent than they were a couple years ago.

When we receive hundreds of messages competing for our attention every day, unfortunately it’s only the most outrageous ones that make us look twice. To be an artist in our twisted, impatient system, you need to be more attention-grabbing than your opponents. And Miley Cyrus’ teddy-bears, tongues and foam-fingered images do just that. Her records sell (Bangerz was number one on U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100), and she has millions of fans (her Facebook page has approximately 16 million likes). But her success as an artist should not make us forget that, like us, she is still growing up and trying to find herself.