why we're rethinking miley
In praise of the happy hippy pop star pushing for LGBT, homelessness and feminist rights…
Given she's grown up in front of the world, there are worse things Miley Cyrus might do than smoke the odd joint and spray her armpits pink. Yet a mere glance at Google News reveals mile(y)s of column inches dedicated to disseminating and dissecting Miley's every single move. This continuous click-bait based fascination with mindless, mundane minutiae is more revealing about the state of our society than it is about the life of a 22-year-old who happens to sing songs for a living--a woman who might meet her ex-boyfriend for a spot of tea, or posts pics of the downward dog on Instagram.
In 2013, Cyrus released a really great pop album called Bangerz. She worked with Mike Will Made It, jumped naked on wrecking balls and put Odd Future in the video for We Can't Stop. Last year, she went on tour with a giant penis and her tongue firmly in her cheek. Much of her show consisted of Miley masturbating and sliding down a huge self-referential tongue and, when not calling the audience sluts, urging them instead to be happy, to be themselves, to not conform. Noisey decided Miley was more punk than any punk band ever, while the Guardian applauded her "shambolic, tasteless, childish and occasionally baffling show." But mostly people focused on who she was or wasn't dating, whether or not she smoked weed and argued amongst themselves about her possible propagation of racial stereotypes. Even Sinead O'Connor got involved. It must be frustrating for people to always focus on your tongue or your twerking or whether or not you're being pimped by the industry when perhaps you're trying quite hard to offer your own opinion but everyone's ignoring you because you were on a TV show on the Disney channel for like a bazillion years.
What is heartening to see then is the news that Billy Ray's daughter is getting for her new charity, Happy Hippie Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage young people to fight injustice. Focusing on, but not limited to, homeless and LGBT teens, the Foundation - joyfully emblazoned with acid yellow smiley face logos - launched yesterday in Miley's back yard. She and Joan Jett performed a song together and it was brilliant. The idea is that people will watch the video and donate to Happy Hippies, which will use the money to set up digital support groups for LGBT youth and their families.
"Pointless judgment and its effects are unfortunately something that is way too common. All humans have valid feelings and rights!" said Miley in a press statement. "I want to use my voice as a megaphone to young people everywhere and encourage human evolution. No one should have to hide who they really are, no matter what his or her name, gender or status. That's why Happy Hippies are here to say that every life is valuable!"
What I admire so much about the Tennessee-born singer is that while it's certain her "handlers" have helped plot the course from Hannah Montana to bare-ass, trash-talking Miley Cyrus, you get the absolute impression that Miley do what Miley do. For years she was forced to protect her carefully constructed Disney image and towards the end, her dislike for its restrictiveness was palpable. As soon as she could free herself of those House of Mickey manacles, she could finally be the artist and the person she wanted to be. Sure, she might receive guidance, take a little advice, but this is a woman that absolutely knows her own mind.
An advocate of gay rights since her teens, Miley became frank and forthright on issues that were important to her. In 2014 she sent a young homeless man called Jesse Helt to collect her VMA for Video of the Year. Not for a lol or an F.U to the industry, but because she was making a statement and highlighting the charity, My Friend's Place, an LA based organization that helps young homeless people find shelter. Well done everyone, let's celebrate ourselves for spending millions on videos and then more millions on awards ceremonies for those videos - but, er, you know that LA has around 240,000 men, women and children sleeping rough every night, right?
How about the time she took to Instagram and Time Magazine to explain why she thought Indiana Governor Mike Pence was an "asshole" for bringing in the anti-gay RFRA bill (Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Supporters of this bill, said Miley, "are dinosaurs, and they are dying off. We are the new generation, and with that will come so much." Later on, she urged her 17m Instagram followers and "Happy Hippies" to phone another RFRA advocate, Senator Tom Cotton and "express why freedom is important to us and our country."
Earlier on in the interview with Time, Miley explained why being herself is so very necessary. "I lived a life where I had to be something every day and I had to be a character, and it wasn't necessarily who I wanted to be. And now I've dedicated my life to being whoever it is I want to be…"
There's one thing we would like to raise though. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week to promote the foundation, she noted that not everyone she's dated has been male - "straight, hetrosexual", hinting towards her own bisexuality, but elaborating no further. While it's her right of course to choose whether she wants to discuss her sexuality, one thing we will say Miley is, don't beat about the bush if you do beat about the bush. Be loud and proud, bbz. Stand up for your love rights, not just everyone else's.
But basically, here's a woman in a position of power and privilege and she's actually trying to, you know, make a difference and all. She's spent a long time ridding herself of the holier-than-thou Hannah Montana, so let's not restrict Miley all over again. Leave the tongue, the twerking and the torrid tabloid fodder behind and instead let Miley make a change. She's intelligent, she's capable and she's provocative. So while you may raise your eyebrows at the sight of another topless shot in another glossy magazine, consider that Miley knows exactly what she's doing - and it might not be for the reasons you assume. "When you have all eyes on you, what are you saying? And that's what I had to ask myself a lot. I know you're going to look at me a lot more if my breasts are out, so look at me," she told AP. "And then I'm going to tell you about my foundation for an hour and totally hustle you."
Check out Miley's latest Back Yard session with Ariana Grande here, via Noisey