About a year ago, I did not think that Miley Cyrus (let alone anyone else) could ever produce any video more nauseating than the diabetic coma-inducing one that accompanied “The Climb”.
Well, turns out I was wrong. Oh, was I dead wrong. And, while I really wish I could commend Ms. Cyrus for her effort to assert her independence and distancing herself from her Disney career (my personal views on her aesthetic musical quality notwithstanding), I think she’s going about it all wrong. But I also cannot entirely blame her for the perverse travesty of a music video that is “Can’t be Tamed,” since it is clear that she was not the only person involved in the making of this video. I have no idea if Cyrus is the one who came up with the concept, but whether she did or not, obviously a lot of people (i.e. the director(s), the producer(s), the distributor(s), the backup dancers, the extras, the special effects people, the costume designers, the TV station people who broadcast the video, etc.) must have thought the idea wasn’t absolutely horrible and allowed it to be made, distributed, and broadcast.
I have a number of problems with the video for “Can’t Be Tamed”. First of all, the most obvious: Miley Cyrus is seventeen flippin’ years old! And most of her fans are much, much younger! What the heck kind of message is this supposed to send?! And let me just remind you all that I’m not against Miley Cyrus trying to be a serious, independent artist, and I know she has every right to voice her strong aversion to being “tamed”. I also haven’t forgotten that teenagers can and do have active and healthy sex lives and should not be ashamed and/or afraid of their sexuality. That’s fine. However, there’s a difference between being sexually confident and being sexualized, and the latter is what’s going on in this video. While this video may attempt to show that Cyrus is not a commodity, It’s actually turning her into a different kind of commodity. While she once was (and is still) sold for consumption by girls in their ‘tweens, she is now being put forward as a commodity for adult consumption. And in doing so, she is sacrificing even more of her identity than she had as a Disney star. Much as the video for “The Climb” may be sickeningly sweet, much as it may be a cliche-filled color-saturated CGI nightmare, at its core is a girl who seems to have a very strong sense of self, who is not trying to be anyone else; content with who she is. “Can’t be Tamed”, in contrast, shows Miley’s attempts to be “edgy” by taking on the roles and stereotypes assumed to be “sexy” and “dangerous” nowadays. She’s pulling the ol’ “straight-girl-makeout” thing that seems to be so popular in (non-porn) videos nowadays, thanks in part to Katy Perry (I am not against girls kissing girls in videos. In fact, if anything, I’d like homosexual activity to become more visible in mainstream pop culture, but merely pretending to be a lesbian because it seems like the hip thing to do or because it’s a turn-on for some men is the wrong way to go). And putting Cyrus in outfits that bring a lot of attention to her cleavage and her legs is not going to make her look more mature, but will merely act to sexualize Miley’s youth. Which is pretty stinkin’ gross, when you think about it. And don’t even get me started on the whole bondage undertones (or are they overtones?) in this video.
Speaking of gross, what probably skeeves me out the most about this video is the fact that it is obviously aimed towards adults (and maybe older teens, but mostly adults). I mean, the folks that see her caged in the beginning of the video, and proceed to act as voyeurs to her “exotic”-ness (oh, and I forgot to mention…the whole turning-Miley-into-some-kind-of-animal thing? Yeah, that’s pretty effed-up too. Way to dehumanize her further by turning her into some stereotype of an animal, guys. And not a very original stereotype, either)? Yeah, they’re all adults. And even after the Mileybird tells these people off (by way of singing and dancing erotically. Once again, ew), she still has the viewers at home to contend with. The viewers who are probably adults. And if there are any of her younger fans watching her, they probably won’t be able to understand or relate to what’s going on in the video. They’ve never seen her doing anything like this before; they’re used to seeing her all happy and sparkly and sanitized. Which, you know, can be pretty obnoxious for those well past childhood, but for kids, it’s A-okay. And I’m not saying that Miley should make a lifelong career out of being a happy, sparkly, sanitized role model for kids whose soul is locked up somewhere inside the Disney vault; all I’m saying is that if she has to alienate all her old fans all at once in order to feel like a serious artist, she is not likely to attract many new fans or be taken all that seriously. And also, there are better ways to be seen as a serious and independent artist than by sexing up one’s image or sacrificing individuality on the altar of “cool”.