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An Open Letter to Miley Cyrus After The VMA’s

Dear Miley,

Let me admit that I haven’t exactly followed your career arc. I was aware of Hannah Montana and the Disney channel and that you, like so many young woman before you, were making obscene amounts of money at an obscenely young age by being entertainers who could sing, dance and act. I may or may not have heard that song about putting your hands up when someone is playing your song and nodding your head like yeah, but that song may have been Katy Perry, too. I realize that I am not, perhaps, the most licensed person to speak on all things Miley (in fact, I absolutely and unequivocally am not), but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

Blame NPR, Miley. They were the ones that showed me what I needed to see.

While it was difficult to ignore the plethora of status updates on Facebook regarding your MTV VMA performance (I’ll admit to deleting a few friends from my account whose commitment as late twentysomething adults to MTV and its programming seemed to me egregious and galling) it wasn’t until I heard a piece on NPR’s program, Morning Edition, that I decided I would have a look into your performance and make a judgement for myself.

Let me be quite clear, Miley. Everything I’m about to say isn’t meant to judge you. I say this only because I care.

I understand that you were in a “damned if you did and damned if you didn’t” situation. You’re twenty years old, almost twenty-one, and you’re clearly not Hannah Montana anymore. You don’t want to be the squeaky-clean Disney princess, so you cut off all of your hair and bleached what was left. You don’t want to be nice and pure and innocent, so you’ve been a little more {ahem} overt in your sensuality. You want to be twenty years old- to be reckless and wild, to drink from red Dixie cups (as you did on the cover of your “We Can’t Stop” single) and to, you know, hike the skirt/short thing up just a little bit higher than is probably necessary (as you did for the cover of your upcoming “Bangerz” album- also, Miley, what does “Bangerz” mean?).

You’ve been leading up to this moment for a while now. More than a few image results on Google leave precious little to the imagination. You’re smoking, you’re giving us the “come hither” stare, you’re- how shall I say this- not abiding by that modicum of modesty and “keeping yourself to yourself”.

The VMA’s, well, there’s no doubt about what you’re up to anymore.

I made it all the way through “We Can’t Stop”. The teddy bears (and the corresponding winking, tongue wagging teddy bear bikini-thing) were an odd touch, but who am I to judge? I watched you pose with your tongue out, gesticulating (which seemed odd to me, but not completely outlandish), I watched you spank that very, very tall burlesque dancer (which upped the weirdness significantly, but hey, it’s MTV and what else would I expect?) and- hey, look at that, you’ve got your tongue out again. Just when my mind began to wander and I found myself thinking that “We Can’t Stop” is a thoroughly unremarkable song and wondering if perhaps Ke$ha had wrote or co-wrote it with you, the teddy bear bikini thing suddenly came off and some guy in a Beetlejuice suit and aviators came out with a gold microphone and you had a foam finger that you were… well, putting in places it probably ought not to go.

I stopped watching when you bent yourself over at the waist in front of Beetlejuice (who, as it turns out, is the son of the guy from an eighties sitcom I’m vaguely aware of called Growing Pains which strikes me as incredibly ironic) and gyrated, performing a movement I’m now aware of as… “twerking”.

I’m sorry, Miley, I just couldn’t make it any further. The guilt was overwhelming.

Miley, you should know that I have a younger sister who is my favorite person in the entire world. There is nothing that I would not do for her. Money? Absolutely. Help moving furniture? Of course. Kidney or plasma? Without a second thought. She is winsome, vivacious, beautiful, intelligent, witty and probably the funniest person I know. As such, she deserves the utmost respect and adoration. She is not just a woman, she is a powerhouse of a human being and it is difficult for me to think of any man who would be worth her time and attention. I had to stop watching you because I could not stop thinking about her. You’re someone’s sister, Miley. How did they feel about us watching you? You’re someone’s daughter and I cannot help but think about your father’s blood boiling as he watched the nation leer at his little girl.

My guilt came not from watching something so overtly sexual (even pornographic) but because of the knowledge that such a performance is what we, as a culture, demand of our celebrities. We want you to be sexy. We want you to debase yourself. We want that tongue to hang out and the bikini to be skin-toned and for you to gyrate and dance and make a spectacle of yourself for our entertainment and indeed, titillation. We forget that you’re someone’s sister, someone’s daughter. That, in all reality, it is not outlandish to think that you could be our sister or daughter.

I know that ultimately what you choose to do and how you choose to do it is your business and choice- because you too are a strong woman and, perhaps even more than that, a powerhouse of a human being. You’ve shown yourself to be ambitious, talented and fearless. Ah, but we’ve chosen as a culture to make you feel as though these qualities are not enough- that if you want to continue to be relevant, to matter to us, you must show increasingly more skin, to be increasingly sexual and sexy and to use your body to your economic advantage. I’m sorry, Miley. I’m sorry that we put you in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” position. I’m sorry that we demand these things of you. I’m sorry even if you are not. It’s not right and it’s not fair. It’s not your fault, Miley. You’re giving us what we want. We’re disgusted with you because we’re disgusted with ourselves and what makes it so bad is that this has happened before- Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears and now you- and will most certainly happen again. South Park was right.

You deserve to be respected and adored, Miley. It is difficult for me to believe that anyone could be worth your time and affection. I’m sorry that we- that I- have made you feel as though the way you must go about getting that respect and adoration is via being lewd and licentious in a skin-toned bikini and a “come hither” stare.




  1. Couldn’t have put it better myself. It was NPR who finally got me, too, and I wish it hadn’t. Half way through watching, when my disgust had just made a dangerous turn to nausea, I had to shut my computer. Exiting the screen wasn’t enough; I felt violated. My eyeballs were violated. Your post has made me realize that it is sad, more than anything. Sigh.

  2. Reblogged this on Minnesota Miss and commented:
    This is a fantastic letter. Miley IS a daughter, sister, friend, etc. who unfortunately feels she needs to act a certain way to be noticed thanks to society’s want for more scandal and less clothing.

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