After Miley Cyrus’s infamous ‘dance’ at the Video Music Awards earlier this year, I was somewhat mystified by the intensity of the controversy that swirled around the performance. A young woman, dressed in an outfit that was no more revealing than a 1950’s swimsuit, dancing lasciviously on TV with her male partner. So what? Haven’t we seen this a thousand times before?
One reason for my lukewarm reaction is that I insist on consistency in my moral standards. For instance, in the late 1990’s, I once happened to catch an MTV music awards show that was crawling with gangsta rappers - unrepentant felons, some possibly even murderers - reveling openly on stage about their criminal lifestyle. As I recall, this elicited no outrage at all by anyone. But in comparison, Miley’s dog-and-pony show is pretty weak tea indeed.
Nevertheless, I was still repelled by Miley’s act. My revulsion was not so much a moral, but because of an act poorly performed. The real problem with Miley was that she was trying to act sexy but didn’t have the first clue as to how to pull it off. There we had a physically fit, 21 year old woman, dressed in a skimpy outfit, and gyrating from one sexually suggestive pose to another, and utterly failing to be sexy. How pathetic is that!
Miley’s vamp shtick is perfectly encapsulated by her signature pose - her face contorted with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth as far as it can. It reminds me of something said by an art gallery employee named Serge, played by Bronson Pinchot, in the Eddie Murphy film, Beverly Hills Cop. When Serge came upon a heterosexual man clumsily attempting to look attractive by leaving his shirt unbuttoned to reveal his chest hair, Serge remarked, “Ees not sexy, ees animal.” Because Miley doesn’t know how to seduce, she does the only thing she knows how to do in its stead; she turns the dial up to 11. Ees not sexy, ees animal.
A perfect counterexample to Miley’s public persona is Tricia Helfer’s character, Number Six, on the sci-fi TV series, Battlestar Galactica. Helfer is almost twice Miley’s age but was nevertheless able to play the femme fatale to a T. She did it by perfectly mastering all the little nuances of her character’s archetype:
‘Tricia Helfer was cast after a strong audition, despite some initial concerns over her lack of acting experience. Director Michael Rymer explains: "It wasn't just the way she looked; she just has this vibe about her.”’
What are these nuances that make up “this vibe”? As a heterosexual man, don’t ask me. I just know it when I see it. I am almost as clued out as Miley is about the particulars. I say almost, because I do understand at least one thing Miley doesn’t. If a woman aspires to seduce, she must build her charms on a firm foundation of physical beauty. Exhibit A that Miley doesn’t get this is her ill-suited buzz cut, which only served to draw attention to her oddly shaped head. Miley, baby, why do you think the nice people at Disney gave you a shag hair style when you were Hanna Montana?
Of course, now that she is over 18 and firmly established, she doesn’t have to listen to any fuddy-duddy grownups anymore.
The end result is the crass, ostentatious ugliness that Miley Cyrus has become.