Miley Cyrus's MTV EMA performance: Sex sells but there is a better way than this

Published 11 November 2013  |  
(AP)
Miley Cyrus performs on stage during the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards at the Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, Netherlands

Teen Idol Miley Cyrus is once again at the centre of controversy following her appearance at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday night, during which she apparently smoked marijuana on stage.

Wearing a silver leotard that left little to the imagination, Cyrus was accepting a 'Best Video' award for her latest single 'Wrecking Ball' when she rummaged around in her handbag, produced what looked like a joint, and lit up in front of an audience of millions around the world.

Only in August of this year Cyrus was criticised for what has become an infamous performance at the MTV Music Awards held in New York, where she danced provocatively on stage and let go of her squeaky-clean image - built up when she played Disney's Hannah Montana - once and for all.

Critics have blasted the pop-star for her sexually-explicit performances, labelling her a bad role model and a tragic example of the consequence of growing up in the entertainment industry. Cyrus, however, seems to be taking it all within her stride, and it didn't stop her from putting on another eye-brow raising show in Amsterdam on Sunday.

Aside from apparently smoking marijuana, her performance was similar in tone to that of her show in New York: racy, crude and explicit. If she wanted to make a statement, she certainly accomplished her goal.

But what statement, precisely, did she make?

Commentators and the casual observer alike have been quick to fire the usual insults, labelling the 21-year-old as inappropriately promiscuous and out of control - ironic given that Cyrus is probably one of the most controlled artists in the industry. She has an entire team of stylists, choreographers and producers behind her, not to mention a highly-paid manager and marketing department. We can't possibly be under the illusion that her controversial behaviour and outlandish acts are all her own doing.

The responsibility for her behaviour doesn't only lie with Cyrus herself, but also with her management and perhaps even the music industry as a whole. Should there not be a system in place that regulates extreme behaviours in order to protect young fanbases such as those of Cyrus and her female pop counterparts? A couple of years ago I was volunteering at a children's club when a group of 8-year-old girls asked if they could sing me a song. I naturally agreed and then found myself listening to Rihanna's "S & M", the lyrics of which explicitly refer to sex and violence.

How is it that children are being exposed daily to this kind of music, all in the name of 'entertainment'?

What is most important here is not really Miley, or Rihanna, or any other individual at all, but what they reveal about our celebrity-driven, sex-obsessed, misogynistic culture. When we set their behaviour in the context of a culture and an industry that applaud the sexualisation of women and the glorification of drugs, their performances are less surprising and are revealed as just that - a performance. Sex sells; drugs are 'cool'.

In an industry where more controversy means more money, perhaps Cyrus and her management are just playing the game better than most.

So what should our response, as Christians, be? There is a place for alarm, for concern for our children, definitely. And for anger that this has become normalised. But whatever our response, we cannot stay silent. Apathy is our worst enemy, and we can't hide inside, curtains drawn, refusing to turn on the TV or listen to anything other than God.fm either. We need to stand up for what we believe in, declare that there is a better way than this, and do positive things to promote change. Campaign against nudity in music videos; write to radio stations and music shows with your concerns; talk to your children about the issues and stereotypes they are facing, and use this culture as an opportunity to model the values taught by Jesus.

Beautiful are the feet of those who carry the good news, and loud are our voices.

Reprints

More News in Comment