Miley Cyrus's new Wrecking Ball video says young women should be sexually available
But the real sadness is that Cyrus's implied message need not be true – as other successful young female artists are proving
by Michael Hann
The Guardian, Tuesday 10 September 2013
Miley Cyrus … baring all in the name of art
Another day, another Miley Cyrus controversy. Last time it was twerking at the VMAs; this time it's the video for her new song, Wrecking Ball (hypocrisy disclosure: scroll down and you can watch the clip I'm about to complain about across several hundred words). In said video you can see: Miley nude! Miley in her undies! Miley orally pleasuring a sledgehammer! Yes, you can watch – of all the sights in the world – Miley Cyrus simulating fellatio on something you'd find in a garden shed. What next? Selena Gomez giving a handjob to a strimmer?
Now Cyrus evidently wants to cast aside her crown as queen of the tweens, and she's gone about it in the way that many young women who became famous very young have done: she's embraced sexualisation. What's startling about Cyrus's journey is the extent of the embrace: the Wrecking Ball video doesn't demonstrate a woman exploring her sexuality, it depicts a woman exploring the iconography of porn. That was inevitable once she chose the repulsive Terry Richardson – a man whose work gives the impression that he looks at a woman and can't help seeing a blow-up sex doll – as director.
What disturbs me about Wrecking Ball isn't the fear that my daughter will look at the video and decide to learn about sex from garden implements. After all, one reason tween stars have to reinvent themselves is that the tweens themselves move on so quickly – part of the journey into adolescence consists of casting aside childhood love. I'm sure she'll be curious, and look at the video, but I also suspect she'll be embarrassed by Wrecking Ball, rather than inspired by it. That said, I'm probably not alone among parents in dreading the likely question: "Why has she done this?"
That's the more troubling aspect of Wrecking Ball. Maybe Cyrus has done this entirely of her own voliition. And it is certainly not my place, as a 44-year-old man, to pronounce on how 20-year-old women should display their sexuality. But whatever her reasons for making the video, Cyrus does send a message: that the best way for young women to be noticed is to sexually objectify themselves. And, in this case – sadly – it seems to have worked.
It's now five past noon, and Wrecking Ball has had 14,453,182 views on YouTube. It's added more than a million since I started writing this piece. I'm reminded of a line spoken by Ryan Gosling in the film Crazy Stupid Love: "The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise."
Even sadder, though, is that proof is out there that young women can be huge popular successes without turning themselves into sex toys for Terry Richardson. Cyrus didn't have to go this way. Taylor Swift connects with a huge, young audience, and she does so through her songs and her personality, not by turning herself into – let's not put too fine a point on this – a wank fantasy. Ditto Kacey Musgraves, reaching No2 in the US album charts with her fantastic record Same Trailer Different Park.
So, as a parent, I can't help but be glad that my daughter's favourite records of the moment include Same Trailer Different Park and Swift's last album, Red. And I wonder how many of the tens of millions of people who will watch the video for Wrecking Ball will translate that prurient interest into a desire to see Cyrus's next tour, or download her next album, or watch her next film. Because exposing yourself so completely makes your flaws all the more apparent.