Quick! Tell me what you know about Miley Cyrus. Chances are high that even if you never watched one minute of Hannah Montana, you know something about her, and that might be the thing to actually admire her for: She’s keeping herself in front of the media, and in our consciousness, by just living her robust 19-year-old celebrity life.
The teen merely got her hair cut and made headlines for days. She tweeted self-portraits, and the Internet blew up—not just the entertainment gossip sites like Perez Hilton, but also news sites like HuffPo and Washington Post. Questions were asked: Is she rebelling? Is she having a Britney breakdown?
Here in Philadelphia, Miley sightings are tweeted rapid fire while rumors abound. Her fiance, Liam Hemsworth, is in town shooting Paranoia (in case you’ve been asleep or at the beach for the past month), and those who have bumped into her walking her dog in Rittenhouse Square say she is a polite (and scarily skinny) teenager. I googled “Miley Cyrus and Philadelphia” and limited my search to the past 24 hours; I got 8,450 hits. I asked my 76-year-old father what he knew about her, and he said, “Isn’t she one of those girls who was a child star and is now famous for being a slut?” Close enough.
I am fascinated that she can keep up such a buzz when she has not done anything but keep up a buzz for so very long now. And wait, wasn’t one of the first post-Hannah Montana Miley “scandals” her getting her own buzz on?
There are three basic types of Miley-watchers. The smallest group might be her actual fans. These are girls who are between nine and 15 years old, and who grew up watching Hannah Montana. They remain loyal to her, even if they didn’t see her latest movie, LOL. (No one did. If you blinked in early May, you don’t even know it was released, despite Demi Moore playing the mother.) These fans still think Miley has cute clothes and, as my 12-year-old niece says, “She inspires people to be whatever they want to be and not be afraid of being themselves.”
Another group of Miley-watchers are her peers and those slightly older than her. This is a large group, as it consists of the girls (and boys) who are between 15 and 30 years old and who, for the most part, won’t admit having watched Hannah Montana (similar to Spice Girls Syndrome). They don’t read Tiger Beat or J-14 to keep up with Cyrus, but they don’t have to; entertainment and gossip sites and Facebook-trending articles cover her every move for them, without creating embarrassing Internet histories.
The largest group of Miley-watchers is the Hater Moms. These are mostly the mothers of the fan group, trickling upward to the peer group. They worry.
Miley, the girl who pretended to be someone else on stage so she could live a normal life, was a girl they allowed their daughters to idolize. They bought the Hannah Montana clothes, lunchboxes, sheets, DVDs, CDs, and even the Halloween costumes with long yellow hair. Miley said her Christian belief was the main thing that kept her grounded.
But then she got older and put on hot pants and practically pole danced in a music video. Pictures of her naked in a bathtub surfaced. Pictures of her naked in a bathtub were re-released, with Miley now stating that they were originally taken for Liam. She has multiple piercings and drinks far too much coffee.
While I’m not inspired by her tweets, or even sure that her engagement to Liam is not a publicity stunt for them both, I have more respect for Miley than her counterpart in celeb-social-media gossip, Kim Kardashian. Kardashian’s celebrity comes from somehow being a celebrity from the get-go, without really doing anything first. Miley may tweet selfies in see-through tops, but Kardashian is so desperate to remain in the public eye she released five-year-old, behind-the-scenes shots of her Playboy shoot.
Miley Cyrus has more than eight million Twitter followers, making her the number one teen celebrity on Twitter. Surprise! A few of my college-age students admit to following her “because it’s fun to be the first to know what she’s done next.” Her original fans follow her because they have to know. Hater Moms follow her to see what their daughters see; they don’t care that she posts inspirational tweets like, “You are not the momentary whim of a careless creator experimenting in the laboratory of life … You were made with a purpose.” Or sage advice like: “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving.” A-hem.
I’m watching Miley because so many young women close to me watch her. I have to admit that I respect how well she’s keeping her kite in the air. So, she’s engaged at 19, but at least she’s monogamous. I think her hair is adorable. I think everyone is going to keep watching.