While I’m in the supermarket this week, I scanned the latest tabloids. People magazine has a special edition dedicated to Miley Cyrus. The cover states “why we love this beautiful rebel.” Miley, a rebel? If she’s a rebel, sign me up for the Empire.
Her recent behavior, acting like a fool, is the best acting job she has done to date. Being out of control is not being rebellious; it is typical behavior for a young adult. To call this attitude “rebellious” is quite the stretch. Honestly, people her age that overindulge like herself have no clue in terms of self-identity. It’s one things to be against the status-quo and the so-called “powers that be.” It’s quite another when you have a specific message and agenda that is different from the incumbency.
Being a former child star gets her more attention than your ordinary, anonymous college-age wannabe activist. And Miley isn’t the first, nor the last, former star of the Mouse network trying to meta-morph their persona to a more adult image. But what was her image beforehand? The answer is part of her problem. Her show, Hannah Montana, was about a girl who led a typical teenage life by day, but at night, was a pop-music star, the eponymous Hannah Montana. I call her genre pop because she was neither a little bit country, nor a little bit rock and roll. She was none of the above. Her alter-ego, Hannah, was supposed to be the rebel, but she was only a rebel by Disney standards. Sure, she put on a blond wig, and sang on stage, but she was no Priss Asagiri. It’s hard to sell the angle of an identity crisis when there is little difference between the egos, but apparently the target audience bought it up. Ironically, the disconnect between TV and reality brought upon Miley’s true identity crisis.
I’ve mentioned before how Disney has struck out time and time again to produce a genuine pop icon. Miley, Selena Gomez, and Demi Levato have failed where Katy Perry, One Direction, and Ke$ha have succeeded. The former female Disney stars (I say female because Justin Timberlake had instant success crossing over into stardom on his own) have all tried to be the next Madonna, or the next Lady Gaga (since the latter succeeded in becoming the former), and have failed, musically speaking. (I note that Ke$ha succeeded in creating this “drunk sorority girl” schtick, but it may be detrimental to her career in the long-run.) I can’t figure out what these former Disney stars are doing wrong. I can’t say, “they can’t sing” because that hasn’t stopped Katy Perry, and everyone uses Auto-Tune nowadays. I can’t say, “the lyrics have no real message” because that hasn’t stopped Lady Gaga yet. Perhaps the public is seeing right through the pathetic attempts of overcompensation, and are not buying into it.
Madonna was a rebel back in the late 80’s / early 90’s, and for better or worse, opened a dialogue about sexuality. I said Lady Gaga became the next Madonna, except for the part about being a rebel. She skipped that part and became a sell out from day one. And it’s hard to be a rebel when you are selling out. It’s what make the term “pop-punk” an oxymoron. But none of these acts are even that.
Ask any real punk and he or she will tell you that it is all about attitude. That is what separates a rebel from a hipster. A rebel could have a wide spectrum of anti-authoritarianism: from civil disobedience to pure anarchism. A hipster is more about nihilism. The hipster merges the “oh well, whatever, nevermind” attitude of the 90’s with the social media advances of the 2010’s. The hipster’s anti-revolution will not be televised, but it will be streamed online and live-tweeted. Sadly, Miley can’t even get hipster-ism right, and falls into a wannabe hipster category. Even more sad is that the folks at the Disney Channel and People Magazine actually believe that wannabe-hipster chic is the same thing as being a rebel.