So everyone’s spent the better part of this week hating on Miley Cyrus.
We’ve had everything from an open letter from a mom who promised to “run up and twerk so you will see how ridiculous twerking looks” if her daughter ever decides to try it in public, to a fuming letter from the Parents Television Council tearing apart the network, saying “MTV continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ’twerking’ in a nude-colored bikini. How is this image of former child star Miley Cyrus appropriate for 14-year-olds?”
But here’s the truth, everybody: It was all a marketing stunt.
Think we haven’t seen this before? Think again. Britney Spears was criticized when she grew up a bit and wore fewer clothes than we were used to seeing her in. Even after shaving her head and being the butt of many, many jokes, she has a respectable-sized group of supporters and she’s still touring.
And our little Canadian boy Justin Bieber has been basking in supposed “bad” marketing that has only seen his record sales – and fan base – grow. Funny, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing: When young stars need to get out of their “young phase,” those doe-eyed, totally covered-up, not-old-enough-to-date-or-goodness-forbid-even-kiss-someone starlets do something that is often drastic. It changes the way you look at them. Think about Selena Gomez starring in Spring Breakers. Like it or not, you’ll admit she’s not a little girl any more.
So no, it’s not surprising or even particularly new what Cyrus did at the VMAs on Sunday. She was likely doing exactly what her agents told her to do. And sure, parents were shocked, but it’s all to get her noticed, to help her grow up and to increase Web traffic heading in her direction. Because that old thing about any attention being good attention is totally true.
This week, if you went to any social-media network and typed in “Miley Cyrus,” you’d see thousands of hits come back at you: some fiercely supporting the young woman, others angered by the fact she’s allowed to go out after her last performance. But she was there – everywhere – underneath every other story, stealing the spotlight from every other performance.
And then today, when it was announced that “twerk” was being added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online – sure some people were upset, but the real thing marketers care about is that thousands noticed.
There are bigger things at play here than just one performance or one casual leak. Cyrus has been careful molded and crafted so that when you think “Miley Cyrus,” you see exactly what her team wants you to see. Something to do with branding.
So she shed her clothes on Sunday night, rubbed against Robin Thicke and strutted her way out of Disney stardom, right smack dab into adulthood.
Don’t tell me you never saw it coming.