Miley Cyrus stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy with her unexpectedly sexy performance at last week’s Video Music Awards (VMA). The VMA is known for its edgy star turns, but Miley’s number with Robin Thicke, in some viewers’ opinion, had simply gone too far in its attempt to reinvent her image, from sweet to sexy.
The necessary context to explain this strongly adverse reaction: Miley first made her mark as a bubbly kid in Disney’s “Hannah Montana” hit TV show, and some viewers refuse to forget that signature “peg.” Even after the series ended, they liked her better sweet rather than spicy.
She tried to change that limited view of her potential by starring in several teen romps and romances, but the shift was only partially effective. So, more radical measures were apparently called for, which is why she came up with her controversial song and dance number for the VMA show.
Unfortunately, the gung-ho gambit has turned out to be counterproductive, so some damage control may be called for.
The negative reaction to Miley’s “coming of age” performance may well have confounded her, because she’s already 20 years old and, more to the point, she isn’t the first Disney “princess” to subsequently sex it up. Christina Aguilera went the same route before her, and the gambit has worked wonders for her career up to now. So, what is it about Miley that makes her different?
Expanding the context of this discussion, some show biz observers note that, in his own way, Justin Bieber has also been trying to come across as an “older and bolder” performer and person, getting into scrapes, carousing all night long, and generally behaving not as the tween idol he used to be.
Putting Miley and Justin together, they come up with the spot-on, 20-20 observation that youth is great for getting a precocious talent noticed and established—but, for long-term stardom, it quickly becomes counterproductive. After all, even as the child or tween talent grows up, so do his or her fans, so young stars have to keep up with the changing times—and hormones!
Incidentally, this is a lesson that was learned in the negative sense by some of our own local sensations. After they became teenagers, they eventually became has-beens because they held on too long to their childish, cutesy-wootsy ways—and couldn’t come up with anything else.
The exceptions to this rule, like Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, had to periodically reinvent themselves to keep surprising viewers, and it’s instructive to note that, 50 years later, they’re still major stars to reckon with.
True, they didn’t have to really sex it up like Miley, but they had to dare in other ways, playing increasingly more challenging and complex roles, so they’re still on top.