I was a little embarrassed when my daughter phoned in the middle of the afternoon the other day and asked, “What are you doing?” and I had to say, “Watching the Miley Cyrus video.” But I didn’t see the stunt when everyone else was talking about it right after the 2013 Video Music Awards, and I wondered if there was something I needed to learn about the State of the Union. Which it turned out there was: Miley Cyrus has two nubby horns on her head and the longest tongue I have ever seen, and did inscrutable things with it. And that’s how I will always remember her.
I next viewed Hannah Montana to see what the early Miley Cyrus looked like, and found her to be more like the girl next door—though as everybody knows, the girl next door isn’t what she used to be.
Evidently, no one who desires to make a name for herself wishes to remain half precious little girl and half vixen. Something had to be done to rectify the situation. Simulating cruel and animalistic sex on a stage in front of millions of people will do the trick.
I am used to this kind of Hollywood and political makeover by now, but I was remembering the first time I ever saw a self-reinvention in the devolution direction, and how bad I felt about it. It was Julie Andrews, whom I had idolized in Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). Only later in life did I find out that I liked that persona of Julie Andrews more than Julie Andrews did. She wanted to break out of that confining goody-two-shoes image and really make it big. So she went slumming in a few “adult-oriented” pictures, including one called Darling Lili (1970), in which she did a striptease that audiences didn’t find attractive in their Mary Poppins. So they stayed away in droves. Who wants to watch your own sister undress and make weird gyrations in front of a camera? Then she sought to obliterate her wholesome image completely by appearing topless in S.O.B. (1981), directed by her then-husband Blake Edwards.
When Andrews saw what she had done, she attempted to remedy it by taking on a role in a transvestite musical, Victor Victoria (1982). Only in hindsight did Andrews find out that her career had peaked with the nanny’s and the nun’s stories. Some might say, in the autopsy, that it was the fault of the curse of being typecast early on. And who knows, they may be right. But for my money, there is something peculiarly pathetic and hard to watch in the desperate modern strivings to be as publicly immoral as you can be. And providentially, I suppose, there were still enough Americans at the time who also thought so.