The first thing I want to say is that I hate myself for writing about Miley Cyrus. Believe me, I don’t consider this an ideal way to spend my afternoon. Or any other part of the day, actually. If you asked me to write a list of the things I’d rather be doing than writing about Miley Cyrus, “dying of needle torture” would be the only entry. And even though I’m not exactly sure what death by needle entails, I’d have a long think about biting the bullet and accepting my fate anyway. Writing about Miley Cyrus is awful.
The second thing I want to say is I think people should be free to make fools of themselves. I don’t care what strange, desperate, erotic failure of a dance Miley Cyrus chose to perform at a televised awards show. I’m a big proponent of that sort of thing. Go to town, I say! This post is not about twerking, or someone trying to adopt a fake hyper-sexualized image to escape some other fake hyper-innocent image. I have no outrage. It’s all in the game, I guess. (Truthfully, I don’t really know that game. I’ve never attempted erotic dancing on a televised awards show before. If I did, I’d probably have a much stronger take.)
But the third thing I want to say is less forgiving, because Miley Cyrus just mocked a person for her mental illness, and that is about the worst fucking thing you can do. Hence, Miley Cyrus is the worst.
If you missed this whole saga, and I hope you did, it all started when Cyrus told Rolling Stone that the video for Wrecking Ball was inspired by Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. The main similarity between the two is that both have close-ups of women singing the lyrics to their own songs. The main difference is that while O’Connor’s song is beautiful and the video is classy and it was written by Prince, Cyrus’ song is pop garbage and the video contains shots of her licking a sledgehammer and it was written by a team of eight robots in a Hollywood cellar. But again, I’m not here to judge any of that. I will not legislate a human being’s license to look kind of like an idiot. I myself have looked like an idiot before, and plan to do so again. (Note: My example didn’t involve a sledgehammer.)
Sinead O’Connor, though, wasn’t having it. She was worried about Miley, and wrote an open letter on Facebook urging her to stop being pimped out by people who only care about making money off her image. In all honesty, I think this was probably not the best move on O’Connor’s part. The letter was ranty and self-righteous, and even if her intentions were good and her point was spot-on (which I think it was), you have to ask: Was an open letter the best way to handle things? I mean, Cyrus had complimented her, and O’Connor responded by throwing her under the bus in public. It wasn’t great.
Cyrus struck back, which you have to expect from someone who is pretty obviously insecure and was just insulted out of the blue. But the way she struck back…that’s what got ugly. Her strategy was to compare O’Connor to Amanda Bynes, both of whom have histories of mental illness, and to post a series of desperate tweets O’Connor wrote two years ago when she was on the verge of a breakdown. The tweets represented O’Connor’s worst moments; a fragile, dangerous zone when she had to summon a lot of courage to reach out and try to work her way through some severe mental trauma. It’s a difficult, wrenching thing to read, and to actually take it all in and then laugh is such an insanely heartless reaction that the only proper emotion to feel is fury.
Cyrus followed that by posting a figure of O’Connor tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II on her famous 1992 SNL appearance. Whether you agree with the protest or not, it was a moment of activism (something we can be sure the rich child of a country music star knows absolutely nothing about). And it hearkened back to the physical and emotional abuse O’Connor herself suffered as a child, as well as the sexual abuse committed and subsequently covered up by the Roman Catholic church in Ireland. Again, it was a courageous move to make, especially for an Irish performer. And Miley Cyrus mocked her for it.
I’m not saying these two tweets should define her as a person, but I am saying that to use someone’s psychological pain against them in public is a sign that you have no empathy and might be a bad person. O’Connor responded with two more angry Facebook letters, demanding an apology for the stress it brought into her life, and for the fact that a lot of people thought the tweets were recent (the image was two years old, but the tweets were time-stamped as eight hours old). They also threatened legal action, and tried to alert Cyrus to the fact that mental illness is a horrible disease that can ruin someone’s life. Like the first letter, these were a little sad in the sense that you wish Sinead O’Connor didn’t want so badly to reach someone like Cyrus, and could maybe just laugh the whole thing off. It felt beneath her to reach out, but you could tell she needed some kind of closure. An apology, at this point, would’ve been so easy.
Miley’s response? Two tweets:
1. “Sinead. I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause Im hosting & performing on SNL this week.”
2. “So if youd like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter. :)”
Terrible. As if the first salvo wasn’t bad enough, now she meets a sincere plea with condescension and a final insult. “Lemme know in your next letter:)” Seriously, how nasty is that? This is so much worse than the VMA performance, because at least there she was only hurting herself. Here, she’s going after someone who has suffered, and spreading the message that mental illness is something to be ridiculed. She saw a fellow human being in pain, and tried to make her feel even smaller. There’s an elitism and a distinct lack of humanity there, and while people are right to wring their hands about sexuality in pop culture, shouldn’t there be more outrage when a public figure is a mean-spirited asshole? Isn’t that an equally bad example to set? How many kids with mental illness of their own now feel terrible about themselves because they idolize Miley Cyrus, and their hero indirectly mocked them?
The one thing I agreed with in O’Connor’s screeds was that Cyrus seems like the kind of person who will suffer some kind of mental illness herself some day (if she hasn’t already). It happens to about one in four adults, and you have to think the numbers go even higher within the subset of iconic child stars. If the day comes when Cyrus finds herself in a psychological crisis, people will remember how she treated O’Connor, and it will be much less likely that she’ll get the help she needs. And while that might seem like karmic justice, the truth is that it’s really, really sad. The cycle continues.
I don’t care if Miley Cyrus apologizes. It would be nice, but at this point it would just be a PR move concocted by some anxious guy in a suit. I do hope she feels some remorse, though, and takes positive steps to reverse the damage she’s done. Even if that happens sometime in the distant future, it’s never too late. She has the platform to help a lot of young people, and if she comes to her senses, it might actually be rewarding to write about Miley Cyrus. Until then, she is the absolute worst.