Yesterday, Miley Cyrus’ latest single, “Wrecking Ball,” went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It seems the public and the media have finally accepted that Miley Cyrus is an adult. In the music video, she sings of lost love with tears in her eyes, displaying an emotional and physical vulnerability we haven’t yet seen from her. This song has been a major turning point, however, for a star who is regularly criticized for pushing the envelope in every way, whether through her music, image, or art. Up until now, the media and the general audience had all but written her off as a train wreck. Not so any longer.
However, I still hear parents buzzing about the loss of Miley as a role model for their kids. I’m in an in-between age — I’m just out of college and not a parent yet but don’t consider myself a kid anymore either. I’m a young adult who happens to be the exact age of Miley and grew up a hardcore fan. So listen up parents: here’s why I still think she’s a great role model and perhaps a more relevant one to me now than ever before.
Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out. Take a moment to re-examine her strong points, and debunk the more absurd scandals surrounding her:
1. She’s really not that raunchy
When you contextualize her so-called scandals, how wild has this girl really gone? One of her first big headlines was for “pole-dancing” at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards during her “Party in the USA” performance. Looking at that performance, however, it looks less like pole dancing and more like holding on for dear life while her dance floor is rolled around the stage!
She also received intense criticism, particularly from parents, for using the drug salvia back in 2010. Not only was the leaked video clearly a private moment among friends, not meant for the world to see, but salvia is also a legal drug here in California; to me, that’s a non-issue.
More recently, she dropped jaws everywhere for her suggestive gestures during her 2013 VMA performance involving Robin Thicke and a foam finger. It’s probably one of her more wild moments, but it’s still less explicit in my opinion than Michael Jackson’s one-time signature move.
Miley Cyrus has not broken the law or gone to rehab like other former Disney starlets “gone bad,” so why all the hullabaloo?
2. She’s growing up — surprise!
Are there any 20-year-olds who want to be held to the same squeaky-clean standards that they lived under when they were 14? Acting out the way Miley has (arguably) done is something any young person will do once they’re on their own. I saw that firsthand when I left home to go to college, with everybody acting a little crazier than they normally would, and the young Hollywood life is no exception.
It’s also become a bit of a double-standard when compared to other former Disney stars. Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez were lauded for the bravery to participate in the raunch-fest Spring Breakers, while any moderately adult move Miley makes gets her instant criticism. Miley isn’t being given a fair shake and can’t push her image and her art with the same freedom her Disney peers are allowed.
3. She has long been an advocate for justice and equality
For years now, Miley Cyrus has been a vocal supporter for marriage equality, going at least as far back as 2010 with her non-single, album track “My Heart Beats for Love,” years before Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made the world’s knees shake with “Same Love.” She’s also been a consistent participant in charities to fight cancer. Even as someone who uses her fame and fortune to do good in the world, this work barely dents all the negative PR surrounding her and her career.
Sure, Miley has grown up and changed during her time in the spotlight. She has gone from singing for a Disney Channel series to appearing nude in a music video and releasing her first Parental Advisory-marked album in less than 10 years. Her image and her music has grown, but she is still the genuinely good-hearted figure she was during the Hannah years. The fact that Miley has been able to steer clear of destructive temptations, particularly in the young Hollywood scene, and has stayed true to her values proves that she still is a positive role model.
Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz/ Getty Images