I’ve written before about our overwhelming societal fears of change, and since then I’ve found yet another applicable example: Miley Cyrus.
If you haven’t been following pop culture news as of late, you might’ve missed that Cyrus released her new song “Flowers” and its accompanying music video on Jan. 12, 2023. And as often occurs, the fan theories immediately started circulating on TikTok. As an avid user myself, I got sucked into the saga pretty quickly. Of course, the nature of the For You Page is to continuously curate content similar to that of which I’ve interacted with previously. Once I watched one video, approximately one million more came up. Thus, it’s been occupying a significant portion of my mind this week. And with that, I’ve come to the conclusion that we still hate change as a society – something that is evident through our interactions and interpretations of child stars growing up.
For those in our Daily Campus readership not as chronically online as I am – though I envy you greatly – I can catch you up and give a quick summary of recent Cyrus happenings here.
Cyrus announced the release date for “Flowers” on Dec. 31, 2022, while hosting NBC’s “New Year’s Eve Party” with Dolly Parton. Upon release, the song quickly became a hit. Because this is an opinion column, I can agree with my fellow listeners here as well – it’s incredibly catchy, signaling an exciting new era for Cyrus. She certainly isn’t Hannah Montana anymore, which should be something to embrace – but more on that later.
But the TikToks I’ve been obsessively watching all focus more on the background and apparent drama behind the song. In essence, the lyrics of “Flowers” both reference Cyrus’s relationship with ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, and are a twist on Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” which Hemsworth allegedly dedicated to her once. Furthermore, the song was released on Hemsworth’s birthday, and in the music video, Cyrus allegedly dons a suit similar to the one Hemsworth wore to the 2019 “Avengers” premiere – a reportedly tense night for the then-couple.
Of course, much of this is unconfirmed. It could all just be internet gossip. I’m fully aware that citing MTV and a teen magazine isn’t what most people immediately think of when they think of credibility – but the rumors are not what I want to focus on here. There is a bigger picture regarding development that I’ll happily highlight, while saving the “tea” and borderline-conspiracy-theories for my own enjoyment.
If you’re around my age, i.e. a 20-something Gen Z who grew up online, you probably remember the 2013 VMAs performance from Cyrus and Robin Thicke. In my memory and evaluations, this was the performance at the peak of the “we hate Miley Cyrus” pop culture movement, especially as it occurred the same day the “Wrecking Ball” music video was released. Both were controversial to say the least, and it drew a significant line between Cyrus while on Disney Channel, and Cyrus post-Disney.
Much of the criticism and backlash Cyrus received during this point in her career came from the fact that she started on Disney Channel as an extremely prominent child star. Hannah Montana – the show, the music, the concerts and even just the character herself – is special to a lot of people. So many of us grew up with her. And when something is special to people, they want it to remain the same forever.
However, this is not a realistic expectation to have. Human development does not occur in such a way that children merely age into larger versions of themselves at 13 years old. Everything about us changes developmentally, particularly in the period of adolescence during which Cyrus first rose to fame. So why do we expect our child stars to stay the same when we don’t expect the same of ourselves, or of the general population?
All in all, we’ve seen Cyrus through many eras – ranging from Hannah Montana to potentially throwing shade at her ex-husband via new music – and this is something we should appreciate, rather than hate. The fact that Cyrus has opened so much of her life to us should be enough, without rampant criticism of how she chooses to move forward.
It’s important to keep in mind that, just as you or I are no longer our 13-year-old selves, someone who was thrust into the spotlight at 13 is probably not going to be exactly the same even a year later – let alone 17 years later – even if they “grew up” on screen. And this is okay! It’s hard to be in the public eye to such an extreme – and as the masses, we make it harder by criticizing their every move. This applies to Cyrus, just as it applies to every other child star we idolize in America. People change. It’s really not that serious.