Reporting Courtney E. Smith
No kidding. Following the release of comeback single “We Can’t Stop” and the twerk seen ’round the world at the MTV VMAs, it seems like the entire Internet is abuzz with the question: What Is Miley Cyrus Thinking? Miley: The Movement aims to answer that query, straight from Cyrus’ own mouth, when it airs Wednesday (October 2) at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
MTV started following Cyrus back in February of 2013 for the doc — before she cut off her hair, before the forthcoming Bangerz was a topic of conversation, before the world knew she was working with Pharrell and had ditched her longtime record label (the Disney-owned Hollywood Records) and manager. But the focus here ends up being the time period between the June 3rd release of “We Can’t Stop” to her August 25th VMA performance and its aftermath.
The documentary’s set-up is a smart reminder that Cyrus has been in the public eye for most of her life. She’s been on television since she was 9 years old and her massive successes, both in acting and music, have helped create a perception of who she is: Hannah Montana. Cyrus perceives a double standard; Lady Gaga, for example, is clearly quite different than she was as a child. So why does the public demand that Cyrus be a kid forever?
Her mother, Tish Cyrus, sets up a conflicting idea when she explains that all this time in the public eye, including growing up with her famous father Billy Ray Cyrus, helped Miley understand the difference between performance and private life. The young lady herself, in diametric opposition to that sentiment, repeatedly tells MTV’s cameras that what we are seeing is “the bad bitch I really am,” that she is working hard to make sure every element of what she presents is “cool” and that even when things look weird it’s all a part of her plan. So it’s unclear: is Cyrus putting on a performance, or showing us the real and raw 21-year-old version of herself?
One thing that is very clear, however, is that while Cyrus cares about her fans, there isn’t going to be a lot of lip service about how this is “for the fans.” This time, it’s for her.
The doc also offers insight into her new album, with Cyrus listing off a who’s who of hip-hop collaborators including Future, French Montana, will.i.am, Nelly and Juicy J, with production work courtesy of pop hit master Dr. Luke in addition to Pharrell and Mike Will Made It. Pharrell’s presence in the documentary elevates Cyrus’ credibility a touch. She’s gotten the same nods and comments endorsing her authenticity from Jay Z, in his Twitter Q&A, and Kanye West, according to Miley her Rolling Stone cover.
And, of course, also in the mix of Miley lovers is Britney Spears. MTV cameras capture the two meeting in the studio, as well as a taste of Spears recording some sassy vocals for the Bangerz track “SMS.” This leads to a filmed interview with the duo in front of the studio soundboard, giving Miley an opportunity to explain her vision for her upcoming VMA performance: make history and be memorable, like Britney did in a number of her performances at the VMAs and beyond. Cyrus uses a lot of different phrases to get the idea across in the doc, saying she wants to create a fun moment, a “strategic hot mess,” something different and not the same as everyone else. The real way to describe Cyrus’s vision for the VMAs would be to say she set out to be the water cooler moment. And she clearly succeeded.
The difference is sex. Cyrus talks about the infamous Madonna-Britney-Christina kiss as the kind of moment she wants to create, but she doesn’t mean that in the sense that she wants to titillate the male psyche. She just wants people to be talk about her.
“But I’m coming out in pigtails, looking like a giant adult baby, basically. [My dancers are] doing really naughty stuff,” Cyrus said in an interview taped after the VMAs aired. “That’s obviously funny. If I really want[ed] to come out and do a raunchy sex show, I wouldn’t have been dressed as a damn bear.”
When she puts it that way, all the angry Americans who registered complaints with the FCC about her twerking, grinding and thrusting seem more than a little silly. In fact, they’re doing exactly what she wanted: elevating the moment, and by extension her, to infamy.