For Miley Cyrus and for All the Haters Sasha Pasulka

What kind of decisions would you trust with a 12-year-old?

You’d let her pick out her own clothes for school, probably. She’s old enough to decide what she wants to order for dinner. You’d trust her to decide what color she paints her nails, or what movie she’ll see with her friends, or whether she tries out for volleyball this year. She can decide which instrument she wants to play in band class and what you’ll name the new puppy. A 12-year-old gets to make lots of age-appropriate decisions during the course of her day.

But there are decisions we do not trust 12-year-olds to make. These include decisions such as who to marry, whether or not to have sex with an adult, whether or not to go to school, purchasing alcohol and cigarettes, and joining the Armed Forces.

Our national wisdom forbids 12-year-olds from legally consenting to anything at all. A 12-year-old can’t sign a binding contract. This makes a lot of sense, because we were all 12 once, too, and we recall that we didn’t understand much about the long-term consequences of our actions, and the photo evidence indicates that we shouldn’t have been allowed to choose our own clothes for school after all.

A Life-Changing Decision

Miley Cyrus was 12 years old when she made the decision to take the starring role in Hannah Montana.

She probably understood, at the time, that she was going to be on a television show, and make great money, and possibly sign autographs. She understood that her life was changing.

What she didn’t understand is that she was signing a binding contract with the whole entire world, that they would see her as their belonging, their thing, that her persona would be crowd-sourced by an increasingly connected planet, that the world would put the pieces of her together and tear them apart, over and over and over again, on billboards and for magazines and with video cameras and in Chinese, that there was never going to be an exit clause.

That this thing starts and then it never stops; that they will follow you everywhere; that the fight to define yourself internally, to belong to yourself alone, will be harder than anything you could ever imagine; that the odds are stacked against you; that the young people who win this first lottery are cast immediately into another; that the numbers you won with the first time around are the last to be drawn the next.

That the part of you who so seamlessly inhabits another life on camera, the wiring in your brain that wants to be up and outside of itself, the drive to become something and somebody else, even for just a few minutes, is going to haunt you for the rest of your life.

That this is going to be terrifying. That you are going to have to live through it.

A Note on Compassion

I suspect it takes tremendous courage to be Miley Cyrus. To be fair, it takes tremendous courage to be any teenage woman, and, in an age of Facebook and Twitter, each young woman who makes it through to the other side is a certifiable war hero.

Think back to the first time one of your friends messaged you to say that someone was saying horrible things about you on the Internet. Your heart raced, and you clicked the link. You signed up for everything, you installed anything, you whipped out your credit card – all to discover you’d merely infected your friends with the same spam message.

But for a moment, you were terrified that you’d been betrayed, targeted, that someone had shared something private about you publicly. Your field of vision became narrow, your animal instincts emerged, and you prepared yourself for a fight. It was exhausting, and then it was over.

Now imagine you’d clicked that link and it took you directly to a website where someone was actually saying something mean about you. Maybe it was a stranger, or maybe it was someone you trusted. Maybe it was a photo you thought was safe with your inner circle, a video you didn’t even know was recorded, or a total stranger talking mad smack about your hair. Imagine you’d actually been betrayed.

Imagine that happened every minute of every day for the entirety of your post-pubescent life. Imagine it showed no signs of stopping.

You’d emerge as a war hero, and as a soldier traumatized. Your sense of normalcy would be shattered, your brain and body exhausted from years alert on a battlefield, dodging snipers and wondering where the next bomb will explode. You’d go to a therapist, maybe, a polite, petite woman with two PhDs, and you’d leave her office each week in tears, not because you’d shed layers of pain, but because with each visit you realize that there’s no way she understands, that the pool of humans who have been through what you’ve been through is miniscule, that most of them are still battling these demons, that you cannot scream loud enough to expel the frustration from your body.

Maybe at some point you’d dye your hair.

To Miley

Miley, you blow me away every time you step on stage. Your ability to command a live audience is, and always has been, preternatural. You’re talented and you work damn hard. Anyone who says otherwise has limited experience headlining multiple world tours.

For what it’s worth, I think your hair is stunning now. It highlights your face. I think you have every right to get engaged to a man, to kiss a girl, to wear anything you like to any awards show that extends you an invite. But, Miley, listen – it’s not worth a damn thing. What I think doesn’t matter, and that’s as true of the strangers who adore you as it is of those who’ve imagined they hate you. None of it is based in reality. None of it is based on the whole story. None of it has anything to do with you.

I will leave you, Miley, with a quote taken partially from the inside of your left forearm and attributed also to President Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Image via TwittWeb

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  1. I agree with everything you are saying in regards to stardom, because I see it first hand working in film and television for 16 years. But I am sorry Miley tries to hard to shock people into thinking she is a grown up when in fact she is still a 19 year old teen. The stripper pole thing at a kids award show, the naked online pictures? Please, she needs to just act her age and enjoy her youth and stop trying to appear and act older than she is because being a young only last a short time. I would NOT let my kids buy anything she is selling because that whole Hannah Montana thing was a farce. She was screwing Jonas brothers and doing drugs at 13 yrs old. She is a good singer and actress but she tries to hard to be deep and needs to back away from social media and Hollywood before she becomes a Hollywood burnout like Lindsay.

  2. I’m not a Miley fan, per say, but I don’t believe in bashing other women. We should all be each other’s greatest defenders and fans. We’re all heroes when we wake up everyday and follow our hearts and our gut instincts as opposed to what other people say we ought to be.

    My heart goes out to Miley, because avoiding all the hate she gets on the web (and other forms of media) is near impossible. It’d be too easy to just conform. She’s awesome for staying true to herself.

    We should all stay true to ourselves.

  3. My love for Miley Cyrus, my respect for what she does every damn day, knows no bounds.

  4. This is so great.

  5. I feel like she is trying to find herself because she was never given a chance to do so. We all should have seen this coming. And her hair is dope.

  6. This made me feel like an asshole. Apparently I needed a wake-up call. Thank you.

  7. I agree with the message that the hating has to stop, but I don’t consider her “brave” for chopping off her hair and dying it. She’s brave because she didn’t give a damn about what people thought and did it anyway. I had dark, waist long hair and also chopped it off and painted it bright red. As the good Shania Twain says, the best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun ;)

  8. I am so incredibly grateful for an article that is empathetic and compassionate- especially to artists and celebrities. I watched a documentary today called “Happy” that said that compassion contributes heavily to joy and a longer life. Thank you for spreading that with your words. Beautifully written article- haunting amount of empathy and depth. BRAVO!

  9. I love this message. Who knew I actually needed these words right now. I feel for Miley and always have. I’m the one who is always going left when my haters think I should’ve gone right. So I just may cut and due my hair again or add a new tattoo and not give a flying #%*+!!! Oh to be so free :)

  10. I am really curious as to why there was such a backlash to Miley’s haircut. After Emma Watson cut her hair half the world (me included!) went and copied her, everyone loved it. But for some reason when Miley does the same people think she has lost it! Seriously?
    It continues to amaze me that people out there think that the persona of any famous celebrity we see in the media is anything like the real person deep inside. I know for me (as the average Jill) the persona I have in my daily life is not the person I dream to be inside, why should Miley be any different. I celebrate her strength, her fearlessness and the fact that she is (hopefully) apparently embracing the person she truly is.
    I love her hair, but then I love pixie cuts. I am glad that you wrote this, I think it is important that there are people willing to shout out against the celebrity magazine craziness and stand up to say: ‘actually, I disagree. I think she looks fab.’

  11. Definitely well said!! This may be my favorite article that I’ve read on this site!

  12. YES YES YES! I love all the pro-Miley articles on HelloGiggles. No one seems to be on her side anymore! Why can’t she just experiment and live life like everyone else her age?! There are people doing fare worse things I guarantee you. Did anyone really think she was going to stay the same ‘ole Disney Channel Hannah Montana? Are celebs not allowed to make mistakes and be themselves? Miley probably only does half the crazy (?) things she does because she figures, well people are going to criticize me anyway so I might as well have fun and be reckless and really give them something to talk about. Miley will forever and always have a special place at the top of my “Favorite Celebs” list.

  13. I feel for celebritries in the limelight, especially young women. This was a warm-hearted article. But seriously, does no one else think she looks exactly like Justin Bieber in that photo?

  14. I get incredibly frustrated whenever I read comments on her hair or how she’s dressed about how she’s “trying to be someone she’s not.” I can only assume that these total strangers, many who are grown adults who should know better, really think she’s like Hannah Montana and or Miley Stewart. She didn’t get to be herself growing up. Whether this is the “real” her or a rebellious stage doesn’t matter. She looks fantastic, is clearly trying to figure out who she is and is making her own way. Good for her.

  15. Amen. While I’m not a fan of ms Cyrus, the unbelievable scrutiny and amount of judgement she and other celebrities (especially young, female celebrities) have to go through is ridiculous. The paparazzi/ celebrity culture has made us cross a serious line. Many people believe that just because these people are famous (and basically got to live their dreams/follow their passion) it gives us a right to have a say in their lives. People have been deluded in thinking that we pay for a place in their lives, not just the movie ticket/DVD/concert ticket for their performance. And most of all we have put celebrities so high on a pedestal that we’ve dehumanized them, they’re not longer mere mortals just like us. Which is all fine and dandy when they live up to the picture perfect image but the minute someone messes up and breaks with the norm, breaks with the picture perfect image all judgemental hell breaks loose. Not only is it unfair to the actual celebrities but it’s really a symptom for the way things are for us as a society. Especially since young female celebrities seem to be getting so much more of the scrutiny. The scrutiny they face on a public level, is a scrutiny many of us face on a more personal level. The many comments and articles on celebrities who have ‘fallen from Grace’ are straight out bullying and I guess what I’m trying to say is that it sends out a signal that judging and ridiculing others and their mistakes or otherness is ok. In a time where teenage suicides due to bullying are at a tragic high it’s extremely concerning to say the least. Not to mention the whole ‘legal stalking’ part, people who get to yell at you, stalk you, endager you and sometimes your kids all for a picture to sell to magazines. I’m pretty sure if that happened to one of us, the person would get arrested or a restraining order at the very least.
    Thanks for writing this. Your beautiful, compassionate final words for Ms Cyrus remind me of Mother Teresa’s poem Anyway. http://www.dbooth.org/guat2000/small/teresa.htm

  16. I love the message.

    It’s also important to note that Miley Cyrus has a famous dad (Billy Ray), and that in all of these instances it is parents who make the ultimate decision, and sign the contract. They may do it at the behest of their kids, but they still have the power to stop it– and in this case Miley had the advantage of a parent who went through an admittedly brief but kinda nutso level of popularity when she made that decision.

    This doesn’t change the facts of anything said in this article, however.

  17. You have beautifully articulated what I have been saying for the past couple of years. These children become celebrities, they’re built up and adored, then it becomes cool to hate/bash them. Miley was told how to look for years – why shouldn’t she have a little rebellion of her own? Isn’t a radical haircut better than getting wasted in clubs every weekend? And btw, I LOVE the bleached pixie on her.

  18. I’ve been a fan for years now and IIt’s hate that people judge her like they do. She’s an adult! Let her live her life!

  19. Really well written, and although I have no strong feelings about Miley one way or another, this is a fantastic and encouraging post. Ignore the peanut gallery.

  20. I love this :) I think she’s an absolute badass for what she did.

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