Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Miley Cyrus: feminism v post-feminism, exploited or empowered

I don't want these resources to get lost within a very long post, so am re-posting this material. I've considered Gaga in some detail in these terms, and its a key debate you need to address if you're working with a female artist (and arguably even if not!).

The discussion over Cyrus often gets quite frank, mature and sexually explicit treatment. Be aware of this before you click on any of the links below the line.

O'Connor/Cyrus' feminist/post-feminist clash became a major national news story, here on the BBC.

Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares to You (1990) 
The song and video that made this fiery feminist into a global icon; O'Connor was thinking of her recently deceased mother when shooting this (almost) one-take video. [Wiki]

Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball (Terry Richardson, 2013)
[explicit] [chatroulette 138m views] [parody 72m views]
The very obvious influence or intertextuality ended up sparking a flame war with Sinead O'Connor, and this is a good way to get your head round the difference between a feminist stance (O'Connor: male bosses and directors exploiting Cyrus for the male gaze and the profit this generates) and a post-feminist take (Cyrus: I'm a self-assured young female comfortable in expressing my sexuality, and in control of my own image, which I see as being a positive role model).

The clip features close-up footage of Cyrus emotionally singing to the camera against a white backdrop, having been inspired by the music video for "Nothing Compares 2 U" by SinĂ©ad O'Connor.[37]With 19.3 million views in the first twenty-four hours of its release, the clip held the record for having the most views in that time-frame across Vevo platforms.[46] The first-day viewing record was surpassed by the video for "Anaconda" by Nicki Minaj in August 2014, which received 19.6 million views upon its premiere.[47] After reaching 100 million views in six days, "Wrecking Ball" also set the record for being the fastest music video to attain a Vevo certification. In doing so, Cyrus beat the previous record of thirty-seven days, established by her music video for previous single "We Can't Stop".[48] The video has now received over 770 million views on YouTube and is the sixteenth most viewed video on the site.[49] A director's cut of the music video was released on September 24, which features only the close-up footage of Cyrus singing against the white backdrop. [Wiki]
Madonna remains THE reference point for female artists. This writer is firm: Miley is no male gaze passive victim.
Cyrus has become a figure of fascination not just for the gossip/celeb mags, music mags and tabloids, but also the 'highbrow' quality press. Her status can be summed up by the fact that she has at times had the most-watched channel on YouTube. The following links are all from just one, The Guardian, which has a dedicated Miley hub where you can browse the lengthy archive of Miley-related articles; I've picked out just a few:

Collaboration with Aussie psychedelic veterans Flaming Lips expresses her arty side [NB: features some nudity]; a second view;

Cyrus' VMA twerking with Thicke leads to pressure group calling for pledge to ban any such content in future;

Feminist columnist Zoe Williams considers Gaga's banned video an ad for rape, and points up Cyrus has worked with the same director - Terry Richardson;

As ever nothing new - Madonna Studies was a degree programme decades ago - the news that Cyrus is to be subject of a new degree course;

Touchy subject [NB: explicit sexual references, including in quote below], this article analyses how the likes of Cyrus have moved female self-pleasure on from simple male gaze/gratification territory:
In a 2011 interview with CNN, Kathleen Hanna, feminist leader of Bikini Kill and now the Julie Ruin, questioned the purpose of Katy Perry's sexual presentation on Perry's 2008 debut single I Kissed a Girl. "The whole thing is like, 'I kissed a girl so my boyfriend could masturbate about it later,' said Hanna. "It's disgusting. It's exactly every male fantasy of fake lesbian porn." [Guardian]
I've been reading the Madonna biography by Lucy O'Brien (it has its critics!); Madonna is quoted explaining that the key to the outrageous sexual aspects of her work was to reclaim control over the narrative of sexuality for women; to undermine the agency of male perception by refusing to bow to expected norms. If you're serious about getting to grips with the debate over female performers' sexual representations, you really do need to have some grasp of what Madonna did and why!

Gaylene Gould compares Lauren Hill, who quit the music business as she claimed that she couldn't evade the manipulation of male bosses and didn't want this filtered, damaging message impacting on her young female fanbase, with Cyrus' proclamations of being feminist:
while Cyrus was proclaiming, "I feel like I'm one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything", Hill, this year, faced the very real fear of working out a three-month prison sentence
Cyrus, and the broader issue of whether such explicit expressions of sexuality can be feminist (and whether 'post-feminism' is actually a form of feminism or not), sharply divides opinion; this interactive Guardian infographic provides quotes from each celeb pictured, with Perry's highlighted here as an example:
Guardian interactive infographic.
There are many opinion pieces on Cyrus, and the issues of representation and female image she raises: 80s icon Annie Lennox (who caused shock and uproar with her skinhead and male clothing) hates to see such 'pornographic' videos; here a panel reflects on the O'Connor/Cyrus spat; the Guardian actually ran an editorial on the issue; two more writers respectively take up the positions that she is 'exploited' or 'empowered'Charlotte Church (whose treatment at the hands of tabloids and leering DJs like Chris Moyles when still a young teen I've blogged on in the MediaReg blog) condemns the exploitation of young female performers in very strong terms.

These articles are great for getting deeper into audience, comparing how different age ranges of female audiences view Cyrus: teensyoung women Cyrus' age [18-24]; this opinion piece argues that teens and tweens are not so impressed with Cyrus; Daisy Buchanan argues we need more icons like the 'riot grrrls' Bikini Kill.

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