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Breaking: Miley Cyrus Imperfect Cultural Commentator

This is less a statement on Miley Cyrus than it is on the standards by which some Very Online critics judge celebrities.


Allow me a moment to address the critical matter of Miley Cyrus’s controversial Instagram Live broadcast on Sunday. There’s a point to this exercise, I promise. Also please let it be noted that I have no idea who Cody Simpson is and refuse to Google the answer.

This Buzzfeed explainer on the dust-up is helpful because it walks through Cyrus’s long record of self-identifying as queer before reporting on her comments, illustrating the central narrative at hand: Miley Cyrus, a major LGBT ally, made a major gaffe.

Here’s what she said:

There are good men out there, guys, don’t give up. You don’t have to be gay, there are good people with dicks out there, you just got to find them… I always thought I had to be gay because I just thought, like, all guys are evil, but that’s not true.

The notion that Cyrus “thought” she had to be gay not for lack of attraction to men but for lack of attractive men is obviously problematic from the perspective of LGBT proponents. I’m not actually sure if she was being sincere or flippant, and I’m not actually sure if anyone cared, but the comments did generate a healthy chunk of media coverage from a wide array of outlets.

I generally find her politics to be as misguided as they are boring, but the reason this is worth spending any time on at all is to say the weird standard of ideological perfection to which we hold celebrities is useless. (I also think it’s driven by the fawning coverage celebrities like Cyrus get every time they utter some vaguely progressive statement, but that’s another issue.) It’s true, few celebrities have seemed as impressively woke as Cyrus, who could basically blog for HuffPost.

This is less a statement on Cyrus than it is on the standards by which we judge celebrities. Nobody can meet them, and that’s okay. The incessant felling of stars stems from the reality that all of us are problematic: if the world paid attention to every word said by the wokest of the woke, they, too, would fall short.

In the age of social media, celebrities (and the rest of us) are spilling more of their stupid half-baked, instantaneous musings into the public domain than ever before. This clashes naturally with our expectation that celebrities function as moral leaders. That impacts the way the rest of us—think Carson King, thrust suddenly by a good deed into the limelight—are treated too.

The lesson here is that people are actually fallible, and in the age of social media, where we’re constantly tempted into signaling our virtue, no carefully constructed online or offline presence can withstand time. Because in time, we all fail. Even Miley Cyrus.

(Update: I successfully made it through this post without googling Cody Simpson, who I can only assume is some sort of bad DJ. That is an educated guess based almost exclusively on his decision to wear a beanie indoors.)