Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Miley Cyrus on SNL

Finally freed from the Disney shackles, Miley Cyrus hosted Saturday Night Live last week.

This comes with interesting timing, on the heels of her father's embarrassing claims that Hannah Montana "destroyed his family", and that he was "nail[ed] ... to the cross" by the media because of Miley's so-called scandals. Moreover, the biggest story of the week was whatever hedonistic nonsense Charlie Sheen was doing or spouting. Is Miley herself possibly on that path to Anna Nicole Smith's fate? Are we overreacting? A post-minor, post-Disney appearance for Cyrus like SNL allows us to judge for ourselves via the infallible barometer of sketch comedy.

Saturday Night Live certainly didn't dodge the question: Miley played Lindsay Lohan in the obligatory Charlie Sheen sketch.

This was quite apropos for me. At Lohan's high water mark, she also hosted Saturday Night Live, coming across quite well. I can't help but mention the absurdly gratuitous skit where she plays a newly developed Hermione, giving the other wizards (and harmless older pervs like my dad) chances to ogle.

Besides the gorgeousness, the lasting impression from that episode was just how bright Lindsay's future looked. She seemed almost incapable of the self-harm that she has become associated with today.

Cyrus' appearance is a similar coming out party. Like Lohan, we have a sense of contrast: from cute Disney teenage teenager (Lohan in The Parent Trap, Cyrus in early Hannah) to attractive young woman. She passed my dad's litmus test, with a "she's certainly grown up." When she's the one that plays Fergie in a skit, it's hard to deny.

Saturday Night Live played to Cyrus' strengths, mainly by letting her sing in quite a few skits, including her monologue. The best sketch of the night was Miley playing herself in a commercial for the Disney Channel Acting School. (Yes, that's Kenan Thompson as Raven Symone. We're still apparently in the golden age of "the black guy on SNL also dresses up as all black women.)

It was not only a parody of Disney acting per se, but also replicated the exaggerated gestures of those Disney PSAs that are always on the network. Disney acting rules include loudness ("everybody has to be the loudest person in the room") and the "pause, then dis", which I'll probably never be able to unsee. I think I lost it completely on "entering on a scooter", which was a goofy, specific trope of Hannah season one Lilly Truscott.

One of the actors in the school is planning to apply for Wizards of Waverly Place, so Raven suggests a "bright pink hoody with a big-ass daisy on it". A Harper shout-out!

Still, the show couldn't ignore all of the Miley scandal hubbub. Miley addressed this in her monologue, a song and dance number lampooning the minor nature of her crimes. "My scandals are more like 'Miley and some girl were both chewing on the same Twizzler, someone took a photo and now it's all over the internet.'" Really happened. With the sarcastic chorus of "I'm sorry, I'm not perfect", I'm immediately reminded of Hannah Montana. Didn't she do "Nobody's Perfect"? Isn't Miley still just the girl trying to find out who she is from "Just Like You"?

And that's what is so fascinating about this. Sure, those Hannah Montana songs are generic teenage identity song, which is why they apply so well to Cyrus. But that reinforces the viewpoint that Miley is just doing typical teenage things on a public stage.

It's been my personal thesis on Miley for awhile, so it was nice to see it in song form. Miley swung around a couple of times on a pole? She took a hit from a bong? She was spotted with a drink in Spain? Do any of these things seem atypical for an eighteen-year-old?

One of my cousins raided the liquor cabinet when she was thirteen, and it was considered little more than a rite of passage. Yet these same family members are quick to label Cyrus a hoe for doing little more than dating older guys. The cognitive dissonance here is staggering.

Even some of the ludicrous overreaction of Billy Ray, who considered a Los Angeles Adopt-A-Highway sign by Athiests United equivalent to "You will now be attacked by Satan", just sounds like the same ludicrous overreactions of my own parents, or my friends' parents. His daughter is growing up and he's scared. It's understandable, but it's not as if anyone could have stayed this adorable forever.

In fact, the surprising thing is how unusually average Miley Cyrus has been, given all of the fame and money. We haven't seen the arrests, or wild benders or DUIs. Ironically, Billy and Tish have likely been quite good parents to Miley, and she's just going through the natural rebellious exploration that is healthy behavior at eighteen. Sure, it's not the impossibly saccharine young adulthood of Miley Stewart, but Miley Cyrus seems to be doing quite well for herself.

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