MLAL Research Seminar Series Spring 2017
Thursday 6 April 2-3:30pm, MC2-005
Miley Cyrus: When She Shattered Hannah Montana
Vanesa Camacho, PhD student and Language Assistant for Spanish in the School of MLAL
Over the last two decades, mainstream mass media alongside social media are inextricably linked to celebrity culture as a complex array of mechanisms in order to maintain the meta-stability of the dominant ideology through the technologies of gender, sexuality and race by transforming the marked bodies into commodities highly dependent on the binary logic as the heteronormative default setting.
Within this context, the pop star Miley Cyrus started her career as Hannah Montana, that is, the idealised fiction of American white femininity deeply embedded in the Western grid of intelligibility. However, when Cyrus turned to the age of consent, she attempted to move away from that fixed illusion by transitioning into a more fluid identity that rested on virtual simulations of her anatomy aimed to overtly disrupt the heteronormative gaze. Hence my dissertation examines how this celebrity has challenged the Hannah Montana alter ego imposed on her through the incorporation of cultural and prosthetic masculine codes, elements of the ratchet culture and the reversing of the Lacanian being-the phallus position. Furthermore, I also aim to demonstrate how she has partially failed to destabilise the normative gaze for two major reasons. First, the performative display of porn and infantilised values inscribed on her body, and second, Cyrus´s use of black female and male bodies reproducing the fictions of black identities that can be traced back to the capitalist system of the slave plantation inasmuch as she dared to hold the position of power of white male masters, a privilege denied to white women.
Thus, the case of Miley Cyrus proves that the fluidity of her body and subjectivity has created tensions and contradictions that have troubled the normative gaze and consequently, the apparatuses of the mainstream mass media have deployed its Western classificatory system in order to undermine Cyrus´s active intervention in the counter-production of her marked morphology. Indeed, to borrow the terminology of the Spanish philosopher Beatriz Preciado this pop star has mutated into a pharmacopornographic subject as an example of the workings of the third regime of capitalism in the 21st century Western societies. Yet notwithstanding the embedded bedrock of heteronormativity, Miley Cyrus is the embodiment of how it is possible to produce the body and identity within the continuum rather than the violent binary system and the obstacles that female celebrities face when they try to step out of the mould.