#TURNDOWN4WHAT

Miley Ray Cyrus is a hot topic these days – and we all know why. From her atrocious VMA performance to her edgy and hypersexual new style, Miley has officially worked her way to the top of the gossip list. This new lifestyle she appears to have is evident on her Twitter profile and feed.

This is her header:

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Screenshot taken by author.

And her profile picture is, of course, partially nude:

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Screenshot taken by author.

When operating on social media, it is all about how you present yourself, whether that is via your words or photos that you may post. Miley presents her new self strongly, most likely in part to help shed her previous Hannah Montana image. Miley’s new habit of running around naked with her tongue sticking out is, to most, kind of gross. Miley is participating in this weird distortion of her body that Amy Dobson calls “grotesque” in her work,  “The ‘Grotesque Body’ in Young Women’s Self Presentation on MySpace.” Characteristics of grotesqueness include protruding or bulging limbs and general overemphasis of the body, emphasizing bodily fluids, sticking out one’s tongue, an open mouth, and twisting of facial features. Miley definitely represents multiple of these, and likes to show off her grotesque body shots on her Twitter feed.

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Screenshot taken by author.

This was accompanied by this tweet, referring to drinking and partying, which Dobson includes in her definition of grotesque representation:

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Screenshot taken by author.

Miley also posts photos that Dobson would call “heterosexy.” This term she defines as a feminine sexuality that is “aligned with a specific gendered and heterosexual aesthetic, derivative of both ‘traditional’ femininity…and mainstream heterosexual pornography…” Basically, when Miley posts a photo like this…

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Screenshot taken by author.

…she is appealing to a straight, male audience that will appreciate her image as sexy or beautiful. Although these two distinctive ways of representing yourself appear to fall on different ends of the spectrum, they actually go hand in hand, as evidenced by Miley’s photos. It is possible to represent yourself in these two different ways, perhaps because of how different they are. They may allow you to present multiple sides of yourself, instead of pigeonholing representations of women on social media to a specific stereotype. Dobson acknowledges the gaping difference between them, and says that they have a different type of audience and a different effect. While heterosexy photos are posted with the intention of getting positive feedback from men, grotesque images are more about the actual subject of the photo and request feedback of any kind from all audiences. Since our social media presence is part of our identity, it follows that we would need feedback of any kind, whether negative or positive, to affirm who we are in the offline world.

With all this talk about Miley, it is indisputable that she is considered a famous celebrity. In their work, “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,”Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd give some scholarly definitions of the word celebrity, which they declare is actually performed by someone and that it is not a word defined by its conventional use as a noun. They use Graeme Turner’s scholarly definitions of celebrity, which are:

“(1) celebrity as a way that people are represented and talked about; (2) a process by which a person is turned into a commodity; and (3) an aspect of culture which is constantly being reinscribed and reformulated.”

Miley represents the first definition in that she is currently on everyone’s gossip reel. She is constantly being talked about and to, regardless of whether she is receiving praise or negative comments. Here is an example of both, which were responses from fans and haters to her photo above tagged #TurnDown4WHAT:

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Screenshot taken by author.

 Miley also represents the second definition. On the one hand, she helps promote brands like Beats by Dre, EOS, and Tom Ford, all of which can be spotted in her music video, We Can’t Stop. While product placement and brand sponsorship are both markers of celebrity performance, it is important to note that Miley Cyrus has become a brand in and of herself. People aren’t just watching her music videos and buying her tracks because they like her music; they’re doing it because it’s Miley! This is another marker of what it means for Miley to perform celebrity. She has been turned into a hypersexual, topless, tongue-bearing commodity that is selling extremely well.

Miley’s Twitter account is written in her vernacular, and whether it is actually her or a ghostwriter is almost irrelevant. Twitter is just one of the many platforms she and her team are using to market Miley Cyrus as a brand, one that is the polar opposite of the Hannah Montana franchise from when we were younger.

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