If we think about the top celebrities who have an extremely active and popular online presence, one of the names, I guarantee, would be the infamous, the notorious, one and only, Miley Cyrus. According to New York Daily News, Miley is one of America’s worst role models; according to Daily Mail, Cyrus is the worst role model for children, “beating Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes to the title” (Whitelocks, P.1). Don’t worry, I’m not picking Miley Cyrus as my celebrity’s presence analysis. Instead, I did something else. I re-performed Cyrus’ typical picture and audaciously made it my profile picture for 5 days – it was surprisingly excruciatingly painful all the while very amusing. I absolutely loathed myself for following through with my crazy idea, but altogether loved reading my Friends’ comments and ‘trolls.’ I’m not very sure why, but I did this before the assignment was even posted, almost as a self-experiment. It was late September into early October; at the time, I was reading a lot about Miley’s drug addictions, borderline pornographic photos, crazy family stories, and so forth. So I decided to do what I did and see the reactions. However, in light of this project, in addition, a few days later, I created a photo-shopped image of me standing on stage with Beyonce as the third member of the Destiny’s Child ‘comeback’ (which obviously, I made up. They ain’t coming back). The results were as I hypothesized – a lot of friendly hate comments for the Cyrus photo and some ‘LOLs’ and ‘HAHAHAHAs’ for the Beyonce one.
Screenshot taken by myself; personal Facebook profile
Screenshot taken by myself; personal Facebook profile
The Cyrus photo probably had one of the fastest growing ‘likes’ I’ve ever received, ending with a large 132 likes. The latter one, not so much – generally Friends were amused, but nothing too shocking in their eyes, and I ended up with 55 likes, just under half of the Cyrus photo. Just a typical college senior bored in class, apparently. Ironically, the Cyrus photo, which took no effort but a hairdo (no photoshop, no editing) got so many remarks. I was a bit hesitant (okay, that’s a lie), was extremely hesitant (but also excited) to make this drastic change, mainly because of the reputation that Miley has. Now through the use of the readings, I was better able to then look back at those comments and my own perceptions and analyze my earlier observations.
Cyrus fits into Amy Dobson’s description on The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self presentation on MySpace of grotesque: “Open orifices, particularly mouths, are central to grotesque bodily representation,” (8). Dobson also describes that “the grotesque body protrudes, bulges, sprouts and branches off” (8), and both characteristics are key traits in most of Miley Cyrus’ photos (as we all know).
Source: E! Online
I thought that if I could do the signature face and hair but cover up my body, it was help with the grotesqueness of the photo and therefore, as Dobson would name it, be considered ‘hetero-sexy,’ namely “shyness [and] coyness” (6). Unfortunately, that did not help with much. Still, my friends reverted back to remembering Cyrus’ typical photos and related it directly to mine.
Screenshot taken from personal profile
As seen above, comments on the Cyrus photo was pertaining to her and how extravagant she is, therefore making me ridiculous to imitate her. My photo for Beyonce, however, were comments more pertaining to me.
In the Beyonce-related photo, I attempted to be more intentional at being ‘hetero-sexy.’ Hands in the air, heels, wearing a black fitted dress, next to two celebrities; and yet the attention it received was half the amount compared to an imitation of a grotesque photo of Cyrus. It made me really question the amount of attention we give and for what reasons; do we get more thrill out of these grotesque, dehumanizing photos of women revealing semi-pornographic photos of themselves onto the Web? Do we not value coyness as flirtiness as much as we used to? To be honest, after these analyses, I think that at the end of the day, we find more amusement out of these ridiculous, grotesque photos and give more than needed attention to them, thus cultivating this sort of unending cycle. Eventually this cycle becomes the identity of the celebrity, and, as Giddens points out, in Sarah Banet-Weiser’s Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube, “identity is a “project of the self,”” and the self “relies on media and other cultural spaces as a way to be “self-reflexive” and constantly work on…” (6). Therefore, in a sense, we become the perpetrators of the celebrity’s self, and perpetrator of each others’ selves.
At the end of all this, I felt a huge relief when I changed my profile picture to a more ‘normal’ photo; I felt like I was returning to my online presence as myself again. It came at a price, however. This closeness and realness of social media has made my online presence and offline presence conjoin for those who know me offline as well. My friends began calling me ‘Miley’ outside of Facebook settings and even went so far as to call me Miley on a photo she uploaded tagging me at a restaurant over dinner.
Screenshot taken by user; Facebook profile
Ultimately, in this short post and with very much lacking information, I am unable to fully analyze why my Cyrus photo got so much more attention and feedback than my Beyonce photo did. But strangely enough (and this is just a personal take), I mildly understood why people may possibly give more attention to the former. Through this audacious change on my photo, as Banet-Weiser puts it, “self-disclosure in one context can be empowering for girls…” (21), and I, in the week of choosing to imitate Miley felt empowered and I think all those who commented, jokes and all, resonated with me to some extent. Having such a certain online presence as Beyonce, who society all calls goddess, or sexy, or the ilk, and Miley, who society refers to as grotesque, failure, and slut, is a very powerful thing, because our social networks reach people we cannot even contact through the phone at times. This is a study that truly interests me, and, if time allowed it, even in the future, is one that I would love to look further into and take a deeper look at hetero-sexy and grotesque presences and the medium of both. I attempted at finding that medium, and I’m not sure I found it; I think my imitation of a grotesque celebrity overpowered the hetero-sexy one and thus I was temporarily labeled under her wings. An online experience that I will not forget, this truly was a learning experience for me.