Fame and the Fallen Woman – by Lucy Watson

mileyAs embarrassing as this is to admit now, when I left school, I really wanted to be famous. I was a dedicated actor, and then realising I had the looks of a character/comedic actor (ie. I didn’t look like a model) I turned my hand at comedy.

I had a dream. I wanted to be on TV. And then in a movie. I felt I’d have “made it” when I walked on stage at the Conan O’Brien show, and they played, “Isn’t She Lovely”. Not so famous that I would be on Letterman. Just the kind of actor who was in at least one cool, indie, cult film. So movie geeks like me would know my name, but crazy stalkers didn’t go through my rubbish bins. A noble enough, albeit stupidly aspirational dream.

But now, fifteen years later, I look back, and I’m relieved. I’m relieved that it never happened to me. That I got to go through the misadventure of my 20s and come out of it without my exploits being documented by the tabloids. Because the thing is, once you enter that wheel of fortune called fame, you can’t control it. You start out a small fish in a big pond, but if the opportunities keep presenting themselves, and you hope they do, you will keep leaping on them. Higher and higher. You might want to just be a little movie actor, who is respected by their peers, but “the game” isn’t set up to work that way.

“The game” is driven by attention, and column inches. It’s driven by scandal, and sauce. So fame is fine if your life isn’t worth printing stories about. But if you’re young, and doing crazy things, like most young people do,  you can find that one wrong turn, one tabloid interview with an ex lover, one little public incident, and the whole thing can spiral out of control. Just ask Winona Ryder, or Britney Spears, or Lindsay Lohan. Ask just about anyone who ever appeared on X Factor in the UK. Your life becomes the story, and instead of the fairytale rise to success, the narrative has changed to something much darker.

But here’s the thing I don’t get when I look at the baffling outcry about Miley Cyrus’s supposed wayward behaviour, or Rhianna’s party girl antics. Aren’t they just 20 something girls, doing what 20 something girls do? What’s the big deal? People in their 20s party. They do things they’re not supposed to do. They act like they’re invincible, and do stupid thing they’ll later regret. They test the boundaries, and learn their limits. Only these girls also have millions of dollars, and invitations to the best parties in town.

I certainly had my fair share of big nights, and crazy times. Anyone who lived through the late 90s and early 00s, who went to a few dance parties, who lived in the UK for an extended period of time, and who likes to live their life does. And I didn’t have access to what these girls have access to. I find it really hard to judge them, knowing that in their position – money, fame, beauty, loads of free time, VIP privileges – I can’t say with any certainty I’d have been any better behaved.

I wonder that the exploits of their male counterparts are not documented in such detail. Why is it such a crime for a young woman to be enjoying her 20s? What should she be doing? Staying home with a cup of tea, and knitting?

It seems strange to me, that in 2013, it is still newsworthy that a young woman would go to nightclubs, party a bit too hard, get a wacky haircut, and wear deliberately provocative clothes. Almost every girl I know did the same. Should we all be tainted as fallen women? Most of us have professional jobs, and a lot of us have families now. We’re hardly irredeemable sinners. And yet even now, I’m anxious about writing this. Lest I be judged.

But perhaps this is the very thing that Miley Cyrus is rebelling against. This very idea – that women should be well behaved. And the fact that it is still a thing allows her to get talked about on every form of social media all over the world. Like or hate her performance on at the VMAs. She got you talking. And you, me, and everyone else is waiting to see if any more of the wheels are going to fall off Miley’s fame-train. Because the only thing “the game” likes more than a speeding train, is one that crashes in a ball of flames.

But for the time being, I say let Miley cut her hair, shake her booty, stick her tongue out and break free from the burden of being a Disney princess. Let her misbehave, and do a few crazy things. It may not always be classy, but hey – let she who is without sin cast the first wine glass.

I may have done a few naughty things in my time, but they’re my stories, they’re my battle scars. And I know for damn sure that I won’t be lying on my death bed wishing I’d experienced less of life, and had less of a good time.

I guess I’m just glad that, apart from a few gems buried deep in my Facebook, my photos are locked in a box at the bottom of the storage cage of my apartment. And that’s where they’re gonna stay.

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  1. Rebecca
    August 27, 2013

    I don’t disagree with this, except to point out that what Miley’s doing now IS being a little girl, not leaving it behind. Kids get to scream LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME WITHOUT MY PANTS ON without consequences; women do not.

  2. editor
    August 27, 2013

    But she’s not a woman yet. That’s the point. She’s pushing the boundaries and being young. Albeit in a tasteless, unclassy way!

  3. Scootie
    August 27, 2013

    Yeah, if you put it in context that she’s 20 years old, and has not had a ‘normal’ 20 years, so like all young people with unusual socialization on growing up, she has some behaviors of a younger person and some of an older person.

  4. Sam
    August 28, 2013

    Miley may be rebelling against the idea that women should be well behaved, but she is also conforming to the idea that women should make themselves sexually available to men. Her self-promotion only attests to this. Miley is anything but unique. She is in fact just another in a long list of young women who have swallowed the idea that for a woman to succeed she must present herself as sexually voracious and a complicit target for the male gaze.

  5. editor
    August 28, 2013

    I agree. The oversexualisation of women in music is another enormous kettle of fish. I guess I wasn’t specifically referring to the VMAs, but rather the whole “what’s Miley doing, cutting her hair, partying, being wild” narrative. I know I did the same thing when I was 20. Without the gyrating – granted.

    1. Mike
      August 28, 2013

      Sure, but you didn’t party like it was on sale for $19.99 in some act of self promotion. Whereas Miley, in this case did. And that is an important distinction to make. If she was really so “rebellious” she would have dressed up like Daria (MTV late 90s style) and refused to perform.

      And let’s not forget which tree this apple fell from.

      If only Bill Hick’s proposed show, “Let’s hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus” had been successfully produced. I jest of course, because in reality, there are no shortage of low talent hacks willing to suck Satan’s appendage in their quest for empty fame, it just wouldn’t have been Miley selling out/trying too hard/ironically conforming in her underwear on stage.

  6. fatimah Ali
    July 9, 2014

    Great. …

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