Hey, pop culture consumers and the world at large, the New York Times wants you to know that there is a distinct difference between Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. In a recent piece by Jon Caramanica, the Times breaks down the professional and personal trajectory between the two rising starlets, comparing their similar beginnings and their increasingly divergent paths. In it, he writes, "Of late, Miley Cyrus, 20, and Selena Gomez, who turned 21 on Monday, have each been pushing back in different ways — Ms. Gomez with her role in the film Spring Breakers, and Ms. Cyrus with her sometimes erratic, sometimes free-spirited tabloid life." He then goes to argue the closer that Miley Cyrus' artistic output mirrors her personal life, the better she becomes.
The word choices used to describe the two pop princesses demonstrate a clear delineation between Cyrus and Gomez. Cyrus's process includes "...feeling out new forms of rebellion, including the touristic appropriation of black culture," while Gomez's is particularly milquetoast. Her newest album, according to Caramanica, is "breathy, wide-ranging, largely toothless."
Caramanica is right to turn to these two young actresses/idols/musicians as a barometer of the pop cultural world, because they are certainly exemplary of the state of pop culture (and, of course, tabloid culture, as well). Both fulfill reasonable, identifiable, relatable roles for young women. Miley, the rambunctious rebel who is using her music to jettison her identity forward; Selena, a biracial young woman who is poised, graceful, and a friend any young girl would want to have; and even, to extend the comparisons of other young stars — Demi Lovato as the impassioned, slightly tortured diva, and Vanessa Hudgens as the laid-back West Coast bohemian who has eschewed music for film.
Yet, for all of their seeming differences, Caramanica neglects to point out the most fascinating thing these two share: their similarities. Miley and Selena are both fervent anti-bullying advocates, loyally devoted to their fans, and welcome all types of listeners. Both of them want the population at large to believe that they are "good" people, even though they make bad choices — and they encourage their devotees to be kind to one another...even when they make bad choices, too.
Young girls respond to both Miley and Selena because the specific personality traits (which are, according to Caramanica, "rebellious" and "safe", respectively) they sell to us are appealing. Where Miley harnesses an inner rebel, Selena embraces a wholesome good time in a pure, unself-conscious way (unlike, say, Taylor Swift, whose self-effacing hand-wringing is what makes her so popular with adults). Yet, it is their open accessibility and honestness, along with their all-inclusive message, that keeps a younger generation hungry. And having today's former Disney stars feel out their own way while also espousing tolerance and respect — no matter how calculated that way may be — is so much better than being subjected to a child star who insincerely sells the virginal act. The music, it appears, is secondary. (NY Times)
Photo: Via Instagram/Miley Cyrus and Twitter/Selena Gomez