Ripped Off & Pissed Off

Words: Faith Thurnwald
Artwork: Faith Thurnwald
I love Miley Cyrus. I want you to remember this as I continue; I love Miley Cyrus. Plastic Hearts, Miley Cyrus’s seventh studio album truly is a pop-punk masterpiece. But in creating this work of art Miley Cyrus has expertly exploited third wave feminism, and underground artists in one foul swoop. The image she ‘creates’ is not only unoriginal, but also thoroughly unproductive for feminism. The image in which Cyrus sells is the marketable aesthetic of the angry third wave feminist: the riot grrrl movement, pushed onto the mainstream market in consumer friendly, bite size chunks. Essentially Cyrus has taken a political ideology and aesthetic, dressed it up a little and sold it into the mainstream market as her own.


Miley Cyrus exploits the 90’s riot grrl archetype: punk girls screaming about nonconformity. For Cyrus this image is just another way to reinvent herself and stay relevant, but it’s an insult to the riot grrrl movement and to women who genuinely hone this aesthetic today. Cyrus dabbles with different identities; from the good girl gone bad image of Can’t be tamed (2010) to the hippie stoner vibes of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Pets (2015). It is evident this reinvention process is a clever marketing ploy. However as Cyrus explodes into the mainstream with her new aesthetic she disregards underground artists who were already doing it. Artists such as Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers and Annabel Liddell of Miss June are examples of this.


While Cyrus profits from stolen ‘vibes’, underground artists are still living by the ethos that Cyrus is busy exploiting. For Cyrus may be currently selling this punk feminist image, but has she ever actually practiced what she preaches, and can any of her lyrics actually align with the image she is trying to sell? While Cyrus does sing seductively about touching herself, evoking a certain feminist notion of how little one really does need a man, none of this is exactly controversial anymore, and Cyrus appears to simply be hopping on trend with whatever the latest mainstream, liberal western (and white) feminist agenda she can. As a big fan of the DIY culture, I don’t take pleasure in criticizing this topic, but it is just regurgitation. For Cyrus did not invent touching herself, casual sex or punk rock, yet she seeks to exploit and profit from it.


This ideology and the aesthetic that is tied into it, is about nonconformity and rebelling against the current political climate that women have to swallow, and this is exactly why Cyrus has no business in it. It is anarchy and it is underground, it’s about screaming about injustices that Cyrus would have never felt.


Plastic Hearts is not a ground breaking album, it is not a new look, nor is it a new sound. The album cover looks like a 90’s zine one might spot on their way to see Bikini Kill actually breaking some ground (or glass ceilings).

Although Plastic Hearts includes house names such as Joan Jett, it does not make it authentic, it’s about 30 years too late for that. For this has been done before, Plastic Hearts is just a more marketable take on the messy grit of bands like L7 and Bikini Kill, screaming feminist anthems with lyrics like; ‘white boy, don’t laugh, don’t cry, just die’! (White Boy 1992) and ‘don’t need your atti-fuckin-tude boy, don’t need your dick to fuck’ (Don’t Need You 1992)… is it evident that I’m a bit of a fan?


I can’t even say Cyrus has taken a dying movement and put it out into the mainstream to revive it. Because it was never dying. Annabel Liddell of Miss June and Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers are very much alive examples of this. Both Liddell and Taylor rock blonde mullets, are lead singers of their bands, and have both commented on Cyrus’s hypocrisy. Annabel Liddell fronts the band Miss June, an almost indefinable punk/noise/no wave New Zealand band. Liddell rocks a tomboy meets punk bitch aesthetic, as seen by Miley Cyrus as of late, who (knowingly or not) ripped it off. Amy Taylor fronts the Aussie pub rock band, known for their affinity with the word ‘cunt’ and their bogan next door appeal. Taylor is a venue booker and an Aussie icon, she has also been ripped off, and I’d bet my left tit that she’s also pissed off.


Both Liddell and Taylor perform in a way true to the punk genre: raw and real angry. Their platform is a means for release for both artists, where rage meets stage. When watching both women perform their authenticity within their identity is evident, and I simply cannot say the same for Miley Cyrus.