The Rockwood Files: A Letter to Miley Cyrus

rockwoodfiles2-205x300Dear Miley Cyrus,

Oh, honey. I’m not even sure what to say. Like the millions of people who’ve seen the video of your performance at the Music Video Awards show, I’m still a little stunned.

At first, I chalked it up to another celebrity behaving badly. Happens all the time, right?

But then I saw a news interview with a so-called “media and image expert,” and he said something that made this mama’s blood boil. When asked about your nearly naked, pelvic-grinding, tongue-thrusting, foam finger-riding performance, he said that, while you may not have won an actual Music Video Award, the huge reaction to your exhibition means that you “won the night.” Why? Because we’re all talking about it.

I’m not a media and image expert, Miley, but I am a woman and a mother. And I’m not stupid. So I’ll tell you something the highly paid image experts probably never will. A big public reaction isn’t the same thing as success or accomplishment. When a horrific train wreck occurs in this country, the carnage makes the news and we all talk about it and write about it. But that doesn’t mean the train company is proud of it. Instead, they start trying to find out what went wrong, in hopes it’ll never happen again.

Right now, you probably don’t see the train wreck you left on stage. One news report said you’re pretty proud of the fact that your on-stage striptease triggered about 306,000 tweets per minute – a new record for Twitter. Maybe your image experts say that your jaw-dropping performance was “cutting edge,” and it made people notice that you’re not the sweet little Hannah Montana you once were.

But don’t let people convince you that indecency and the “cutting edge” are the same thing. Being nasty isn’t anything new. That’s been going on in back alleys and cheap motels for decades. Doing it on stage doesn’t make it art.

What you did on national TV didn’t make me see you as an empowered woman or a child star who’s all grown up now. You traded your dignity for money or attention or “tweets.” That’s not impressive. It’s tragic. You can’t take that moment back. It’ll live on in Internet infamy, and one day you may feel as uncomfortable as most of the onlookers did – especially if you eventually have a daughter who sees the video and wants to be just like you were.

Acting slutty is a cheap shortcut to “household name” status, and – even though it often seems like the viewing audience doesn’t care – we still know the difference between true talent and cheap tricks.

Speaking of cheap tricks, did you know that the TV executives put a rating of TV-14 on your performance? And that rating probably meant that a lot of shocked parents had to sprint to the remote control once you started stripping down to the nude leather bikini and grinding against a man nearly twice your age.

I can’t imagine why executives thought that show was good for 14-year-old kids. I’m 40 and I’m still not sure I’m old enough to have seen it. Part of me wants to poke out my mind’s eye so I can “unsee” it.

With that being said, I know it’s not easy to be 20. I was once 20, and I did plenty of dumb things, too – thankfully before the existence of YouTube. But I hope this attention reassures you that we’ve all gotten the memo – you’re not a sweet little Disney Channel kid anymore. We get it.

Maybe now you can spend your time focusing on being known for something that matters – talent, character, dignity – instead of settling for simply being known at any cost.
gwen rockwood

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography