It's not so much the sexualized behavior itself — we've seen that from so many other stars, and it's pretty normal at this point — it's the way that she goes about it, while singing along to Robin Thicke's anthem of soft consent "Blurred Lines" with her butt squeezing out of plastic shorts. It's the same uninhibited, manic joy that brought us the "Party in the USA" pole dance, infinite Instagram selfies, and basically the entire Hannah Montana persona.
What is Miley's deal? Why does she do the things she does? We have some theories.
Miley Was Raised By Handlers, Not Her Parents
In a 2011 interview with GQ, Billy Ray Cyrus shared his heartbreaking story of raising a famous girl. Apparently, Billy Ray's manager/dad persona portrayed in Hannah Montana was a far cry from the truth.
Every time something happened in Miley's career, every time the train went off the track, if you will [...] her people, or as they say in today's news, her handlers, every time they'd put me [...] 'Somebody's shooting at Miley! Put the old man up there!'
Well, I took it, because I'm her daddy, and that's what daddies do. 'Okay, nail me to the cross, I'll take it [...] All those people around, they used me every time. It became so obvious that, man, no matter what happens, they're going to put you up there and let you take the bullet.
Soon after, Billy heard that Miley's 18th birthday party was going to be in a bar. "Once again all them people, they all wanted me to fly out so that then when all the bad press came they could say, 'Daddy endorsed this stuff....' I started realizing I'm being used," he said. "I had the common sense. I said, 'This whole thing's falling apart up there and they just want to blame all of this stuff on you again.' I'm staying out of it."
Billy Ray's Parental Regrets
When Billy Ray did get a second to be a dad, he prioritized being a friend to his kids. He regrets that now. In the same interview with GQ, Billy spills on what he would do differently.
How many interviews did I give and say, 'You know what's important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids'? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, 'You don't need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.' Well, I'm the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, 'Enough is enough — it's getting dangerous and somebody's going to get hurt.' I should have, but I didn't. Honestly, I didn't know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.
The Cyrus’s Achy, Breaky Marriage
Screenshot: Google Trends
To the left is the Google trend graph for "Billy Cyrus Divorce," compared to search interest for "Miley Cyrus" in general. It's not an exact correlation, but combined with the family's past issues, it lends a little bit of insight.
"@billyraycyrus Since you won't reply to my texts, I'm giving you an hour to tell the truth," she tweeted at her father, adding, "Or I'll tell it for you."
She later deleted the tweet.
Early this summer, the Miley 2.0 resurgence also started happening, with multiple interviews pouring in where she tried to assert an edgier, more "urban" image (which is its own can of extremely misguided, racially uncomfortable worms, as we briefly mentioned toward the end of this piece): "I'm not a ratchet white girl," she said, and she professed her love of "hood music."
As with most charts like this, correlation does not equal causation. But this does raise our eyebrows.
Has Anyone Just Said No to Her, Like, Ever?
It's kind of too late to say "no" to Miley Cyrus now, but it seems like her dad wasn't really allowed to — and being raised by handlers, it would make sense that they were more invested in the Miley Cyrus identity than Miley Cyrus, Human Child.
This is pure speculation, of course. But speaking of the Miley Cyrus Race Problem, here's how she responded to criticism that she was appropriating black culture.
i know what color my skin is. you can stop with the friendly reminders bitch.