Is Miley Cyrus Really “Punk”? A House Plant Explains.

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 23 2013 2:07 PM

Is Miley Cyrus Really “Punk”? A House Plant Explains.

181621716
That's sort of punk what she's doing with her hair. Right?

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Clear Channel

In a post on the Vice music blog Noisey, Dan Ozzi has proclaimed Miley Cyrus “the most punk musician” performing today.* In case you suspect that he intends the honorific as faint praise, the kind given to the only hurdler to reach the finish line, Ozzi assures us that it is not. Cyrus is—pardon my blush—“as punk as fuck.” She’s a “punk icon.” The reason? “Miley just does not give a fuck, plain and simple.”

Is it that simple? Not being an authority on either punk or indifference, I attempted last night to get a better understanding of both by entering into a conversation with the nearest living thing I could find which gave about as much of a fuck as Miley Cyrus. My ficus.

Advertisement

Slate: Ficus, as a flowering plant of the Moraceae family, you couldn’t care less about pretty much anything. So I guess the question I’m hoping you can answer is, is Miley Cyrus really punk?

Ficus: ----

Slate: Obviously I jumped the gun. I’m sorry. I guess I don’t even know what punk is. I’d been under the vague impression that punk was counterculturish—you know, wary and defiant of the establishment? The nasal whine of alienation at high RPM, a personal scream with a political shade. No?

Ficus: [Tilts away, aided by small breeze.]

Slate: Shows what I know! You’re the weeping fig. So look, if I were to go by what Ozzi writes, Miley is punk because by the time an “überliberal dork at Slate” (gulp!) catches up to her, she’s “already on to the next video where she’s riding a wrecking ball naked, fellating a sledgehammer.” Point taken. But does the music factor in here? I guess what I expect from someone as punk as Miley Cyrus is a little more friction. “We Can’t Stop,” as both song and lyric, goes into the ear as easily as laudanum, and has a similar effect. “Wrecking Ball,” the Billboard No. 1 that recently left a Cyrus-sized hole in the Internet?* If you bother to unmute the video what you hear is another reasonably catchy, decidedly croony, and utterly cheesy ballad. Is it punk if your performances are so outrageous that no one even talks about the material anymore?

Ficus: [Turns half a millimeter toward the sunlight.]

Slate: I guess what I’m getting at—and stop me if I’m wrong, ficus—is that if Miley is indeed punk, has she then managed to so denature the designation that it now simply refers to an extended theater of the raised middle finger? A foam finger to the haters? All it takes is a pixie cut, a scowl, and a few easy, queasy provocations, and suddenly an icon is born? Are you really a rebel these days not for what you create, but for how you react to critics? Is this really what has become of one of the most influential and urgent artistic movements to be grounded out of the mortar and pestle of the 1970s? A simulacrum, all flash and no bang, catering to the basest of appeals? Am I wrong, ficus? Am I?

Ficus: ----

And that’s where we left it. In agreement, I’d like to think. Miley Cyrus is not punk. My house plant, though—I’m beginning to suspect it might be.

* Correction, 2:43 pm.: This post originally misstated the title of a Miley Cyrus song. It is “We Can’t Stop,” not “We Won’t Stop.” Either way, there will be no stopping. The post also misspelled the surname of Dan Ozzi. We regret the errors. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.