Miley Cyrus is engaged. She’s 19. Liam Hemsworth, her
boyfriend fiance, is 22. You know her from Disney’s Hannah Montana. Or from her various “scandals” in the past three years. You might know him: he’s Gale in The Hunger Games. His older brother is Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, and the Huntsman (as in, Snow White and the Huntsman). Before you walk away in disgust that I’m writing about Miley Cyrus, think about how interesting this is culturally.
What do critics say about Miley Cyrus? That her family’s country. And not in a good way. Right? That she and her daddy are “too close,” that she’s a “hick” at heart, that they’re “rednecks” who made it big. People make fun of Billy Ray’s name, his haircut. They make fun of Miley’s accent, of her cutoff shorts. Of her teeth. I typed in “miley cyrus te–” to google search, trying to confirm that she’s from Tennessee, and 7 of the first 10 fill-ins concerned her teeth, including teeth, teeth before and after, teeth fixed, teeth 2012, teeth in the last song, teeth crooked. And teeth fall out.
Her teenage partying and picture taking– sort of like Britney’s and definitely like Jamie Lynn Spear’s young pregnancy– is said to be part of her Southern heritage. The attitude is all, “well, she is from the south.”
What about Drew Barrymore’s youthful partying? Because she was raised in Hollywood. Rihanna? Because she’s from Barbados. Lindsay Lohan? ….
Ok, so it’s always blamed on people’s origin. There’s nothing new about that. But it seems like there’s something particularly nasty that happens when the gossip magazines / paparazzi start talking about the young starlets from the south. (You’ll notice all of these examples I’m giving are female. When’s the last time you heard about a young male star partying too hard or being too sexy in the pictures he posts on Twitter?) (And no, I am not saying the male stars are better behaved.)
So if you’re Miley Cyrus, and you know all this, and you just want to be young, wild, and free…why are you getting married at age nineteen?
I don’t mean this in a gossip-mongering way. I mean, really, why would you agree to that? First of all, everything about Miley Cyrus for the past couple of years has screamed unfettered hippie-child. She’s got a look, and she likes smoking pot, and not wearing too many clothes. Think young Kate Hudson– rocker-hippie-chic. “Go where I want, do what I want, feel however I feel.” Marriage: pretty traditional for a nonconformist. I mean, ok, smoking pot and wearing short shorts and long skirts at this point is not exactly rebellious, but you catch my drift.
But secondly, and more importantly, wouldn’t you want to break the stereotype? Wouldn’t you know what people say about you, and laugh, and say, I am definitely not that and then go at least slightly out of your way to prove them wrong? At least in the major ways?
Think of it this: even Bella from Twilight, not exactly known for being a strong feminist character– and that’s what she is, a character, so let’s put it another way– Stephenie Meyer wrote a character who spent 1600 pages pining after a boy and having little will of her own beyond wanting him. And even Meyer, when she writes in a (semi)teenage proposal (Edward is hundreds of years old), makes Bella hesitate to accept. In fact, at first Bella refuses. Why? Because she doesn’t want to be that girl. You know, the one who gets engaged and married right after high school. This isn’t an interpretation: in her drab, internal monologue, Bella lays it out plain and clear.
At this point in the books, Bella is in love with a vampire, asking him to turn her into a vampire, preparing to abandon her entire family, is best friends with a werewolf, etc etc…and she still is tied enough to conventional society that she shudders at being a teen bride. That’s how strong societal judgment of young marriage is in some parts of the country.
That’s how strong the judgment is in Hollywood. And let’s face it, Miley Cyrus is more Hollywood than Tennessee at this point.
And maybe that’s the thing: these starlets, they’re not rebelling against stereotypes of their hometown, they’re not bucking against what the Internet blogs are saying about them. Their hometowns, what girls are doing in their hometowns, what “normal” people are doing: doesn’t apply to them. They don’t even know, they’re that disconnected. They’re rebelling against their managers, who may or may not be their father, they’re rebelling against their Disney contracts, their agents. The people controlling their careers. Because this is not a smart career move. For either of them.
There’s a lot of cache– a lot of cash– in appearing unattached as a star. In letting your fans, delusional as they are, the appearance that one of them could possibly end up with you. Liam Hemsworth’s career is just starting. His role as Gale in The Hunger Games has just, in the past six months, made him the fantasy of many a fangirl. Miley Cyrus is just becoming an adult. Sure, her career might stall out– but it might not. She could go away and come back in 6 months, a year, as a rom-com sexy 20something star. Harder to sell if you’re married.
This isn’t to say they’re not in love. They must be. Interesting though, the conversation around marriage. Interesting how little I know about him than her. Where’s he from? He’s only 22. Why is he settling down so fast? Do we admire a young man willing to commit more than a young woman willing to do the same? His older brother has a baby on the way. Do we think of “the Hemsworth brothers” as nice family men, then?
PS– They met on the set of The Last Song. The fug girls hilariously recapped it. I saw it in the theaters. The blond kid who plays Liam Hemsworth’s BFF, who the fug girls call Goose? He grew up in the house behind me.