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'A 21st Century Nightmare': Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus & Media Misogyny
Jeremy Allen , January 28th, 2014 10:11

The media's contrasting representations of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus are symptoms of an age-old misogyny that continues to underpin societal portrayals of men and women, argues Jeremy Allen

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Take two child stars with the dubious advantages of growing up in public: one from Ontario is 19 years old, the other from Nashville now 21. As it stands, one has 49 million followers on Twitter, the other nearly 17 million. Both live in L.A. Both have brazenly flouted the responsibilities thrust upon them by the guardians of morality and by virtue of simply being in the public eye (responsibilities they both never asked for). Both have been labelled 'attention seekers' and many other things besides, an inevitable consequence of being famous. Until last week (and even now) however, the behaviour of one has been passed off as Boy's Own hijinks while the other's actions epitomise the erosion of "standards of politeness, manners and morality", as David Jason put it, and may yet precipitate the fall of western civilisation as we know it.

Justin Bieber is increasingly becoming what the media likes to call a "bad boy", one being portrayed as hapless and, you get the impression, not particularly smart. The implication is that this working class son of a "heavily tattooed deadbeat" (the words of The Daily Mail) who got lucky thanks mainly to his looks, is playing up to impress pops - though the DUI charges have been dropped, Bieber still faces a count of resisting arrest.

Miley Cyrus on the other hand, who provocatively licked a sledgehammer in the Terry Richardson video for 'Wrecking Ball' and danced around in her undercrackers with a foam wrestling hand at the MTV VMAs (two incidents that as far I'm aware didn't endanger the lives of anyone in her immediate vicinity) appears to know exactly what she's doing. Type 'Miley Cyrus knows exactly what she's doing' into Google and you'll be hit with pages of stars reiterating that very same sentence, from Tinie Tempah to X Factor USA judge Demi Lovato, from godmother Dolly Parton to some chap called Matt Lauer who Americans might recognise from the Today show, and from The Boston Globe to Wetpaint Entertainment (who all but the most hardy gossip hound is unlikely to recognise).

If, like me, you're wondering why anyone would care what Tinie Tempah or David Jason has to say about Cyrus, be prepared, because there's plenty more where that came from. Kasabian (who, lest we forget, keep their ears close to the ground where the state of the world is concerned, with lyrics like "Horsemeat in the burgers, people commit murders, everyone's on bugle, we're being watched by Google") had their say when speaking to NME in a news story published on 20th January.

"We created Miley Cyrus man, that's our fault," lamented guitarist Serge Pizzorno. "She's just a fucking accumulation of internet porn, fucking hip-hop, fucking Disney World. She's just a fucking nightmare of the 21st century. It's not her fault but we created that. The way she goes about her business, Twitter, all this bollocks, blows my mind." "I'll tell you something, my daughter's not going to be anything like her, no way," chipped in singer Tom Meighan.

It's understandable that beacons of virtuosity like Kasabian might take offense, but what about other superstars of a similar age and ilk to the former Hannah Montana singer?

"I think it's, you know, promoting promiscuity," said Harry Styles of One Direction, referring to Cyrus twerking at the VMAs with priapic latecomer Robin Thicke. Ed Sheeran is of a similar stance where such moral turpitude is concerned: "It's a stripper's move. If I had a daughter of nine, I wouldn't want her twerking."

"She's cheating herself and she's cheating the rest of us," reckons Pink. "People can like it if they want. I'm not going to buy it. She can do better. I've seen her do better."

"Who is Miley Cyrus?" asks actor and charmer Jamie Foxx. "The one with all the gums? She needs to get a gum transplant!"

Kate Winslet, Annie Lennox, Cliff Richard and of course Sinead O'Connor have all had a say too, hoping she'll grow out of these "hyper-sexualised pop antics".

The hands-off approach appears to be prevalent where the media talks about the implications of Bieber's actions. At worst it's a "meltdown", but in no way is it as savage or as severe as the mid-noughties meltdown Britney Spears suffered. Again, this could be an example of double standards. Before getting arrested tear-arsing through Miami in his Lamborghini, Justin had been responsible for headlines across the world, some of them funny, some of them less so. Being caught on camera urinating into a nightclub kitchen mop bucket and saying the words "fuck Bill Clinton" (when he saw a picture of the ex-President on the wall) is fairly amusing; apparently being smuggled out of a brothel in Rio de Janeiro probably less so, though where were the stars lining up to insinuate that the latter might corrupt his febrile fanbase? Egging a neighbour's garden might be horseplay, but alleged battery of paparazzi, your flatmate Lil Za getting busted for drugs and marijuana being found on the tour bus are all serious enough misdemeanors. However, this accumulation of bad boy antics - whether true or not - doesn't appear to have got the moral crusaders in anything like the same froth as reserved for Cyrus and Spears. There's certainly more smirking though, and more of the old 'nudge-nudge'.

"Who amongst us hasn't drag-raced a Lambo in Miami on pills? #FreeBieber" tweeted Zach Braff.

"50 in a 30 [mile an hour speed zone]. Jesus, Bieber even drag races like a pussy," chortled Jason Biggs.

"The only crazy part of Justin Bieber arrest is that he was 'popping anti-depressants all day,'" said Lena Dunham. "Anti-depressants take like 3 months to work."

"Prison name: Justine Bieber," tweets Ricky Gervais, "Prison game: Just in Bieber". It's all a far cry from the fall of moral rectitude Cyrus is accused of.

The webs and wires are even more amused...

"Don't get us wrong, we're frantically tweeting #FreeBieber like our lives depend on it and wearing our best orange shirt in support of Justin, but a teeny weeny part of us is absolutely loving all the snark popping up across the internet since the news broke yesterday that Justin Bieber had been arrested," said website Sugarscape. "Yup, we know it's pretty serious and that driving under the influence definitely isn't something to joke about. But we challenge anyone to watch this absolutely mental GIF of Justin's mugshot morphing into Miley Cyrus and not splutter out their cup of tea a bit."

Celebrity website TMZ thought it'd be hilarious to send Justin some Proactiv - an acne treatment he was briefly a spokesman for in 2012 - after he appeared to have a 'breakout' in his mugshot.

Getting arrested "bodes well for the lad" according to, who then shared other famous mugshots including Elvis, Frank Sinatra and convicted armed robber James Brown.

In all the hullabaloo, Miley Cyrus' performance at Clive Davis' pre-Grammys party was headline grabbing in its demurity. "Miley Cyrus does absolutely nothing attention-seeking, wears clothes, keeps tongue in head on Grammys night," shrieked the Independent, baffled that instead of going to the main event Cyrus had instead elected to go home and play Guitar Hero.

"Miley Cyrus epitomises what we have allowed," David Jason told The Sun On Sunday recently. "We've lost our standards. She has done it to break the mould. I can understand why, but we have given her the oxygen of publicity and encouraged it, so young girls will think it is the right way to attract men."

And therein lies another massive problem with attitudes, in that if Cyrus supposedly knows what she's doing compared with Bieber's serial contretemps, it's all apparently for the gratification of men. It would appear that we still, after all this time, see young men as impressionable and eager to play up to impress - hapless passengers unable to control themselves - while young women are apparently calculating and know exactly what they're doing. Only to a man like Jason, Cyprus' scheming has little to do with perpetuating a hugely successful global career for herself, but more to do with some prurient, animalistic need to be desired by guys everywhere. That's why she does it, and that's the example she's giving to other impressionable young girls, who will presumably copy her. It would be wrong to single out the actor, because those attitudes permeate our society, as exemplified by Kasabian's decrying of her as a "fucking nightmare of the 21st century… a fucking accumulation of internet porn, fucking hip-hop, fucking Disney World". Pizzorno has said he's tired of the "booze knobhead lad-rock dicks" (his words) label many people associate with a group like Kasabian, but you wouldn't anticipate him being quite as insulting or derogatory about Bieber, who's probably just being a bit of a lad, right?  

Our musicians, actors and media are still operating with double standards where young men and young women are concerned; it's age old and it seems it isn't going to change anytime soon, even if it's more subtle than it used to be. While it might be less severe, the principle is the same; it's the same misogyny that gave rise to more hatred from the populace for Myra Hindley than for Ian Brady in the 1960s, despite the fact the latter was regarded as the ringleader of the Moors murderers. It's the same misogyny that hated on Yoko Ono for having the audacity to be with one of our Mop Tops while giving Lennon impunity to behave as he liked, no matter how murky. It's the same misogyny that plasters Amanda Knox across front pages throughout the world while we forget what Raffaele Sollecito - her boyfriend at the time of the murder of Meredith Kercher - looks like. This double standard may not be as glaring, but it's just as shameful and depressing when you realise how little the media has changed in all that time.

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Jan 28, 2014 3:26pm

Now listen lads, pop culture peaked with The Rakes "22 Grand Job" of course it's all downhill from now on.

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Fielding Melish
Jan 28, 2014 5:07pm

I generally avoid this stuff easily enough, but while I have no real answer as to misogyny and whatnot, I would say that, it's possible that the difference (in the US) between the approaches to these two is that Cyrus has been a child star here for nearly a decade, so people watched her 'grow up on teevee' on the Disney Channel, so the change in her public persona, while as calculated as any, is more alarming to the sorts of entertainment press which pretends to care about any of this, while Bieber just kind of showed up one day, thanks to Youtube and Usher, as a fast-growing phenom for the kids. People really had no opinion about him before, because they didn't know who he was, whereas 'Hannah Montana' was an extremely successful kids show which millions of kids, and their parents, were aware of. So the behaviors are more 'alarming' (and the clichés of the child star fully entrenched; we'd just spent several years having to hear serious news reports about Ms. Spears )to those who more easily pretend to be 'alarmed'. Honestly, I don't think anybody else cares.

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Taun Aengus
Jan 28, 2014 6:31pm


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Jan 28, 2014 8:49pm

In reply to Fielding Melish:

Spot on.

Make no mistake, there would certainly be rumblings about her actions regardless of how (or from where) Ms. Cyrus came on the scene. However, not sure if Hannah Montana was quite the show in the UK as it was here in the States. Everybody's daughter watched it.

On another note, while this was a well written article I can't believe i read and commented on an article about this duo. And on the Quietus no less. There really IS no escape.

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Rocky O'Rourke
Jan 28, 2014 9:07pm

I think they're both tiresome lamebrains who contribute to modern mediocrity.

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Jan 29, 2014 1:46am

Justin Bieber is portrayed as villain and a laughing stock. He is reviled in a way that no female musician has been since Madonna was making everyone horny.

Miley is portrayed as drug taking sex fiend. The media portrays her the way she wants to be portrayed. She gets talked about more because she's more of a media whore. But she's a she, so it's got to be sexist...

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G.G. Allin
Jan 29, 2014 4:16am

Fuckin' amateurs.

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Jan 29, 2014 11:00am

I dunno, theres some serious venom goes around about bieber. Theres even a petition to try and get him deported from the USA. A lot of the things said about Miley actually sound like they re concerned about her and the way culture is headed. Bieber, people are just laughing him and theres generally no sympathy.
Interesting article but i dont really see how they compare. All the examples of Cyrus are things shes done with her career and are for public consumption. The things Biebers in the headlines for are fuck ups in his private life. I know when i was that age i was doing really stupid things but with biebers fame, money, influence these are only gonna be amplified.
Personally i would ve seen more of a comparison with bieber and charlie sheen. Sheen generally came out of it as a legend and there was all the 'winning' 'tiger blood' stuff. The guy was having a very public breakdown, drug addiction and his kids were taken from him. But he was a hero because hes a 'likeable' guy who drinks and was living with two pornstars apparently. Biebers situation whilst differnt does have its similarities but hes being laughed at and vilified.

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Jan 29, 2014 1:05pm

Very stretched analogy between two different cases and odd conclusion about misogyny: DUI brat vs calculated sexploitation, how to compare and get conclusion about gender related hypocrisy? Anyhow, soon, Cyrus will be caught driving under influence and Bieber with pants down in Hugh Grant style...and both will be sent to rehab in near future. It's the way which they, they parents and managers choose...

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Jan 29, 2014 2:37pm

I do think the problem in general the article is trying to get at very much exists. I'm less sure taking someone from Kasabian seriously is the strongest way to make that point - part of the appeal of such pantomime controversies is that it allows pundits, entertainers and celebrities who are not particularly relevant and don't really know much about the world around them to sound off on something other people are paying attention to and sound very important again for a minute or two.

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Joel "JD" Duggan
Feb 5, 2014 8:28am

I think that this article is spot on to be honest. People are more likely to forgive Bieber's dangerous antics than Cyrus' "slut" persona. Anyone who says there is no divide is kidding themselves. How long has Bieber been allowed to go topless and sag his trousers so low you can see all of his underwear on a daily basis while Cyrus is decried for wearing lingerie-esque clothing as performance-wear.

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Feb 12, 2014 3:19pm

Most people are in agreement that culture over the last few decades has dumbed down dramatically to the extent that a female pop star's stage act, suppossedly representing 'girl-power', all but drags feminism back to the Stoneage - the main criticism being that her highly sexualised image equates women with the males object of desire and nothing else.
Justin Bieber does not get so much criticism as it's universally accepted that he's so dumb as to represent nothing. However female pop stars of Miley Cyrus and her ilk are expected to show some more responsibility especially as womens rights, feminism, and the right to be seen as more than sex objects are relatively new constructs that have only come to the fore over the last 100 years. Taking into account patriarchys dominance over women in every sphere of their life and feminism's attempt to speak back and overturn the tables, I believe criticism of Miley Cyrus 21st Century attempt to go back to the bad old times (whose image seems to more or less portray the oppressed being in love with being opressed) is justified.

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stew jeens
Feb 16, 2014 2:47pm

Get real folks. Nobody under 12 really gives a toss. Cyrus and Beiber are the product of fat rich people in the little media bubble and any sane person would not give their antics a second glance. They have too much too young and can't distinguish real life from their cartoon existences. Their hordes of hangers on making their millions rub their sweaty hands and these two poor unfortunate will be chewed up and spat out ready for the next 'little big thing.' Yawn.

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Dec 1, 2015 3:14pm

In reply to Taun Aengus:

Hod dayum kadz twigally krabz

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