So before I start I want to present this disclaimer: Do I truly feel that Miley Cyrus was making some profound and insightful artistic statement? No. I do not. Miley (or her publicists, whichever) was making a vulgar spectacle of herself for attention and exploited the phycology symbolism of her props, the set and costume colors, her behavior and her bare body to justify her erotic outburst as “art.” Also, the performance aired on a program that was rated PG14. A PG14 audience is too immature to understand any of the concepts desperately and loosely alluded to in that performance. At this age nudity and erotic gestures are no more enlightening or insightful as a swift kick to the gonads, these gestures are perceived as comical or offensive. Her reps wanted ratings, not art, not insight, and lets face it, no matter what age they deemed the show appropriate for, the MTV audience is not the kind of audience looking for enlightenment through the artistic use of the body, dreams, and symbols. They want to be shocked and entertained, and that is what they got. So it is my feelings that while the performance had the potential of being a rich and luscious exploration of waking sexuality through artistic pursuit of dream psychology, it was shown to the wrong audience, in the wrong place, by the wrong people and therefore became a trashy trampy offensive spectacle. But again, this is what they wanted because boy did it get ratings.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, lets move on to the main event. What and where is the meaning in that meaningless stunt? I will analyze symbols observed in the performance using Hodson’s methodology for interpreting dreams, as well as relying on documented and social associations generally attributed to colors and behavior (twerking). The more I worked on this, the more complex it became and I decided it was too much for one post. The best I could come up with was to break it down into two parts: Part 1: Colors, Props and Twerking/Behavior, and Part 2: The Body. So in Part 1 I will discuss the social and psychological meanings of the props, colors and behavior and then in part two I will explore the symbolism of Miley’s bare body, with some of the insights from Part 1 spilling over into Part 2. That last bit about exploring Miley’s bare body sounded a little dirty, but this is in the name of art and cultural revelation, and so must be done.
Let’s start with that annoying Foam Finger, with the red nails. In Hodson’s dream theory, your hands represent your relationships with those around you or your position in the world/society. This makes sense because your hands are literally how you “grasp” your environment. Figuratively, to dream that you have unusually large hands denotes success in achieving your goals. And boy is this hand large. Hands also serve as a form of communication and through gesture can represent authority, hate, protection, justice, etc. In this case the gesture, one massive pointing forefinger, is declaring something by pointing us in some direction. In dreams fingers stand for nonverbal communication. Specifically, the forefinger signifies authority, direction, judgment. On the surface, this oversized gesture is making a point about Miley’s power as a pop-culture icon.
However, the foam finger is a lefty, even if she is wearing it on her right hand. (Fun fact, apparently Miley is naturally a lefty, but her father forced her to learn to use her right hand at some point) In dreams the left hand symbolizes femininity, receptive qualities, graciousness, and submission; while the right hand symbolizes the masculine and active attributes. Gender biases aside, the left hand is generally considered the submissive, weaker hand. Which is interesting because now all of the accusatory and declarative actions of the forefinger gesture can be interpreted as a front. This is just a show, a bluff of her confidence, or will, or a means of compensation. Supporting this reasoning is that in dreams, when hands are detached or disembodied, like a giant foam finger that can be removed, they then indicate that you are not getting your point of view across. You are not being understood. This can also symbolize feelings of loneliness or isolation. And blood on your hands signifies that you are experiencing some sort of guilt, and yes I know that the finger nail was “painted” red, but still thats pretty darn close to blood… Either way noticing your fingernails in your dream indicates that your defenses are up. She’s also chewing her nails, which indicates that a problem is too tough to handle and you are not sure how to go about resolving a situation. You may be literally losing your grip on life. But what could have poor Miley so torn up?
Since I mentioned colors, let’s try and figure it out by talking about the predominate colors on that stage, Pink and Brown. Brown is a down-to-earth color signifying stability, structure and support. This serious color is associated with practicality, conservatism, simplicity, and a materialistic character. Brown can also represent worldliness, domestic bliss, physical comfort, and earth/primitivism. The first thing you see is a massive and freakish looking Brown TeddyBear that Miley emerges from to enter the stage. Teddybears are very powerful psychological and social symbols. As gifts they remind us we are loved, they refer to the comfort of soft touch, and they remind of us of the innocence of childhood. It is appropriate that this TeddyBear is Brown then, because he represents the safety, the innocence, and naivety of childhood. But he also represents the limits of childhood, if you stay a child you deny yourself the pleasures of adulthood. But those mature pleasures can be perverted.
That perversion is what the crazy Hot Pink Pink TeddyBear Nightmare represents. Pink is pretty much the polar opposite of Brown. Pink is carefree, energetic, high-strung, unpredictable, and immature. Pink is also naive, or innocent, but in this case we’ll stick with naive and immature. We like to remember our young dreamer as embodying many of these qualities, but those freaky TeddyBears are not really Pink, they are Hot Pink. Hot Pink is a very different color and is associated with curiosity, sensuality and exploration of sexuality or promiscuity. Hot Pink is a passive representation of exploring ones sexuality, compared to the aggressive pursuit of sex characterized by red. But Hot Pink is still very much a sexual color, even if a more innocent one driven mainly by curiosity. All of the TeddyBears after the first one are Hot Pink. Teddybears are not supposed to be a sex symbol, conventionally, they are a love symbol. But these Hot Pink TeddyBears are very abstracted, twisted, and almost frightening. They are a perverted representation of a teddybear and they pervert our feelings about love and mature sexuality.
The dancers sporting Black and Red and twerking up to wahzoo, represent sexual pleasure, expertise, exploitation, and mockery. Black is a warning color, it is dark and mysterious and indicates that you should proceed with caution. Red, as I said earlier, is very much a sexual come-on color, full of energy, aggression, and dominance. The twerking dance they perform is a parody of real sexual behavior that illustrates an immature understanding about sex. The dance is an imitation, a poor and ridiculous one, and reduces sex to a comical and absurd spectacle. The clash of Black and White on the pants of the twerking dancer whom’s butt Miley nuzzels with her face and Robin Thicke’s suit illustrate a clash of opposing forces, in this case sex and childhood. The randomized pattern of these costumes indicate the chaos engendered from trying to resolve the two. They just don’t go together. And a premature observation of sexuality can only result in something that twists sex into a perversion of itself, and it can no longer be taken seriously. It is now offensive or comical.
So where does Miley stand in this sexual perversion? Well, at the start she’s wearing a bear outfit. But she takes it off to revile a beige costume (skimpy as it is). Miley’s costume, well the itty-bitty bits that are there, are beige. Beige, a neutral relative to Brown, represents the basics, the essentials and the barest form. It may also indicate your neutral or unbiased position on some matter. This color could be an indication of the position on social sexuality taken by the “innocent” dreamer in the TeddyBear Nightmare. Miley does her best to mimic the twerking dancers and blend into the world around her. She dry humps Robin Thicke, simulates doggy-style with him and with the Foam Finger she pretends to masturbate or seductively gnaws on the enormous finger. But looking at the behavior in context with what we understand about dream theory and color associations, we can assume that this behavior as a childlike mimicry of the sexually explicit atmosphere we are observing. She does not understand what she is doing, she is just doing it because it looks fun and pleasurable. But this is a satirical representation of real sex and makes a mockery of what sexuality can be. And all the while those stupid TeddyBears look on with that dull look, seeming to encourage this twerking lunacy and sex play acting. I just can not get over how tainted teddybear image is in this performance. I feel that what is so disturbing about it, is that Teddybears are supposed to reconnect us to our child-like innocence and remind of us of being nurtured and cared for by others, again they are love symbols. And at first the big Brown Bear does just that. This Bear is the stable Brown safety of childhood that we struggle to leave via puberty to embark on defining our sexuality, only to then spend the rest of our lives trying to relive our glorious childhood. When Miley emerged from this Bear she was abandoning something like a “home” or a protective “mother bear” kind of symbol, her roots. She emerges from this first Brown TeddyBear to explore this brand new chaotic world of pattern and Pink and sex. My instinct is to tell Miley that she needs to get back to her roots. Just go home Miley, you’re drunk on off your ego.
So that concludes Part 1. Part 2 will be up in a few days so be patient. If you have questions or comments, opinions and insights, I welcome them all! But please support your claims with something other than just your opinion. I want analysis and depth, and even a little criticism, no one is a perfect writer after all! Oh but no hating; you are allowed to disagree so long as you can justify your position.