Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift: How We Can Never, Ever, Ever Stop Putting Them Together

Today, the ‘celebrity’ plays a much larger role in our lives than it would have fifty years ago.  With advances in modern technology, it is becoming easier for people to become famous and for fans to keep in close touch with what their idols are doing.  And it’s because of this that celebrities have such a strong influence in what we do, how we dress, how we view ourselves, etc. Though this can have its pros, there is inevitably going to be a con, and that is the influence that singers and actors have on young girls of today. Girls from the age of 10 to 21 are the main audience that franchises want to please, because they more susceptible to obsession and influence than any other age group or gender.

It is the influence that interests me. I want to take a celebrity who is at the rough end of the role model scale – particularly recently – Miley Cyrus and someone from the opposite end, Taylor Swift. I think both these women represent issues that today’s society has with the authenticity of women in the media and how that effects everyday women as well.

One of the most frequently debated topics in the media is the measure of good or bad influence certain celebrities have on their fans, particularly if the fans are of a younger generation. Today, Disney stars are generally the idols of many young girls and considering it’s Disney, this shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Wrong. Disney child stars are well known for falling off the rails once they hit later teens and their early twenties. Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan are a perfect example of this. Britney Spears was my first ever idol, as she was for many girls of my generation. Ironically, the latest Disney downfall star was also my idol at some point. Miley Cyrus, now 20, was 13 when she skyrocketed to fame through the Disney Channel’s most anticipated programme, Hannah Montana. Though in recent years, after the hit series ended, Cyrus quickly tried to start shedding her Disney reputation and like with so many Disney stars, this had to be done with extra shock factor for it to work.

Miley Disney Wrecking Ball


Miley Cyrus’ first ‘untouched by Disney’ album Breakout was released in 2008 that included hits such as ‘7 Things’. Though this was solely her own album, there were still strong hints of tweeny pop-ness in the songs. Two years later she released her second album I Can’t Be Tamed which was the beginning of Cyrus’ new grown-up reputation and her raunchy antics. After I Can’t Be Tamed was released, Cyrus sort of faded from the spotlight for a while and if she ever made appearances, they were generally brief with the promotion of a film such as LOL or to award shows with on and off boyfriend (now ex-fiancé) Liam Hemsworth. Then, in 2012, she arose from the ashes with her platinum blonde pixie hair cut which, let’s be honest, made her look a little bit like Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. Yes, physically, you could say that she had began to shed her Disney skin, but like so many Disney stars, she couldn’t stop there. 2013 has definitely been Miley’s year; her single We Can’t Stop became the summer hit, next to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and from then on, her extreme publicity stunts continued. One of the most talked about events this year has to be Cyrus’ controversial VMA performance, where most viewers were left with their jaws dropped and young children’s’ eyes covered. R.I.P Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus’ self respect would be the best way to sum up her five-minute performance collaboration with Robin Thicke.

Now, really, none of this should really be a surprise. Nowadays, it is virtually expected that Disney stars will fall off the rails at some point. When I was younger, I thought the world of Miley; however, in the back of my mind, I always knew where she heading and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. When you become famous at an age as young as thirteen, your opportunity of growth and freedom and experience of new things, normal things that teenagers would experience – all of it is taken from you and you’re left with this void. Growing up in front of the camera can never be easy, especially when you’re in one of those sullen, ‘teenagery’, for-no-absolute-reason moods and you’re forced to be happy and perfect. I hated doing that for company, let alone doing it for the world.

After reading an essay by Joe Jonas, the middle brother of the hit Disney band The Jonas Brothers, the explanation for the ‘Disney star downfall’ became much clearer. He says how when he and his brother were at the peak of their career, even though they didn’t want to, they “went along with what Disney wanted” (Vineyard; Jonas) because they were terrified of all their opportunities and success being suddenly snatched from them. In 2007, Disney was put in the spotlight when the High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens nude photo scandal broke out. According to Joe Jonas, Hudgens was “in the Disney offices for a whole day whilst they figured out what to do with her.” (ibid)

Disney puts a phenomenal amount of pressure on its stars and has certain expectations of them, as any company would, but the expectations are not overtly obvious. To me, this makes it worse. It’s almost as if Disney just watches you and they don’t tell you you’re screwing up until the worst happens.

I’m going to throw all my cards out on the table here and admit that I can’t stand Miley Cyrus anymore; I loathe the girl. However, I am willing to see reason behind her 2013 antics and her Disney breakout and I think this essay explains a lot on it’s own. Miley Cyrus’ name is known across the world and just being that alone is already enough pressure, but for a company as big and successful as Disney, being the reason behind it adds all the more pressure. She must have got to the po

Miley Transformation


int where she just thought, “Screw you Disney” and ripped it all off (quite literally).

However, what I feel that Miley did not realize was that, sure it’s great that she’s grown up and got out of her Hannah Montana stage, but what about her Hannah Montana fans? They can’t just go poof and grow up, seeing as a lot of them are only young teens or even pre-teen. And there strikes the problem. Miley grew up and for her older fans, it makes no difference, but for her younger fans who have followed along in Hannah Montana’s, bright, florescent, sparkly footsteps, it means they are now going to follow in Miley’s raunchy, crop top, bipolar tongue footsteps. Miley might have a message behind all these risqué stunts she’s pulling, but if I’m honest, they’re being eclipsed by her appearance, actions and behaviour. In an MTV documentary called Miley: The Movement, she says how she would “rather be talked about for two weeks than two seconds.” (Cyrus; MTV) Well, Miley, trying to be black with a snake tongue and your belly always on show doesn’t necessarily have to be the way to go.

I am ultimately comparing my present and ex idol, and now that I am older, I’d like to think I have a better understanding of what should make a good role model and what is best to avoid. On the opposite end of the scale from Miley, we have Taylor Swift, a country-pop singer and songwriter who left the world Wonderstruck in 2008 when her song Love Story hit the charts. Ever since then, she has grown into a worldwide star whose influence on fans has been much debated. Personally, I love Taylor Swift and her music –  I have ever since I was fourteen. Swift’s music is renowned for having a strong focus on her numerous breakups. This ticks me off, not as a Taylor Swift fan but just as someone who listens to music; seriously, get your facts straight. Taylor Swift has written many, many songs and not even half of them have actually been produced and released. But from just the ones that have been put on her albums, or been singles – 27 of them are break up songs, whilst 43 of them are not. That is an average of roughly six breakup songs, on each of her four albums. You don’t need to be a Taylor Swift fan or a ‘Swifty’ to know this stuff, you just need to be able to open Google and know basic math.

So, let’s take a look at the two ‘media born’ personas of Miss Swift. There is the original persona that many see her for and many of her fans in particular, which is this perfect, innocent Barbie-like role model. Then there is the negative side of her fame that the media cannot seem to stop dwelling over – her love life. Taylor Swift has become a Hollywood dating monster in the media’s eyes and this has captivated the attention of many critics who then start to bring to question her authenticity and whether or not young girls should be looking up to this singer. In an article I found from the Washington Post, journalist Janice D’Arcy praises Swift’s reputation including a ‘stay away’ from drugs, alcoholism etc. (D’Arcy) The usual substances that celebrities take once they reach a certain peak of fame. And from all this positivity, we have to wonder… why does this make Taylor Swift a bad role model for young girls? The answer is this – Swift represents a type of idol that, stereotypically, would serve as the ‘ideal’ model for the younger generation of today. Her innocence, kindness, being down to earth and perfection just knows no bounds. Here is where the issue arises. In today’s vain, shallow, and image-obsessed society – appearance and beauty is everything and this puts a huge amount of pressure of young girls who have been corrupted by the media into thinking they must be this kind of perfection or they will be judged and so on. Taylor Swift is beautiful, but she isn’t mean or self-absorbed about it.


"Never Grow up' - Taylor Swift, Speak Now (2010)


Instead, she shows a new kind of perfection that girls will stress over as well, and that is personality perfection.  D’Arcy says how there is something “Stepford-y” about Swift, like she’s too good to be true (ibid). It is true that the odds are very unlikely that you would find snaps of her dancing around half naked in a strip club or suffering an embarrassing drunk boob slip at an after party. But instead, she puts forth this ideal persona of unattainable perfection. She’s already pretty enough to crush a girl’s ego, now she’s just too nice to measure. Swift is setting a new standard of idealism where young girls want to be more like her as a person as opposed to how she looks. If you wanted to get the perfect body, then hitting the gym and tanning booths would be the way to go, but how does one go about changing their personality to fit next to their idol’s? Taylor Swift may be perfect and sweet, but is this message really for the greater good? Or is it setting a new unattainable goal for young girls, one that they certainly don’t need on top of all the other pressures that Hollywood and the media encourage today.

Personally, Taylor never inspired me to be perfect, but I can see where D’Arcy is coming from. For me, Swift made me go crazy over buying cowboy boots, playing guitar and song writing. Though the personality perfection never happened for me, but I can understand how it could happen. Does that make me any less of a Swift fan? No. It just means that when I fell in love with her and her music, I already knew my place; I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. I was out of the limbo stage that so many young teenagers find themselves in at one point or another. And I think this is the issue that D’Arcy is trying to address over Taylor and what I was trying to point out about Miley fans.  These young fans, the 10 to 15 year olds, maybe even older than that, are still finding themselves, and of course they are going to fall in and out of phases that make them test who they want to be, but it’s whether or not these phases leave permanent marks that’s the worrying part.

On her second album, Swift wrote a song about finding who you’re supposed to be in the world, and she called it Fifteen.

“When you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you,

You’re gonna believe them.

And when you’re fifteen, feeling like there’s nothing to figure out.

Well, count to ten, take it in, this is life

Before you know who you’re gonna be,

At fifteen.” 

                                                                                    – Fifteen by Taylor Swift, Fearless (2008)

In this, Swift is addressing the fact that at this age and younger, you don’t know where you’re going in life and it makes you gullible and naïve; for example, if someone tells you they love you, you’re going to believe they’re your true love and you will live happily ever after with them. It’s this uncertainty that can sometimes even make an artist gain less respect in the music industry. In a section from Diane Railton and Paul Watson’s Music Video and the Politics of Representation, they discuss how if you’re an artist or band who have many female fans, particularly teenage girls, you automatically slip down the credibility list. (Railton,Watson 75) 

I think that this notion of teenagers lingering in limbo about what they like who they are is what loses the respect; they don’t know what they want, or what they like so they will like anything that makes it onto the radio or has cute boys in it. Because of their rabid teenage audiences, both Swift and Cyrus could be considered ‘guilty pleasures’ to some people. Though, due to Miley’s transformation, she has become less associated with younger audiences and people would be less ashamed to listen to her music now and admit to it. Even though, personally, I think her music is worse now that she’s trying too hard to break off from Disney once and for all. But now that she’s joined the rest of the popular artists who get a majority of their attention from sexually exploiting themselves, such as Rihanna, Britney Spears and Madonna – again, artists who people would be less inclined to shy away from. I’m not saying that Taylor Swift doesn’t have fans outside of the 10-21 girl group, because that isn’t true, she does. But as an artist whose fan base consists of mainly teenage girls, to some people, it makes her less credible because of it.

But even with Miley’s change, it doesn’t stop young dedicated Smilers from following her lead. If I were a dedicated Cyrus fan, Miley’s change wouldn’t bother me because I grew up with her.  These younger fans only joined her just as Hannah Montana was ending, so they are still in the buzz of the teen pop sensation but are now startled by the grown-up Hannah, who is now waltzing around on stages rubbing a giant foam finger against her crotch as opposed to running around singing about having the best of both worlds.

Taylor Swift on the other hand, this is something that she recognizes and is trying to avoid. She acknowledges that she has fans young and old, she wants to keep changing her style each time, but she doesn’t want to out grow her fans and suddenly switch to raunchy songs about sex, drugs and not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks. Instead, Swift grows with her fans. She doesn’t feel that it‘s necessary for her to sing about money and sex or to exploit herself in minimal clothing to get her songs to sell, you just need to have good, dedicated fans.

Taylor Swift singing to fans at one of her RED Tour concerts

Ultimately, as so many artists do, Cyrus and Swift have their flaws in what it takes to be a good role model. Every artist claims they have the best fans in the world. But not many actually fully appreciate the dedication their fans have as Taylor Swift does. She is known for walking through stadiums during her concerts, going around and giving hugs to fans, singing with them, dancing with them and just connecting with them. Of course she is escorted around by body guards in case a fan or two gets a little attached, but either way, I think this does genuinely make Swift a better role model. This perfection that she upholds, it isn’t necessarily perfection; it’s common courtesy. Swift doesn’t think she’s better than her fans, she says how she’s just like her fans, and she’s just like everyone else. So many artists say that, but for some reason, coming from Taylor Swift – it’s actually believable.



D’Arcy, Janice. “Taylor Swift – Good or Bad for Girls?” 2011 August. Washington Post. < >.

Diane Railton, Paul Watson. “Making It Real: Authorship and Authenticity.” Diane Railton, Paul Watson. Music Video and the Politics of Representation . 2011. 75.

Jonas, Joe. “Joe Jonas: My Life As A Jonas.” 1 December 2013. Vulture. Jennifer Vinyard. <>.

MTV. “Miley: The Movement (Trailer).” YouTube. < >.

Swift, Taylor. “Fifteen.” Fearless. Big Machine Records. 2008.






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