Starting this summer, Skidmore College, a small, private, liberal arts college in New York, is offering a course titled “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus.” As a sociology major and a pop culture enthusiast, I am thrilled to hear this. It’s easy to ignorantly lambaste this course as being unprofessional, pointless and worthless. However, regardless of how you feel about Miley Cyrus, she’s unarguably one of the most controversial public figures of the past year, and looking into that from an academic perspective may result in insightful understanding and clarity.
Despite her innocent early years as a teenage Disney star, Miley is shunned by society. Ever since her provocative VMA performance, most news surrounding Miley Cyrus has included the words whore, slut, bitch and skank. Overnight, Miley went from an innocent household name to a scorned slut.
The syllabus for the class will examine these changes as they plan to look at Miley in the context of “gender stratification and the hyper-commodification of childhood, what happens to Disney stars as they age, allies and appropriation, uses of culture across race, class, and gender, bisexuality, queerness and the female body.”
Really, what better person is there to examine this topic with than Miley Cyrus, someone who has been examined by every aspect of the media?
Through her twerking, Miley Cyrus has been labeled by everyone as a slut. Even though Robin Thicke was almost twice her age and just as sexual. His actions went unnoticed.
Miley’s twerking also received criticism from the black community. Historically, twerking has been a cultural black dance form. When Miley did twerk at the VMAs, many insulted her for this and claimed that she did not have the cultural capital to do this.
The class emphasizes that it will not be about Miley, but instead study the lens of Miley’s experiences through sociology. If Miley was a man, would her twerking be received differently? If so, how does gender play a role in media coverage and position? Does Miley really have the cultural capital to twerk or is she simply “trying to be black” and stealing from another culture?
Sociology is the study of society. When a person can make everyone in a society change their opinions of him or her overnight, that person has done something remarkable. Love or hate Miley, she’s a force to be reckoned with and one that you can’t ignore.
Photo via Billboard