Miley Cyrus's attempt to tart up her image has turned out to be polarizing in the music world so far, with her latest album's title track, "Can't Be Tamed"--which caused such a splash when Miley performed it in headline-making hot pants on a series of high-profile TV appearances early in the summer--now nowhere to be found on either Billboard's Hot 100 or the digital sales chart. Although Miley just recently wrapped production on the fourth and final season of Hannah Montana (now dubbed Hannah Montana Forever), you might think, in light of these humbling developments, that she'd be renegotiating with the Disney Channel now for an additional season (which they could call Hannah Montana Forever-After).
But if you imagine this sudden slump has left her chastened, in any sense of the word, think again.
Bonnie Fuller's Hollywood Life website got ahold of the script for LOL, the movie Miley is currently filming, and trumpeted the saucier parts. Some parents of younger Hannah Montana fans aren't laughing out loud, or even chuckling on the inside. According to the report, Cyrus's character "loses her virginity, talks about sex incessantly, smokes marijuana, kisses one of her two best female friends on the lips, [and] gets wasted," in addition to shocking her movie mom, Demi Moore, with her grown-up grooming habits.
Hollywood Life also quoted dialogue in which Moore tells Cyrus's delinquent teenager, "You're my daughter, and I won't let you turn into a porn star!" (The report doesn't say how Miley's character responds in the screenplay, but maybe she could just repeat Cyrus's real-life rationale for her evolving wardrobe: "I'm not trying to be slutty...I feel comfortable dressing with a little less.")
LOL is still filming and won't be out before 2011--by which time Cyrus will have turned 18, nullifying some of the controversy over her underage status. The Disney Channel will have also aired any remaining new episodes of Cyrus's tween-targeted comedy series by then...and if they're worried about any controversy when LOL opens, they can always cancel the reruns and replace them with an early-Lindsay-Lohan film festival.
It could be that Cyrus's relatively weak season as a singer has as much to do with the quality of the music as her newly adult image. Up through her Breakout album, she was emphasizing her rocker-girl side, but shifted to a more anonymous electronic/dance approach with Can't Be Tamed, presumably to appeal to all those 14-year-old nightclub-goers in her fanbase. That style worked for her with last year's undeniable "Party In The USA" single, but with Dr. Luke not in her employ this time around, Can't Be Tamed just didn't have the goods.
It's easy to see why some moms and daughters would feel like Miley is deliberately leaving them behind. But top 40 radio is hardly a bastion of high moral standards, so is it really just one lackluster single they've said no to, or is there some deeper rejection there, too? It could be that cravenness itself is a turn-off, at radio. In America, almost everybody loves a tart--but nobody wants to actually witness their daughter, or a daughter surrogate, willfully try to turn herself into one, which is Miley's dilemma.
Which is why the studio bankrolling LOL should be afraid...very afraid. Sure, she's just an actress playing a character--but it's a character that, from the sound of things, seems too close to an evolving persona the public is already rejecting. Cyrus's younger fans are already turning on her, and older moviegoers won't quickly embrace a recent tween fave who's just a little too eager to sit up at the Sex And The City table.
That may leave Miley with a very small sliver of devotees her own age who closely identify with her quest to be emancipated from all things Disney-esque. Maybe you can market a movie solely to female high school juniors and seniors, but anyone who tries selling something to that narrow a target audience isn't likely to have the last laugh.
What do you think Miley's chances are as an actress in movies like LOL? Is she likely to alienate however many young devotees remain who thought of her as a wholesome role model, without attracting many new, grown-up fans? Or is PG-13 fare simply the inevitable step for a soon-to-be 18-year-old?