Miley Cyrus vs. Taylor Swift: What Makes a Good Role Model?

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Photo collage by Stephanie Jones

When it comes to sex and violence, which one does society deem less terrible?

Miley Cyrus recently brought up that issue (in so many words) during an interview with Marie Claire. When asked about fellow pop star Taylor Swift’s girl gang-filled, revenge-themed music video for her single “Bad Blood,” the frequently topless self-love advocate had this to say:

“I don’t get the violence revenge thing. That’s supposed to be a good example? And I’m a bad role model because I’m running around with my titties out? I’m not sure how titties are worse than guns.”

For those who somehow haven’t seen or heard about it, the video in question—understood by the universe to be a dig at Katy Perry—features Swift and Co battling the enemy with a number of items that most certainly would not make it through airport security. There’s kicking, arson, and even Swift getting hurled out the window of a skyscraper, falling basically lifeless out onto the street below.

Yet, was the public made to choose the better ‘role model’ to young people, between Swift and Cyrus, it’s seems safe to say that the overwhelming majority would pick Swift. 

In comparison, the videos from Cyrus’s most recent album, Bangerz, feature (obscured) nudity, twerking, and sculptural French fry art. 

Of course, it’s impossible to judge the influence of a pop star based on her videos, alone. Over the past several years, Cyrus has completely shed her Disney-approved “Hannah Montana” persona, reemerging into the spotlight as an outspoken and opinionated young woman who’s open to experimentation in terms of style, sex, and love. She’s never met a pasty she hasn’t liked.

Swift, on the other hand, has hardly strayed from the “good girl” image she’s cultivated from the start. She may have swapped her sparkly princess gowns for crop tops and hot pants, but she still has nightgown-filled slumber parties with her girlfriends, sings about boys (but never about sex), and carries around extra birthday cards in her handbag—just in case. She also released one of the highest anticipated and most-viewed videos of the year, which, again, was extremely violent in nature.

This isn’t to say that Swift is a bad person—or bad role model—because she utilized violence for entertainment purposes. The number one movie in the country right now is the millionth Mission Impossible, which, with its death-defying stunts and chases, says a lot about what Americans like watching on their various devices. 

I’m also not trying to imply that Cyrus is a great person, because, despite her activism and seemingly non-violent behavior, she’s also been involved in more than a few controversial instances involving illegal drug use—including a lyric that seemingly advocates taking Molly. I think we can all agree that doing (most) drugs is dangerous, and obviously, partaking in violence, by definition, is, too. 

So who, then, between Cyrus and Swift, is the better role model? Really, it depends on what sort of ideals you want instilled in your kids. Better yet, have conversations with them about both celebs. Since no one is a perfect person, every second of the day (even our fair Swifty had that awkward Twitter beef with Nicki Minaj not long ago), pick and choose to explain which traits each possesses that are positive and negative, in your eyes. 

Drugs? Bad. Open-mindedness? Good. Violence? Bad. Friendship? Good. Nudity? Well, we’ll leave that one up to you. But I would like to end this ramble with one (semi rhetorical) question in particular: Would Taylor Swift even be wearing those crop tops and hot pants now if it weren’t for Miley Cyrus?

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