Don’t read the comments: Miley Cyrus, Panic! At the Disco and sexist online dialogue

The problem the internet has with the video for Wrecking Ball has less to do with Miley Cyrus and more to do with the expression of female sexuality.

Quite a bit has been said about Cyrus in recent months, with especially hard criticism of use of cultural appropriation and racist behaviour while promoting her latest album.

On Oct. 7 Panic! At the Disco released their latest music video, Girls/Girls/Boys,  promoting a new album, Too Weird to Live Too Rare to Die, which was due out the next day along with Cyrus’s latest release, Bangerz. Panic!’s video was a shot-for-shot homage to D’Angelo’s Untitled (How Does It Feel), featuring lead singer Brendon Urie naked to just above his pubic area.

It didn’t take long for online media to make comparisons to Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball video and proclaim that pop stars being naked would be a new trend for music videos.

How music videos are perceived now is not the same as when they were the main content on MTV. They have evolved to be included in new online media, and their success depends on the number of YouTube views, likes and comments they generate. Comparing the online reception of these two videos brings up some disturbing issues.

As of Oct. 14, Wrecking Ball had been viewed over 200 million times and the ratio between likes and dislikes was roughly a 60/40 split. In the comments, after wading through pages of spam, various spelling of slut and whore and arguments between fans, a few themes emerged.

Most negative comments implied that Cyrus was “more like a train wreck,” as YouTube user Gustacular wrote. There were also several threats of violence, like one from Lori Gomez, who wrote “Miley, I want to cut your tongue!”

It was difficult to find fan support for Cyrus that didn’t involve sexual content. Many said they enjoyed the music but disagreed with Cyrus being almost nude in the video. Salma Silva wrote, “I love Miley. I love her songs but she doesn’t have to get our attention by being provocative… she is awesome and talented without having to do really weird stuff.”

Another trend was the number of people claiming that Cyrus should be more considerate of the fact she is role model for younger viewers. “You shouldn’t be posting that kind of stuff on here some children will see that, show their parents and they will get into trouble for what you posted you need to take this off,” wrote Stephanie Rednour.

So how did Panic! At the Disco fare in this climate where a naked body causes profanity, threats of violence and arguments about what is appropriate content for children?

After being viewed over one million times, there was relatively the same level of oohs and aahs over Urie’s physique as there was of Cyrus’ – if not a bit more detailed. Many complained about the comparison between Girls/Girls/ Boys and Wrecking Ball, citing the fact the Panic! was inspired by a different video, but also making it clear that Urie had done it better than Cyrus.”Sexier body then Miley Cyrus,” according to SingerForLife011. “He said in an interview that his pants where just down enough so you couldn’t see them. Miley was just all naked,” wrote Camille Rassweiler.

Not a single complaint could be found about Panic! At the Disco’s video being inappropriate for children, nor was there any threat of violence aimed at Urie. The most negative thing was from Josh Latham who, apparently without irony, wrote, “Well this is a shit song and the video is really gay… WTF Panic!?” about a song about bisexuality.

These two video have essentially the same content – a nearly naked performer singing a pop song. The only difference is the one that features a naked woman has received a substantial amount of written abuse.

Online comments are a reflection of society as a whole and that mirror that’s been held up deserves a long hard look.

Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is a third-year journalism student who, instead of curbing her habit of mindlessly scrolling on the internet, is exploring why online culture matters.

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