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The representation of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift as postfeminist celebrity musicians: Image, Text and Audiences

O'Neill, Lauren (2015) The representation of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift as postfeminist celebrity musicians: Image, Text and Audiences. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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It is hard to escape the phenomenal reach of contemporary pop artists. Their songs are cycled across commercial radio stations, their music videos occupy our screens and we can mostly likely see the artist perform live in our nearest city. This thesis examines two of contemporary pop music’s most well-known and successful artists, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, in terms of their selfpresentation, media representation and audience engagement. Billboard rated Cyrus and Swift in the top 10 artists of 2014 (Billboard 2014). Swift’s most recent album, 1989 (2014), “topped iTunes sales charts in over 95 countries on its release and has sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide to date” (IFPI 2015). Cyrus’ total album sales stand at 15.9 million, including her work as “Hannah Montana” (Caulfield 2014). This thesis analyses the artists as postfeminist celebrity musicians who present many contradictions in their identities via the assorted channels through which their persona is expressed. Both musicians display the notion of ‘slippage’ (Genz and Brabon 2009) in relation to their persona, behaviour and creative content; their identities constantly shift and change. I introduce the notion of the postfeminist celebrity musician as a figure that identifies as a feminist, however displays certain behaviours that contest traditional feminist ideals. This thesis analyses Cyrus and Swift as postfeminist celebrity musicians in three main ways. Firstly, a selection of the artists’ music videos released between 2009 and 2015 are examined with regards to the artists’ choices concerning their image, lyrics and themes of the songs. This thesis also explores the key transitions and various stages of both artists’ creative careers. Secondly, the mediated identities of Cyrus and Swift are considered through an analysis of selected magazine feature articles published between 2013 and 2015. The feature articles gauge the artists’ presentation in popular print media texts as public feminists and celebrities. Lastly, this thesis investigates audience responses to Cyrus and Swift through an analysis of selected parody videos. Overall, this thesis argues that single representations of identity cannot accurately convey the complete character of the postfeminist celebrity. Cyrus and Swift exemplify postfeminist celebrity musicians as complex and often contradicting individuals.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: O'Mahony, Lauren
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