Dissecting the Politically Charged Subtext of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” Video


Few starlets have undergone as drastic and public a personal and musical transformation as Miley Cyrus. She chopped off her long brown locks for a styled blonde Mohawk-ish thing. She exchanged her trademark country twang for a sheepish auto-tuned “baaah!” She dropped off her guitar and popped up her ass. The one thing that hasn’t changed about Miley Cyrus, however, is that her music is best experienced with the sound off. This is especially true of the music video for her latest song, “We Can’t Stop.”

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But this muted-Miley is different from the one that made you cold-turkey-quit your favorite Top 40’s radio station when that song about mountain CLIIIIIIIIIMBing was a thing. This muted-Miley has something incredibly important and provocative to say beneath her thick coat of white chalk, sex, and drugs. The music video for “We Can’t Stop” is loaded with imagery critiquing the federal government and NSA for spying on United States citizens and the preventative actions we all can take to protect ourselves. Make sure you’re reading this on an encrypted internet connection, because having access to the following information may put you at risk.

Text: “We Can’t Stop” begins with Miley Cyrus cutting off an ankle-monitoring device with a giant pair of scissors, placing an appropriately-sized grill inside of her mouth, and ferociously combing her blonde Mohawk-ish thing backwards in the mirror.

Subtext: Right away, Miley makes it clear she’s onto the government and is taking proper precautions. By freeing herself from the ankle-monitoring device, she is preparing to go off the grid for good. But until she can truly disappear, she must deflect the satellite signals sent by the NSA to eavesdrop on her personal phone calls and mirror pics by placing extreme amounts of gold, silver, and tinfoil in her mouth.

Text: Miley quickly transitions to dry humping and rolling around on a white bed with floral (aww!) pillows.

Subtext: This white room and white bed and white girl symbolize the state of solitary confinement that the federal government would prefer we all exist in. Miley jerks her body around uncontrollably and caresses the bed in an interpretive dance to express her dismay at the idea of such confinement. Her urgent body movements are a message to the NSA — she can’t be tamed.

Text: Because beds can get boring, Miley moves on to sit and twerk in an empty white Jacuzzi tub with black sunglasses on.

Subtext: Besides the friend of Miley who eats a white bread sandwich filled with money and her un-named twerking buds, Miley’s sunglasses are the first non-white-thing to make an appearance in the “We Can’t Stop” music video. This move is strategic. Miley guards her vision and mind by deflecting any radio-wave attempts to infiltrate her deepest thoughts. She sinks deeper and deeper into the empty Jacuzzi tub, directly challenging the feds to violate her rights as a citizen of the United States of America while viciously staring at them through her protective lenses and mockingly licking her red lips.

Text: A human skull is made of stale McDonald’s french fries! It is promptly curb stomped on top of a roof and completely destroyed.

Subtext: Just like the United States, McDonalds rules the world. And it’s long been rumored that McDonalds is keeping close watch on our everyday lives through bugs planted in the toys found in Happy Meals. Thus, the smashing of the McDonalds (probably extremely delicious) french fry skull is Miley’s dire warning to not only distrust the government, but be careful of all things that are too good to be true.

Text: Miley hosts a raucous pool party for all of her white friends.

Subtext: 2012 was the year of the apocalypse bunker, but 2013 is the year of the apocalypse pool. Electronics don’t work underwater, and it may soon be the only place that is safe from government surveillance.

Text: One o Miley’s friends pretends to cut her hand off with a kitchen knife, but instead ends up squirting Pepto-Bismol from between her knuckles all over the counter.

Subtext: If cutting loose from ankle-monitoring devices and living in apocalypse pools fails, more drastic measures must be taken to go off the grid–chopping off your fingers. Taking a page from Nation of Ulysses’ 13-Point Program to Destroy America, Miley knows that, without fingertips, there can be no fingerprints. A kid who tells on another kid’s a dead kid.

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Text: Miley dances with a giant stuffed bear on her back in a spandex half-onesie and WEST COAST-emblazoned crop top with all of her closest twerking black friends.

Subtext: No subtext here. Just good, clean fun of the cultural-appropriation variety.

Text: A computer-generated white mime face with terrible eyebrows appears in a sea of blackness, mouthing–assuming here–the lyrics to the song.

Subtext: This terrifying face represents Big Brother. No longer confined to books, online messaging boards, and CBS this summer, Big Brother has been unleashed and is here to stay. His all-knowing eyes and detached faces leave no room for empathy or safety. He watches and reports, and must be avoided at all costs. Miley was brave and generous enough to capture an image of him for us–now it’s our job to keep a safe distance.

Text: An unconfirmed number of fake stuffed-goats with black sunglasses stand in a circle looking directly at each other into an unconfirmed number of mirrors. Shortly after, Miley is seen clutching one of the goats close to her body as she struts around in a white fur coat and drags a fake stuffed-rabid-squirrel-cat with a gold chain on a sled behind her.

Subtext: Because McDonalds is no longer a viable option for food, the only thing to do is to begin capturing and slaughtering wildlife.

Text: Miley meets and quickly makes out with a child’s life-sized Barbie doll at her pool party.

Subtext: Miley wants to remind us that even though our trust in the government is lost, it’s not all that bad. If we rebel against the treatment of our cellphones and online browsing histories by the NSA and decide to separate ourselves from our government, gay marriage will be legal! (Making out with an actual woman was, unfortunately, off-limits to Miley because of a clause in her Disney contract that extends for another five years. But the doll is just as respectable and didn’t ruin my childhood at all).

Text: White smoke bursts out like canon fire from the genital areas of different men and women onto the bodies of others.

Subtext: Miley knows that surveillance is only the first step–population control is the next. The smoke pouring forth from the genital areas of men and women is a reference to the government’s desire to sterilize the proletariat, lest they rise up.

Text: Miley breaks open a beer-bottle shaped piñata, releasing lots of hot dogs that her party guests go crazy for, resulting with her getting kicked in the head during the mad dash to eat (and set aflame) the edibles.

Subtext: Miley wants us to be prepared for the insanity that may break when the inevitable revolt against the government takes place. Food will be scarce (piñatas will not be), but we must stay vigilant. Additionally, she wants us to know how great and productive of a recreational activity wrestling can be.

Text: Miley poses in the frame of a giant sliding doorway with a white body suit that spells “DOPE” backwards.

Subtext: In what may be her most direct “KCUF UOY!” to the government. Miley is taunting the Powers That Be here, warning them a she is prepared to brave this new world wearing nothing but a ripped leotard and armed with nothing but some long ass window shades. Despite all of the fighting back, warnings, and preparation tips that Miley scatters throughout the “We Can’t Stop” music video, at the end of the day she is perfectly prepared to fight the world the way she entered it — naked and crazy.

Text: Miley’s tongue and ass take center stage in the entire video and deserve their own section of analysis.

Subtext: Miley’s shameless exploitation of her physical form is just a cover for the deeper messages hidden within the music video. While simpler minds are distracted by her sexy translucent limbs and flat gyrating ass, the more complex and deserving among us are taking note of her surroundings, coding, and asking lots of questions of ourselves.

Text: Miley ends the music video of “We Can’t Stop” by leaving her white castle and attempting to tan at sunset on a Hollywood hill with friends, donning a black beanie, face veil, mesh crop top and short shorts while making mean faces and threatening motions with her hands.

Subtext: Miley has taken to the streets, and is ready to form a gang. This is her invitation. Will you be brave? Will you join Miley’s political par-tee? You will if you’re smart. They can’t stop. They won’t stop.

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